Midwives (Oprah's Book Club)

by Chris Bohjalian | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0375706771 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingjlautnerwing of Henderson, Nevada USA on 1/12/2015
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2 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingjlautnerwing from Henderson, Nevada USA on Monday, January 12, 2015
Removed from the Little Free Library on San Luis Drive in San Luis Obispo this morning.

Journal Entry 2 by wingjlautnerwing at San Luis Obispo, California USA on Saturday, January 24, 2015
I picked this up because I was curious about the treatment of the title characters - midwives. I gave birth to my second child at home with two midwives and found it to be an amazing experience, unforgettable. I wondered how much this author would get right about them.

I was impressed. The story is in a different state than mine and its laws are different. In California it is flat-out against the law to be a midwife, unless you are a nurse-midwife delivering in a hospital. Apparently in Vermont it is frowned upon but not illegal, at least at the time when this story is set - late seventies, early eighties.

The story is about one child delivered by Sibyl Danforth. In the midst of winter, on a stormy night, she assisted a woman who was pregnant with her second child. The first had been born in another state. Labor became much more difficult than expected and the mother, after pushing for literally hours, crumbled. Her heart stopped. Danforth performed CPR but did not detect a heartbeat. In desperation she performed an emergency Caesarean on the woman, whom she took to be dead.

She was ultimately charged with causing the woman's death. She obtains a good attorney, who finds expert witnesses to counter the state's, and the action builds. It seems like one minute we are with Sibyl, the next we are in the courtroom. We get the full story by a kind of back-and-forth action.

The story is told primarily by Sibyl's daughter Connie, told from a distance of several years. The beginning of each chapter is an excerpt from Sibyl's diary, written in a different style. Apart from the weaving back and forth, which creates tension and drama, Connie's story is told in a straightforward way, with few embellishments. In fact, when I first started reading it I wondered if this were in fact a true story (it isn't). I had to look at the cover, see the word "novel", then then too note that the author is a man.

The detail in the birth event itself is remarkable. The event is described medically and legally, and each aspect is subjected to a great deal of scrutiny. Much like real life, there isn't necessarily only one version that's true. Sibyl is an honest, trustworthy, competent midwife, but is her version the right one? That's what we wonder throughout the dissection of the case.

I didn't particularly like Sibyl's "voice" as represented in the journals. There was something false about the style, to me. Not that I ever felt that she was in any way false, just those paragraphs written in a perhaps "too literary" way. I liked Connie's voice better, as it seemed more solid, more real.

I found it absorbing and to this day I am wondering.

Journal Entry 3 by wingjlautnerwing at San Luis Obispo, California USA on Sunday, March 15, 2015
Reserved for bookstogive's VBB.

Journal Entry 4 by wingjlautnerwing at San Luis Obispo, California USA on Saturday, June 27, 2015

Released 5 yrs ago (6/26/2015 UTC) at San Luis Obispo, California USA

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Heading off to msjoanna as a trade from bookstogive's general literature virtual book box.

Journal Entry 5 by msjoanna at Columbia, Missouri USA on Wednesday, September 02, 2015
Sorry for the late JE. I thought I marked this one when it arrived.

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