I actually first read this book over a decade ago when Oprah Winfrey chose it for her book club. All I really remembered of it was that it was set in Vermont, a midwife is on trial because a mother died, it is told from the daughter's point of view, and that it was a solid book that pretty much left me after I had turned the last page. Obviously, I was going to need to re-read it for my book club.
Because so much has happened in my life since I first read this book (moved to the east coast, moved back to the west coast, went through 3 jobs, got married, had 2 kids), I think my experiences enhanced what I read in this book. Unlike my first reading, this time the book stayed with me after I finished it--and it is still with me.
There is no argument that Bohjalian is a skilled writer--his prose is deep, but still readable. I enjoyed how he structured the book, with the main narration coming from Sibyl's daughter, but each chapter being prefaced with Sibyl's own words. The last half of the book mostly takes place in the courtroom and, as a reader, I felt as if I was a member of the jury.
I did not especially like Sibyl, but I understood her. I understood what drove her to midwifery and what led her to the fateful decision that landed her in a manslaughter trial. Sibyl's daughter, Connie, is exactly what I would picture a girl of her age who finds herself in her position would be. I do wish, however, that Sibyl's husband, Rand, was fleshed out a bit more.
I will say that I have questions about this book. Are non-certified midwives really as self-trained as Sibyl was? Does the medical community really have it out for midwives? Did Sibyl really do the best that she could? I'm looking forward to my book club discussion on this book because there will be at least one doctor with us.
All in all, this was a great book for me to re-read and I think it will be an excellent selection for our book club.
Liz Childers, February 27, 2013 (view all comments by Liz Childers)
A page turner that forces you to choose sides regarding the practice of midwifery. Also, when things go bad, they go really bad. This is a story of a tragic event during a home delivery and the resulting emotions, reactions, and legal proceedings that evolve from it.
Melissa-Mpls, August 29, 2009 (view all comments by Melissa-Mpls)
I was wary of reading this. I have pretty strong feelings about home births and thought that my opinions might overshadow the story for me. Not the case. No matter your feelings on the subject, Bohjalian has created characters that are likeable but flawed, and a story that pulls you right in.
Jeane, March 16, 2008 (view all comments by Jeane)
Connie Danforth tells the story of her mother- a midwife who is on trial for murdering a patient. During a difficult delivery on a freezing winter night in an isolated farmhouse, Sibyl Danforth made a desperate decision to save the baby's life, when she thought the mother had died of a sudden stroke. But what if she'd been wrong? Through Connie's eyes we see Sibyl struggle to keep her life from unraveling under the ensuing onslaught of hostility from traditional doctors, men of the law, neighbors and friends alike. Supported by other midwives, Sibyl stands by her decision and defends her occupation, even as she is plagued with disapproval and her own doubt and guilt. Midwives deals with a very controversial issue and winds up in a courtroom. It seemed a bit sensationalized, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. The kind of book that you really can't put down.
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