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Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

Midwives (edition 1998)

by Chris Bohjalian

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4,78997972 (3.8)107
Authors:Chris Bohjalian
Info:Vintage (1998), Edition: 1, Paperback, 374 pages
Collections:Your library

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Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

  1. 00
    The Round House by Louise Erdrich (sweetiegherkin)
    sweetiegherkin: Both books deal with a huge family crisis (the rape of the mother in The Round House, the trial of the mother in Midwives) and are told from the point of view of the family's 12- to 14-year-old only child, interspersing the tragic with the everyday life of a preteen/teen; both books also have unexpected endings.… (more)
  2. 24
    The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards (bnbookgirl)

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English (96)  French (1)  All (97)
Showing 1-5 of 96 (next | show all)
On a stormy Vermont night, a young woman is in labor with her second child when things start going horribly wrong, and the midwife present at this birth is later put on trial as a result. The story is told through the eyes of the midwife's teenage daughter, albeit from the distance of many years later.

Having read a few other of Bohjalian's works in the past, I was hoping to like this book but I was impressed by how much I did. Even though the story is not told in a suspenseful thriller style, I found it difficult to put down and was constantly wanting to know what was coming next. I appreciated how the legal story was told against the backdrop of the teenage daughter's daily life of going to school, hanging out with friends, having a first boyfriend, etc. The complex relationship between the mother and daughter was also significant and interesting. The language was straightforward but evocative so that you felt like you were there in the thick of it. Like with most of Bohjalian's novels, there was a twist at the end, but it wasn't as extreme as some of the others he's done and seemed to fit in well with the story being told. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Jul 16, 2016 |
Bohjalian does an excellent job taking us through the various decisions and viewpoints of one critical night, when a talented midwife saves a baby by performing an emergency Caesarean section after a mother dies in childbirth. BUT, was the mother dead? The story is told by the midwife’s daughter, and focuses on what happens afterwards. This was a great discussion book for our book club. ( )
  BookConcierge | May 27, 2016 |
The “Swiss Cheese Model” of system failure states that every step in a process has the potential for failure, to varying degrees. The ideal system is analogous to a stack of slices of Swiss cheese. Consider the holes to be opportunities for a process to fail, and each of the slices as “defensive layers” in the process. An error may allow a problem to pass through a hole in one layer, but in the next layer the holes are in different places, and the problem should be caught. Each layer is a defence against potential error impacting the outcome. For a catastrophic error to occur, the holes need to align in each step of the process allowing all defences to be defeated and resulting in an error. Each slice of cheese is an opportunity to stop an error. The more defences you put up, the fewer the holes and the smaller the holes, the more likely you are to catch/stop errors that may occur.

In 'Midwives', the layers were lined up with all the 'holes' in a row and Sybil Danforth, a lay midwife in rural Vermont in the early '80's finds herself on trial for manslaughter.

This book refers to Sybil's personal diaries at the beginning of each chapter, but the story is told by her 14 year old daughter, Connie who provides her perspective on the trial, her mother's midwifery practice and the complex family relationships that are tested during a time of high stress. I first read this book almost twenty years ago and I remembering liking it. When I came across it again recently, I decided to give it another read and had forgotten how much I had liked it. This one will stay on my bookshelf. ( )
  EvelynBernard | May 19, 2016 |
Sibyl Danforth is a committed midwife in the rural community of Reddington, Vermont. During a severe winter storm, one of her clients dies during a home delivery. Having no formal medical training, she soon finds herself embroiled in a trial which could be characterized as a witch hunt. Her story is told from the perspective of Connie Danforth, Sibyl's 14-year-old daughter who would do anything to save her mother and her family. Chris Bohjalian is one of my favorite writers who is skilled in whichever of the many genres he authors. ( )
  John_Warner | Apr 5, 2016 |
As "Washington Post Book World wrote- Astonishing... will keep readers up late at night until the last page is turned" !!!! Believe it.... Excellent, emotional rollercoaster, page turner, descriptions only a person who experienced the birthing process could explain in such detail. A must read! ( )
  booklovers2 | Apr 4, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 96 (next | show all)
The description of the nightmarish Caesarean Sibyl performs, and why she feels forced to perform it, is harrowing; it is also the book's most effective passage. Mr. Bohjalian has done his homework on midwifery and the mechanics of childbirth. He has also landed on a hot topic for baby boomers -- the whole question of when alternatives to traditional medicine are beneficial, and when they become dangerous.
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For the Lord will not

cast off for ever:

But though he caused grief,

yet will he have compassion

according to the multitude of his mercies.

