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The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to…
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The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere) (2016)

by Meg Elison

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» See also 20 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
An interesting premise, wasted. I've no idea why this won the Philip K Dick award. A meandering plot, cardboard characters, shallow exploration of theme and an obsession with guns and sex. Perhaps I'm just spoilt by Margaret Atwood. And to cap it all, use of a font that is very difficult to read in my kindle. 31 July 2018 ( )
  alanca | Aug 6, 2018 |
The precis: Crap, top to bottom.

In depth: the Book of the unnamed midwife is a fictional diary written by an unnamed woman after a plague has wiped out pretty much most everyone. More, this plague had a disproportionate impact upon women; for every 9 men surviving, only one woman had similar “luck.” I write “luck” because in Ms. Ellison’s estimation, women surviving the calamity find out exactly what awful creatures men are; the best the protagonist receives is when the gay guys at the beginning get catty and kick her out of their survival group. It is all down hill from there, until the end.

The protagonist spends most of the book cowering and avoiding those awful, awful men whose true nature has been laid bare by the plague. What is the true nature of men? Why, they’re all rapists. If you disagree, then perhaps you should take more classes on queer theory and perhaps a few rounds of public shaming coupled with self-criticism. That’ll get you on the right path.

The midwife without a name spends much off her time moving around rural northern California and points east, unable to find weaponry. The putative reason given in the book is that gun laws truly do work, and that fewer people own guns. This of course is about as realistic as the cgi backgrounds in “The Room.” Anyone who has spent time in those particular parts of the country know that guns of all kinds still exist in great numbers, and if the apocalypse were to happen to morrow, survivors, craven and otherwise, would have no problem whatsoever arming themselves to the teeth.

Finally, Ms. Ellison can’t write. I’m sure she’s aiming for “gritty” but it comes across as “dull and inarticulate.”

The only reason I read this steaming pile, and perhaps the only true reason to do so, is because it inexplicably popped up on the PKD awards list for 2015 (and shockingly, won). I read the books on the list every year, good, bad and unreadable and despite the ups and downs of that particular awards list, “The book of the unnamed midwife” was a stand out. ( )
  Gershayim | Apr 16, 2018 |
An apocalypse odyssey as the unnamed midwife, one of the very few women to survive a plague that kills most humans, journeys through an almost empty world dodging rapists, slavers and worse. At the end, she does find a refuge and eventually hope for the future. I was mesmerized by her believable passage through any number of threats. ( )
  nmele | Apr 12, 2018 |
In the days when the world had not yet fallen, the screaming of sirens was constant.
Imagine a plague that grabs hold of humanity ruthlessly. A fever that wipes out millions of the Earth's inhabitants. A world where women and children are a rarity. That is the world that the midwife wakes up to.
Went to sleep and the world was dying --- woke up and it was dead and gone.
I was completely sucked into this post-apocalyptic novel. No women left after a fever has wreaked havoc on the world. The few women survivors are hunted like an endangered species trapped, sold, traded, and still dying in childbirth. I was absorbed in the novel early on and it took lead in my currently reading stack.

There were a lot of things that I absolutely loved about this one. I loved that we followed the plague through the eyes of a medical professional and a midwife in particular (shout out to all the amazing and wonderful midwives out there). It was a horrible and honest account of death and despair from the pages of her personal diary. She cussed and rambled, complained and theorized the way anyone does in their diary and it was entirely believable. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought it was truth.

Another part I loved about this novel is that it was open about sexuality. We live in a world where men love men and women love women, and that was not forgotten when the world ended. The first people the midwife encounters are a gay couple doing what it takes to survive. Her next encounter makes her decide to change her appearance and behavior, because if she is going to survive, which she is, she must pose as a man to keep herself safe.

But again, sexuality is fluid pre-plague and aside from the lack of women, sexuality remains fluid. There are women that capitalize on their rarity by forming what are called hives where one woman controls multiple men through sex. The midwife is open about her relationships with both men and women. The entire approach to LGBT is what I loved. It isn't stigmatized or something disgusting, it is just a matter of fact that people yearn, desire, and need to be with other people.
It's not like that. I like people. They come with the bodies they come with.
I also loved that the story comes from the midwife's diary. It's such a great concept to tell how the world is crumbling and what the midwife has to do to survive through her own words. It isn't the first post-apocalyptic novel to do so, but it does it very well. It was so realistic. Her journals are the beginning of society rewriting history.

The only part I did not like about this novel was the font, and that is more of a personal preference than anything. On my kindle, the parts that were written in the diary were in a script that was hard for me to read. When I turned the publisher's font off, it was so large that only a few sentences filled up my screen, while everything else was the perfect size. It was annoying and, at times, distracting, but only a small fly in the ointment.

The Book of Etta, the sequel, is next on my TBR list. I loved this book and Elison is a fantastic writer that had me staying up late to read what happened next.

And, if the world ever starts to end, I'm keeping a diary. ( )
  CJ82487 | Mar 20, 2018 |
I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From the very first page of this novel, I was hooked. The premise, the prose, the characters ... everything was so gritty and raw and perfect. Reading about the struggles of the main protagonist (who remains nameless throughout this story) gave me an adrenaline rush while also horrifying me at the same time. The events that transpire are both gruesome and completely realistic ... which makes it scarier than any horror movie. The emotions and scenarios that are people are thrust into really make you think about how well you know a person. This novel is more than just a dystopian fiction; it is a novel that explores the realm of sexuality, independence, women's rights, and the value of life. I cannot state enough how much of a fantastic novel this is, so please do yourself a favour and check it out! I promise it will not disappoint. ( )
  veeshee | Jan 29, 2018 |
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Book description
In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth’s population—killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant—the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. Gone are the pillars of civilization. All that remains is power—and the strong who possess it.

A few women like her survived, though they are scarce. Even fewer are safe from the clans of men, who, driven by fear, seek to control those remaining. To preserve her freedom, she dons men’s clothing, goes by false names, and avoids as many people as possible. But as the world continues to grapple with its terrible circumstances, she’ll discover a role greater than chasing a pale imitation of independence.

After all, if humanity is to be reborn, someone must be its guide.
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Philip K. Dick Award Winner for Distinguished Science Fiction When she fell asleep, the world was doomed. When she awoke, it was dead. In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth's population--killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant--the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. Gone are the pillars of civilization. All that remains is power--and the strong who possess it. A few women like her survived, though they are scarce. Even fewer are safe from the clans of men, who, driven by fear, seek to control those remaining. To preserve her freedom, she dons men's clothing, goes by false names, and avoids as many people as possible. But as the world continues to grapple with its terrible circumstances, she'll discover a role greater than chasing a pale imitation of independence. After all, if humanity is to be reborn, someone must be its guide.… (more)

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