Midwives

Bohjalian, Chris. Midwives. Vintage Contemporaries, 1997.

Reason read: Chief Justice John Jay was born in the month of December.

Imagine anything and everything that can go wrong when trying to midwife a birth: there are complications with an at-home pregnancy in rural Vermont; a storm rages; phones go out and roads are impossibly icy; the midwife’s assistant is inexperienced and immature. The husband freezes, struck and stuck immobile with fear. These are the days before cell phones and computer communications. No VoIP, no texting, no Googling how to perform a cesarean or how to stop a woman with high blood pressure from having a cerebral hemorrhage. There is no way to go for help when this same exhausted woman starts bleeding to death after hours and hours of trying to give birth to a second child. A desperate situation calls for desperate measures and seasoned veteran midwife Sibyl Danforth makes a decision to perform an emergency cesarean on this mother. Months later, at her trial for manslaughter, she will tell the court she believed the mother had died. Was it a necessary action or did Sibyl commit callous unthinkable murder? As with all suspicious deaths, Sibyl must be tried in front of a jury of her peers, all the while battling traditional medical opinions and an overzealous community ripe for justice. The midwife culture is one of hippies, people who buck the system and thumb their noses at modern medicine. Midwives give off the vibe they lounge around buck naked while smoking pot. Told from the perspective of Sibyl’s daughter, thirty year old Connie Danforth looks back on her mother’s horrific choice and the subsequent trial that followed.

As an aside, I found myself gritting my teeth through the more difficult sections.

Author fact: Bohjalian also wrote Water Witches. I read that back on April 2010.

Book trivia: Each chapter is introduced with an entry from Sibyl Danforth’s journal.

Playlist: Abba, the Shirelles, Joni Michell, and Janis Joplin,

Nancy said: Pearl called Midwives a remarkable mother-daughter novel, yet it is not included in the “Mothers and Daughters” chapter of Book Lust on page 159.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “What a Trial That Was!” (p 243).

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