Friday, December 30, 2011

Book review: Midwives


Before moving to Brazil I went on a shopping spree picking out hundreds of books (in English) I thought I might enjoy reading once I was in the land of all things Portuguese. Some have been duds, but the book I just finished was wonderful.

Midwives, by Chris Bohjalian (1997, Vintage Books/Random House) is a powerful tale richly rendered. It is more than ten years old, and was an Oprah pick, so perhaps you have read it. If not, used copies are available for one cent on Amazon, so even with international shipping, the price is right. Or, you can have my copy. I will add it to my list at the online expat lending library.

From the back cover: On an icy winter night in an isolated house in rural Vermont, a seasoned midwife named Sibyl Danforth takes desperate measures to save a baby's life. She performes an emergency cesarean section on a mother she believes has died of stroke. But what if Sibyl's patient wasn't dead and Sibyl inadvertently killed her?

Here is a brief review from Amazon's page:

In Midwives, Chris Bohjalian chronicles the events leading up to the trial of Sibyl Danforth, a respected midwife in the small Vermont town of Reddington, on charges of manslaughter. It quickly becomes evident, however, that Sibyl is not the only one on trial--the prosecuting attorney and the state's medical community are all anxious to use this tragedy as ammunition against midwifery in general; this particular midwife, after all, an ex-hippie who still evokes the best of the flower-power generation, is something of an anachronism in 1981. Through it all, Sibyl, her husband, Rand, and their teenage daughter, Connie, attempt to keep their family intact, but the stress of the trial--and Sibyl's growing closeness to her lawyer--puts pressure on both marriage and family. Bohjalian takes readers through the intricacies of childbirth and the law, and by the end of Sibyl Danforth's trial, it's difficult to decide which was more harrowing--the tragic delivery or its legal aftermath.

5 comments:

Jennifer Souza said...

What timing...a baby just died almost right after it was born from 2 midwives practicing without a license stateside.

I am a big fan of midwives...my husband and all of his siblings were attended by them.

Anita said...

I admire midwives, I even considered about becoming one. This is a very popular (and demanding) study here in the NL. They know far more than obstetricians, who hardly help during birth. They even ask advices to midwives !

GingerV said...

just finished THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett (The berkley Publishing group, 2009) This is this authors first novel. loved the writing, and the story being told. Midwives play an important role. they offer care during childbirth that may not be available in any other way. great post.

Danielle said...

Sounds interesting, Jim! What did you like about the book? I just may have to add it to my 2012 reading challenge list!

Jim said...

Jennifer - sad to hear... I have a dear friend who lost her first baby after a troubled delivery with a midwife. :-(

Anita - I have long admired the passion among midwives.

Ginger - did you read The Help in paperback? is - not on a Kindle? Can I borrow it? :-)

Danielle - I thought the writing style was terrific. The story is told from the now-adult (and OBGYN)daughter of the midwife. The courtroom drama was not overrought. Very personal account.