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).
Corriveau, Art. Housewrights. Penguin Books, 2002.
Reason read: April has a week dedicated to librarians.
The early 1900s. It is an age when nature is stepping aside for the steamroller that is science. A father with twins so identical even he can’t tell them apart shows up in eight-year-old Lily’s Vermont yard, looking for carpentry work. Unabashed and unconventional, Lily takes to the boys and they can’t help falling in love with her as only little boys can when a girl can climb a tree faster or shows no fear diving into a pond from a great height.
Fast forward ten years and one of the twins, Oren, comes calling. He has never forgotten Lily. Eighteen years old, Lily now works as a librarian in the same town she never left. Did she stay where she was just so Oren or Ian could find her? Oren came back first. They marry, build a house and settle into the community as husband and wife. Soon after brother Ian arrives in town after surviving the horrors of the First Great War. He is a shell-shocked sleepwalking mess and Lily feels the old pull towards him; with Oren’s blessing she welcomes Ian into their home. The three set up house as if time has stood still and they are once again children, locked in the play of deep friendship. Only now with adult alcohol to go with the games and music and loud laughter. It isn’t long before their unconventional arrangement becomes the talk of the town.
More than a story about conformity and appearances, Housewrights is a lesson in identity and acceptance. It is about changing with the times and making peace with the past.
Quote to quote, “She also knew not to trust everything men said when they were drinking” (p 4). Good girl. I should note, there were many, many more passages I could quote. This just set up a premonition perfectly.
Book trivia: Housewrights has a pretty accurate account of how maple syrup is produced and how a house brought from a catalog is put together.
Author fact: Housewrights is Art Corriveau’s first novel. It should be made into a movie.
Playlist: “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” “The Wedding March,” and “The Gentlemen’s Waltz.”
Nancy said: Pearl did not say much about Housewrights.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Libraries and Librarians” (p 138).
- The Master of Hestviken: the Axe by Sigrid Undset.
- October Light by John Gardner.
- Jamesland by Michelle Huneven.
- The Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows by Patrick Chamoiseau.
- Isabel’s Bed by Elinor Lipman.
- Wyoming Summer by Mary O’Hara.
- Obsession with Butterflies by Sharman Apt Russell.
- Running Blind by Lee Child.
Early Review for LibraryThing
- Lou Reed: Notes From the Velvet Underground by Howard Sounes.
Gardner, John. October Light. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976.
Reason read: Autumn in New England is pretty fantastic. October Light takes place (mostly) in Vermont.
When I first picked up October Light I thought it was going to be this old-timey story about two elderly siblings, living in seething resentment of one another in a farmhouse somewhere in Vermont. Admittedly, the book jacket didn’t give me much to go on.
So, the plot: James Page is angry at the world. So angry he can’t stand his sister Sally’s droning television and ends up silencing it with a shotgun blast. The shooting of the television sets in motion a series of events – James locks Sally in a room (but seemingly not her own room because she finds a trashy novel which doesn’t belong to her). She becomes absorbed in said trashy novel; literally can’t put it down and refuses to come out of the bedroom, even when her niece convinces James to free her. James doesn’t care either way. In truth, he is not without deep rooted grief, a grief that has hardened to him. One son committed suicide and another died in an accident. James’s sister, widowed and a polar opposite, does nothing to comfort him. The epic sibling battle lasts for the entire book and escalates to a catastrophic ending.
I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy the frame novel technique. Sally’s trashy novel seemed to be the story Gardner really wanted to write. There is no explanation of how this trashy novel came to be in her room until the end. In truth, the story came alive for me in the last fifty pages.
Confessional: the phrase “New England piss and vinegar” had me smiling. Yes, I know the type.
Line I liked, “It was a fact if life that if people knew what you were feeling they could work you around” (p 64).
Author fact: October Light uses the framed novel technique of a story within a story. Gardner does a great job with both voices.
Book trivia: October Light was illustrated by Elaine Raphael and Don Bolognese.
Nancy said: Pearl said October Light was another good novel set in New England. Really, I would beg to differ. Because this is a framed novel only a portion of it takes place in Vermont and even then the location is a rundown Vermont farmhouse. Not a lot of it takes place out and about in New England. Only at the end do you get a real sense of what it is like to live in New England…the covered bridges, mud season, endless waiting for spring…
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “New England Novels” (p 177).
I am so frigging late with this it’s not even funny. Here are my excuses: I was home-home the first weekend in October. I am hosting an art show. I’m trying to hire a new librarian. And. And! And, I have been running. Only 13.25 miles so far but it’s a start, right? I’m thrilled to be putting one foot in front of the other. But, here are the books:
- October Light by John Gardner – in honor of October being in the the title of the book and the fact that it takes place in Vermont, a place that is simply gorgeous in the fall.
- Jamesland by Michelle Huneven – in honor of October being Mental Health Awareness month.
- Long Day Monday by Peter Turnbull – in honor of police proceedurals.
- The Axe by Sigrid Undset – in honor of the fact I needed a translated book by a woman for the Portland Public Library challenge. Weak, I know.
- Isabel’s Bed by Elinor Lipman – in honor of Lipman’s birth month.
- Wyoming Summer by Mary O’Hara – in memory of O’Hara dying in October.
- An Obsession with Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair by Sharman Apt Russell – in honor of Magic Wings opening in October and the fact that Monhegan was inundated with monarch butterflies for the month of September. We even saw a few while we were home.
- Running Blind by Lee Child – started in honor of New York becoming a state in July (where Lee Child lives). However, big confessional: I am reading this out of order. My own fault completely.
LibraryThing Early Review:
- Notes from the Velvet Underground by Howard Sounes