Well, the front cover of Chris Bohjalian’s book Midwives states “….will keep readers up late at night until the last page is turned.” (Washington Post Book World) and that was so true for me! This was the first book I’ve read by Chris Bohjalian and I’m hooked. Written from the perspective of a 30 year old female MD (ob gyn) recollecting her teenage years when her midwife mother is put on trial for the death of a laboring mother. If that isn’t compelling enough, there are twists and turns in this book, even up to the very last sentence (now, no one cheat please; don’t read the last page first!). I gasped out loud in the kithen like I was being stabbed, that’s how good the last page is!

So, the midwife is not medically certified and she uses herbs as well as certain drugs for her pregnant mothers. She’s also a hippie! Imagine that.

What drew me to this book is that I have an appreciation and a curiosity for the practice of midwifery as this was the common way for women to have their babies before hospitals and MDs were common. Not that long ago, women commonly used midwives to support their births. This was really the only option available. Midwifery is a historically a female-held career aquired through years of apprenticeship, a natural inclination to the process of child-bearing, and now, many midwives are certified as well. Midwives still practice in individual homes, but they are also now pairing up with doctors, nurses, and hospitals. Some are present in the hospital for births. Some midwives are RNs.

I really appreciated the author’s writing style. The author (male), drew me into the world of a 30 year old professional woman recollecting her teen years, complete with some of the angst of being a teenager as well as a level of wisdom not shared with other teens. The story was written through the eyes of Connie who both protects her mother, loves her fiercly, and yet there is a degree of distance which is discovered through the story and ultimately, on the final page.

Another great book that comes to mind from Bohjalian’s Midwives is the Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s biography of Martha Ballard, reconstructing the life of a midwife in the late 1700s using Ballards diary entries. Nonfiction, this book is a must-read for anyone interested or curious about midwifery. The full title is A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812.  Just searching Amazon on “midwife” brought up several more fascinating titles on the subject of midwifery. I know what I can read more of this winter!

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