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by Chris Bohjalian

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5,2761141,495 (3.81)125
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.
  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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» See also 125 mentions

English (112)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (114)
Showing 1-5 of 112 (next | show all)
Slooooooooooooooooooooooooooow book. Also fairly predictable. The story is told from the perspective of the midwife's 14 year old daughter but it incorporates observations she can make now that she is an adult and the trial is behind them. I felt like we met a lot of characters that weren't related to the story being told and we got a lot of details that did nothing for me. Just further proves my thoughts that slow plot lines are not for me. ( )
  Stacie-C | May 8, 2021 |
This was more the story of the trial of a midwife, whose patient died, than of the actual "midwives." Sybil, a midwife with no formal training, finds herself making a complicated delivery when a snow storm causes the phone lines to go dead in the late 1970's. The story is told through the eyes of her 14 year old daughter. I was not real invested with any of the characters; nonetheless, it was an average read ( )
  Tess_W | Feb 9, 2021 |
The scenes about the home delivery and the court times were compelling reading. The author seemed to respect both sides of the issues. I really felt for the midwife who was so concerned for her clients and then has to deal with her doubts. ( )
  kshydog | Dec 13, 2020 |
Could probably use a re-read on this, but I remember it as very compelling and a total surprise twist at the end. Led me to read other books by Bohjalian too. ( )
  CarrieWuj | Oct 24, 2020 |
I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!

I picked this up because I was curious about the treatment of the title characters - midwives. I gave birth to my second child at home with two midwives and found it to be an amazing experience, unforgettable. I wondered how much this author would get right about them.

I was impressed. The story is in a different state than mine and its laws are different. In California it is flat-out against the law to be a midwife, unless you are a nurse-midwife delivering in a hospital. Apparently in Vermont it is frowned upon but not illegal, at least at the time when this story is set - late seventies, early eighties.

The story is about one child delivered by Sibyl Danforth. In the midst of winter, on a stormy night, she assisted a woman who was pregnant with her second child. The first had been born in another state. Labor became much more difficult than expected and the mother, after pushing for literally hours, crumbled. Her heart stopped. Danforth performed CPR but did not detect a heartbeat. In desperation she performed an emergency Caesarean on the woman, whom she took to be dead.

She was ultimately charged with causing the woman's death. She obtains a good attorney, who finds expert witnesses to counter the state's, and the action builds. It seems like one minute we are with Sibyl, the next we are in the courtroom. We get the full story by a kind of back-and-forth action.

The story is told primarily by Sibyl's daughter Connie, told from a distance of several years. The beginning of each chapter is an excerpt from Sibyl's diary, written in a different style. Apart from the weaving back and forth, which creates tension and drama, Connie's story is told in a straightforward way, with few embellishments. In fact, when I first started reading it I wondered if this were in fact a true story (it isn't). I had to look at the cover, see the word "novel", then then too note that the author is a man.

The detail in the birth event itself is remarkable. The event is described medically and legally, and each aspect is subjected to a great deal of scrutiny. Much like real life, there isn't necessarily only one version that's true. Sibyl is an honest, trustworthy, competent midwife, but is her version the right one? That's what we wonder throughout the dissection of the case.

I didn't particularly like Sibyl's "voice" as represented in the journals. There was something false about the style, to me. Not that I ever felt that she was in any way false, just those paragraphs written in a perhaps "too literary" way. I liked Connie's voice better, as it seemed more solid, more real.

I found it absorbing and to this day I am wondering. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 112 (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
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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.

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Average: (3.81)
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