For he doth not afflict willingly,

nor grieve the children of men.

-- Lamentations 3:31-33
We are each of us responsible for the evil we may have prevented.

-- James Martineau
For Victoria,

the woman whose labors have beautified my whole life

And for our little girl,


In memory of my mother,

Annalee Nelson Bohjalian (1930-1995)
First words
Throughout the long summer before my mother's trial began, and then during those crisp days in the fall when her life was paraded publicly before the county--her character lynched, her wisdom impugned--I overheard much more than my parents realized, and I understood more than they would have liked.
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Want de Heere zal niet verstoten in eeuwigheid.
Maar als hij bedroefd heeft, zo zal Hij zich ontfermen, naar de grootheid van Zijn goedertierenheden.
Want Hij plaagt of bedroeft de mensenkinderen niet van harte.

Klaagliederen 3:31-33
Stuk voor stuk zijn we verantwoordelijk voor het kwaad dat we hadden kunnen voorkomen

James Martineau
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
In the pastoral community of Reddington, Vermont, during the harsh winter of 1981, Sibyl Danforth makes a life-or-death decision based on fifteen years of experience as a respected midwife — a decision intended to save a child, a decision that will change her life forever.

In the midst of a brutally cold night, cut off from the area hospital and even from the rescue squad by an ice storm that has downed phone lines and made roads impassable, Sibyl Danforth feels she has no alternative except to attempt to save the baby of a woman in her care who she fears has died of a stroke during a long and difficult labor. Later that day, however, the midwife's assistant tells the police that she believes the mother was still very much alive when the cesarean section was performed in the cold and isolated farmhouse.

The story of this tragedy and its aftermath is narrated by Sibyl's daughter, Connie, now an obstetrician, who is remembering the events that occurred the year she turned fourteen, when her mother's freedom and her family's fate rested in the hands of twelve men and women. As the Danforth family and the entire community are drawn into a gripping trial that at first appears meritless, and later frighteningly simple for Sibyl to lose, it is Connie's mesmerizing voice that perfectly captures a time, a place, and a group of people that will live on in the reader's memory long after this lyric, deeply suspenseful novel has ended.

Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375706771, Paperback)

Oprah Book Club® Selection, October 1998: On a violent, stormy winter night, a home birth goes disastrously wrong. The phone lines are down, the roads slick with ice. The midwife, unable to get her patient to a hospital, works frantically to save both mother and child while her inexperienced assistant and the woman's terrified husband look on. The mother dies but the baby is saved thanks to an emergency C-section. And then the nightmare begins: the assistant suggests that maybe the woman wasn't really dead when the midwife operated:
Did she perform at least eight or nine cycles as my mother said, or four or five as Asa recalled? That is the sort of detail that was disputable. But at some point within minutes of what my mother believed had been a stroke, after my mother concluded the cardiopulmonary resuscitation had failed to generate a pulse or a breath, she screamed for Asa and Anne to find her the sharpest knife in the house.
In Midwives, Chris Bohjalian chronicles the events leading up to the trial of Sibyl Danforth, a respected midwife in the small Vermont town of Reddington, on charges of manslaughter. It quickly becomes evident, however, that Sibyl is not the only one on trial--the prosecuting attorney and the state's medical community are all anxious to use this tragedy as ammunition against midwifery in general; this particular midwife, after all, an ex-hippie who still evokes the best of the flower-power generation, is something of an anachronism in 1981. Through it all, Sibyl, her husband, Rand, and their teenage daughter, Connie, attempt to keep their family intact, but the stress of the trial--and Sibyl's growing closeness to her lawyer--puts pressure on both marriage and family. Bohjalian takes readers through the intricacies of childbirth and the law, and by the end of Sibyl Danforth's trial, it's difficult to decide which was more harrowing--the tragic delivery or its legal aftermath.

Narrated by a now adult Connie, Midwives moves back and forth in time, fitting vital pieces of information about what happened that night like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle into its complicated plot. As Connie looks back on her mother's trial, she is still trying to understand what happened--not on the night of the disaster--but in the months and years that followed. --Margaret Prior

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:07 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

In the pastoral community of Reddington, Vermont, during the harsh winter of 1981, Sibyl Danforth makes a life-or-death decision based on fifteen years of experience as a respected midwife -- a decision intended to save a child, a decision that will change her life forever.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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