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The Birth House by Ami McKay

The Birth House (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Ami McKay

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1,491944,980 (3.96)222
Title:The Birth House
Authors:Ami McKay
Info:Vintage Canada (2007), Paperback, 408 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Birth House by Ami McKay (2006)

  1. 00
    The Reluctant Midwife by Patricia Harman (4leschats)
    4leschats: Also looks at historical issues within the context of women, births, and midwifery
  2. 00
    Sex Wars by Marge Piercy (tangledthread)
    tangledthread: also deals with the historical issues of gender politics.
  3. 00
    The Midwife of Hope River: A Novel of an American Midwife by Patricia Harman (vancouverdeb)
    vancouverdeb: Both books are about midwifery in the early 1920's ,1930's. Both also tackles social issues.
  4. 00
    Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent (infiniteletters)
  5. 02
    Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (JolieLouise)
    JolieLouise: Has a similar "feel" to The Birth House. The difference being that the "remedies" used in The Birth House are more passed down folklore/wisdom whereas the "remedies, etc..." in Practical Magic are more magic/witchcraft. Both books have females as the main characters and the females have the power of healing/magic . . .… (more)

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» See also 222 mentions

English (92)  Lithuanian (1)  All languages (93)
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
A well told tale, focused on one woman's life but deftly merging in historical events (Acadian eviction, Boston's molasses flood, home effort in WWI, Suffragettes). Social class divisions are a factor, with more educated women being pretentious and the country women focusing more on mutual aid, and was used by Dr Thomas who shamed men into providing "the best" for the wives during childbirth and flattered women who chose the scientific approach. While the women gathered to knit socks and mittens for the soldiers, they shared what they knew about how to get pregnant or avoid it. Yes, there were deaths for women under the care of midwives, but this also happened to women in hospitals. Marie Babineau, Dora's mentor, saw some women pull through difficult births while others couldn't, and sadly accepted that some women's lives were so hard or were so abused, that they didn't have "enough love to make a life" (p. 102), didn't have the will to fight for their life, that the outcome was ultimately in the hands of God.
I enjoyed the folk wisdom scattered throughout the book and appreciated that these were all compiled at the end. One of my favorites was collecting the first dew of May, "Mary's Tears", used for blessing the sick. "You'd think the fruit was the prize [for growing plants]...but it's the seeds that keeps the secrets. Like any other mother, the plant done spent all her life learnin' the earth. It's her seeds that does the rememberin' for her." (p. 153) ( )
  juniperSun | Jan 17, 2015 |
Set in the early 1900s in rural Nova Scotia, this novel about midwifery, friendship and women's rights strikes all the feminist chords. ( )
  DonnaCallea | Nov 29, 2014 |
Set mostly during WWI in the little town in Nova Scotia, Dora is the apprentice to the local midwife, Miss B. When Miss B passes away, Dora inherits her practice and the ill will of a physician in a nearby town who believes that his hospital, twilight sleep and exact science (coupled with a costly insurance policy that pays for his services) is the best way for the women of the tiny town. Dora eventually has to move away for a while, when she's accused of killing a local man's wife. Turns out the it was his beating that killed the wife, not Dora's medicine at all. Eventually Dora moves back to town, making her old home into "The Birth House", open for free to any woman for any reason. ( )
  nancynova | Aug 15, 2014 |
I quite liked this book. It reminded me of Beth Gutcheon's work a bit. It might have been the historical part, it might have been the common northeastern coastal setting, it might have been the feminine-centered plot. Really a 4-and-a-half star book. ( )
  cat-ballou | Jan 22, 2014 |
I quite liked this book. It reminded me of Beth Gutcheon's work a bit. It might have been the historical part, it might have been the common northeastern coastal setting, it might have been the feminine-centered plot. Really a 4-and-a-half star book. ( )
  cat-ballou | Jan 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
As with Water for Elephants, this book sat on my 'to-read' list way too long. After finally picking it up from the library, I almost returned it without reading because it just didn't appeal to me. However, I am so happy that I opted to read rather than return.

I loved how the author, Ami McKay, wrote this story. It amazes me to think that the story actually takes place in the early 1900's and during WWI. Other than when the story actually mentioned the war or the fact that there wasn't electricity, you wouldn't have known that it wasn't a modern day story.

Also, I really enjoyed reading about midwifery. I chose to have a 'modern' birth when I had my son (ie. hospital with doctors) but have heard of so many wonderful stories of the 'midwife experience'. By the end of The Birth House, midwifes were becoming extinct and doctors becoming the way of the world... nowadays, it seems as if things are moving back in the other direction as more and more people chose to use a midwife over a doctor for their birthing experience. If only the people of Scots Bay knew this, it would have saved so much trouble

Overall, The Birth House was a wonderful debut novel by a Canadian author. It is a must-read for anyone who enjoys a story about a mother struggle to choose between what everyone says is right and what she feels is right in her heart
McKay sets The Birth House against the historical backdrop of war, influenza, the Halifax Explosion, and the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919. Issues of women’s rights and freedoms are never far from the novel’s surface. Gradually Dora becomes the guardian of age-old female knowledge under threat from modern technology. She is forced into the fray when Dr. Gilbert Thomas, an ambitious, unscrupulous obstetrician, arrives in Scots Bay with promises of safe, painless childbirth. Young though she is, Dora knows that pain and danger are inseparable from life. With the staunch support of the Occasional Knitters Society, she fights Thomas’s hostile takeover. He counters with charges of malpractice, precipitating her flight to Boston....Intelligent, quirky, passionate, and funny, it deserves a wide readership and a long shelf life.

The miracle of birth and the struggle to live a good life; the miracle of a good life and the struggle to be born -- these are just a few of the themes explored in Ami McKay's poignant debut novel, The Birth House.

The novel is set in a small Nova Scotia community during a period of great change: in Europe, the First World War is raging. In North America advances in medicine and social organization are radically altering they way people live. It's an era charged with tumult, destruction and social revolution.
A national bestseller, The Birth House won the Ontario Library Association's 2007 Evergreen Award and was named one of the best books of the decade by Chapters Indigo
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For my husband, Ian, My heart, my love, my home
First words
[Prologue] My house stands at the edge of the earth.
Ever since I can remember, people have had more than enough to say about me.
A rumour is about as hard to unspread as butter.
No matter what you do, someone always knew you would.

Throw an onion after a bride and you'll throw away her tears.
The most horrible curse you can put on a woman is to kiss her on the cheeks and tells her that things couldn't get any worse. The minute you say it, they surely does.
Our little village, perched on the crook of God's finger, has always been ruled by storm and season.
Last words
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Book description
Haiku summary
An awkward talent

Becomes a treasured gift.

Women share and support.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061135879, Paperback)

An arresting portrait of the struggles that women faced for control of their own bodies, The Birth House is the story of Dora Rare—the first daughter in five generations of Rares.

As apprentice to the outspoken Acadian midwife Miss Babineau, Dora learns to assist the women of an isolated Nova Scotian village through infertility, difficult labors, breech births, unwanted pregnancies, and unfulfilling sex lives. During the turbulent World War I era, uncertainty and upheaval accompany the arrival of a brash new medical doctor and his promises of progress and fast, painless childbirth. In a clash between tradition and science, Dora finds herself fighting to protect the rights of women as well as the wisdom that has been put into her care.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:54 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The first daughter in five generations of her Nova Scotia family, Dora Rare becomes an apprentice to a gifted midwife and storyteller before their home is threatened by the arrival of a brash medical doctor who promises sterile and painless births.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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