Midwives Book Review

I haven’t been doing a very good job of reading lately.  I’m really trying to improve on this, but it seriously takes me awhile to finish a book.  I thought if I actually tried to do some book reviews on occasion that maybe it would force me to read more.  I just finished a book called Midwives by Chris Bohjalian.  It’s an older book, written in 1998 and was one of Oprah’s Book Club picks.  I found a copy at the thrift store and thought the synopsis sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a try.

The book is set in 1981 in Vermont.  It’s the story of a midwife named Sibyl and events that unfolded during one of her deliveries that ended in her doing an emergency C-section on a presumed dead mother during a snowstorm. After the birth, Sibyl’s assistant ends up going to the authorities and claiming that Sibyl performed the C-section when the woman hadn’t actually died and states that the C-section is what killed the woman, not her prolonged labor.

The story is told mostly from the point of view of Sibyl’s fourteen year old daughter Connie.  At the beginning of each chapter we see diary entries written by Sibyl in the years and then days leading up to the day of the mother’s passing and resulting C-section.  The latter half of the book focuses on the trial.

I like the way that this was written, I thought having the majority of the story told in Connie’s voice was a unique approach and the author does a great job of truly getting into a 14 year old’s head – though we later learn that much of this is Adult Connie looking back on this period in her life.  There are some surprises along the way that I also appreciated and helped keep my interest.  In the end we do learn the truth about what actually happened that day and I will admit to not being surprised by it, but mildly disappointed.

I thought this was a different type of law and order type story, I typically don’t really enjoy courtroom drama type books, but this one was interesting to me because while I don’t get super preachy about it, I am an advocate for natural childbirth and if I could have used a midwife, I may have when I had my son (though still in a hospital, I’m not THAT crunchy!) However, the difference would be I would have used a certified midwife, and the character of Sibyl was not a certified midwife – which is one of the reasons the death of the mother is so much more in question in this book.

Overall the writing style was approachable and as I said, it definitely held my interest.  I felt it was similar to many of Jodi Picoult’s type of books, I could almost see this story in her voice – she would have wrote it from all character’s points of view and that could have been interesting to see – Connie, Sibyl, the lawyer, Sibyl’s husband, the husband of the deceased mother and then the apprentice who turned her in, could have all had a chapter in their point of view and that would maybe have been an interesting way to tell this story as well.  At any rate, while I wasn’t super thrilled with the ending, I did think it was a good read and I would definitely recommend it.

Have you read anything good lately? I am taking a break from the heavier stuff and reading some pure fluff – The Boy Next Door by Megan Cabbot, also an older book, but I’m really getting a kick out of it!

6 thoughts on “Midwives Book Review

  1. Thanks for the review, Beth. I prefer non-fiction and just finished an excellent book last week called "The Sex Myth", written by a young woman (Rachel Hills) who's touring the country for the book. She'll be in Minneapolis on Aug. 24th. The book argues that our culture's view about sex is largely wrong and destructive: our selves are not the sex we do (or don't) have. Commercialism is to blame for persuading us that sex is special and transformative when, really, it's just a natural activity.

  2. I remember reading this book a long time ago, when it first came out. At the time I was intrigued by midwifery even though childbearing was completely off my mind. I always enjoy complex plots that leave you questioning what is right and without a black and white protagonist/antagonist. It's funny you mention the certified midwife clarification. I used a midwife for my second baby and I had so many family members think I was going to be giving birth in a baby pool in my living room while a bunch of hippies held hands and sang songs. It was much more clinical than that.

  3. I remember you talking about this one, it does sound intriguing! It's funny because while you were describing it I was thinking "this sounds like a story Jodi Picoult would write" and then you mentioned that too! While I'm definitely more of a give-me-all-the-drugs type of child birther myself, this book still sounds very fascinating and I may have to check it out!

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