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Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

Midwives (edition 1998)

by Chris Bohjalian

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4,322871,144 (3.78)83
Authors:Chris Bohjalian
Info:Vintage (1998), Edition: 1, Paperback, 374 pages
Collections:Your library

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Midwives by Chris Bohjalian


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English (86)  French (1)  All languages (87)
Showing 1-5 of 86 (next | show all)
Some of the passages were so well written it was impossible to tell that it was a man trying to write from the point of view of a woman.

An informative, suspenseful and propelling story, very well told, regarding a controversial topic.

( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
Some of the passages were so well written it was impossible to tell that it was a man trying to write from the point of view of a woman.

An informative, suspenseful and propelling story, very well told, regarding a controversial topic.

( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
4.5 stars

Sybil is a midwife and Connie's mom. The story is told from Connie's viewpoint. Connie is 14 years old when it happens. Sybil is helping a mom, Charlotte, in labour, but there is trouble, and Charlotte dies. Hoping to still save the baby, Sybil performs an emergency C-section on Charlotte. Unfortunately, there is now doubt as to whether or not Charlotte was actually dead before the C-section, or if that may have been what killed her. Sybil is charged, and brought to trial.

I have to admit this book surprised me. I had no idea I would like it nearly as much as I did. I don't want kids, so the first couple of chapters may have been a bit too much info for me, with the detail about women giving birth, but once the story really got going... once the night of Charlotte's labour and death arrives, then the subsequent investigation and trial happens, wow! I just did not want to put the book down. If I wasn't reading the book, I wanted to be. The tension and suspense as to what would happen, who would say what, especially at the trial, was huge. Of course, being told from Connie's viewpoint, you see how this affects the entire family. But, it was really the tension and suspense in the book that really drew me in and wouldn't let go. This will most likely be on my favourites list for the year. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jan 3, 2014 |
Very good story of ethical decision. Can't say much without giving story away. It is easy to read and worth it. Medical sociology--establishment against women. Taking normal process and making it an illness. ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 16, 2013 |
The novel tells the story of Sibyl Danforth, a midwife put on trial for the death of one of her clients. On an icy winter night in an isolated house in rural Vermont. Sibyl takes desperate measures to save a baby's life. She performs an emergency cesarean section on a mother she believes has died of a stroke. However, what if Sibyl's patient wasn't dead--and Sibyl inadvertently killed her? As recounted by Sibyl's 14 year-old daughter, Connie, the ensuing trial is supposed to be about the death of a single woman but turns into a battle between science and nature as the right of a woman to choose home birth is debated. The biggest issue that I had with this book was that I never really cared about any of the characters, particularly Sibyl. I found her to be a little too “Earth Mother,” and her descriptions of pregnancy and birth were too ethereal for me. I had no real emotional attachment to any of the characters. The story had a good start, but it began meandering and never recovered. It wasn't awful, but I would have a hard time recommending it to others. 2 out of 5 stars. ( )
  marsap | Sep 4, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 86 (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 the English one.
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
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Book description
On an icy winter night of 1981 in the rustic community of Reddington, Vermont, seasoned midwife Sibyl Danforth is forced to make a life-or-death decision that will change her world forever. Trapped by the weather in an isolated farmhouse, cut off from the hospital of even the emergency squad, she takes desperate measures to save the life of a baby, performing a cesarean section on a woman she believes has died of a stroke during a long and painful labor. But what if the woman was still alive during the surgery? What if Sybil herself inadvertently killed her? The hair-raising story of Charlotte Bedford's death and the subsequent trial of Sybil is hauntingly told by Sybil's fourteen-year-old daughter Connie, now an obstetrician. She is remembering, and it is through her intelligent and watchful eyes that we witness the tragic effects of Charlotte's death and Sibyl's trial. And as Sybil faces the antagonism of the law, the hostility of the medical establishment, and the nagging accusations of her own conscience, we are compelled to confront questions of human responsibility that are fundamental to our society. As with all of the very best novels, Midwives provides no easy answers; rather, it consistently engages, moves, and challenges our ways of thinking.
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:59 -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)

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