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Midwives

by Chris Bohjalian

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,7061221,776 (3.8)135
Fiction. Literature. HTML:NATIONAL BESTSELLER ‚?Ę This modern classic from the author of The Flight Attendant is a compulsively readable novel that explores questions of human responsibility that are as fundamental to our society now as they were when the book was first published. A selection of Oprah's original Book Club that has sold more than two million copies.

On an icy winter night in an isolated house in rural Vermont, a seasoned midwife named Sibyl Danforth takes desperate measures to save a baby‚??s life. She performs an emergency cesarean section on a mother she believes has died of stroke. But what if‚??as Sibyl's assistant later charges‚??the patient wasn't already dead? The ensuing trial bears the earmarks of a witch hunt, forcing Sibyl to face the antagonism of the law, the hostility of traditional doctors, and the accusations of her own conscience. Exploring the complex and emotional decisions surrounding childbirth, Midwives engages, moves, and transfixes us as only the very best nov
… (more)
  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 (120)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All languages (122)
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Imagine anything and everything that can go wrong when trying to midwife a birth: there are complications with an at-home pregnancy in rural Vermont; a storm rages; phones go out and roads are impossibly icy; the midwife's assistant is inexperienced and immature. The husband freezes, struck and stuck immobile with fear. These are the days before cell phones and computer communications. No VoIP, no texting, no Googling how to perform a cesarean or how to stop a woman with high blood pressure from having a cerebral hemorrhage. There is no way to go for help when this same exhausted woman starts bleeding to death after hours and hours of trying to give birth to a second child. A desperate situation calls for desperate measures and seasoned veteran midwife Sibyl Danforth makes a decision to perform an emergency cesarean on this mother. Months later, at her trial for manslaughter, she will tell the court she believed the mother had died. Was it a necessary action or did Sibyl commit callous unthinkable murder? As with all suspicious deaths, Sibyl must be tried in front of a jury of her peers, all the while battling traditional medical opinions and an overzealous community ripe for justice. The midwife culture is one of hippies, people who buck the system and thumb their noses at modern medicine. Midwives give off the vibe they lounge around buck naked while smoking pot. Told from the perspective of Sibyl's daughter, thirty year old Connie Danforth looks back on her mother's horrific choice and the subsequent trial that followed. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Dec 28, 2022 |
Vermont, 1981. Sibyl Danforth is a well-established midwife. But when complications arise on a night when the weather prohibits getting her patient to a hospital, she's forced to make a decision. At the end of that long night, an infant is saved, but the mother is dead. The implications of this rock the state of Vermont and Sibyl's fate will be determined by a jury's decision.

I've read quite a lot of Chris Bohjalian, but this is what I'd consider his breakout novel (I'm assuming because it's an Oprah pick), and I've had it on my bookshelf for quite a long time, just now getting around to reading it. It's not my favorite of his, but it's certainly not my least favorite either. I suppose I was expecting a little more "wow" factor, given the hype it had at the time. (But again, that was probably the Oprah influence.) Definitely some controversial subjects here, not only the midwife vs. hospital birth, but also the decision made during the particular home birth in this story. It's a good discussion book, and overall a good book. The choice to use Sibyl's 14-year-old daughter as the narrator is somewhat of an odd one in my opinion. I'm not sure it added to the story, though I will say that Bohjalian does do a good job with female characters, not only in this book but in others as well. Overall, I'd recommend this one. ( )
  indygo88 | Oct 1, 2022 |
I love everything I've read from Bohjalian, and Midwives lives up to my expectation.

The story centers around Sybil, a midwife who has lost a mother during a home birth gone wrong. The story is told primarily from the point of view of her teenaged daughter Connie.

Following the death of the lost mother, there is an autopsy and Sybil is arrested and tried. Most of the book follows the trial.

The thing I love about all of Bohjalian's books are the ambiguous moral dilemmas that leave me asking "what would I do?" and "what side would I have taken?" and "how would I have acted?"

Definitely a thought-provoking book! ( )
  sriddell | Aug 6, 2022 |
Excellent read. Very well researched but not overly technical. Chris Bohjalian does a remarkable job of writing from the perspective of a 14 year old girl, as well as inserting selections from her mother's diaries into each chapter. For a man to be able to grasp the female psyche and emotions during what would have been a terrifying and tension filled time in both of their lives is saying something about this author. ( )
  Jen-Lynn | Aug 1, 2022 |
Christine recommendation. ok. but too deep for me. ( )
  apende | Jul 12, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 120 (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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Epigraph
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
Dedication
For Victoria,

the woman whose labors have beautified my whole life

And for our little girl,

Grace

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.
Quotations
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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Wikipedia in English (1)

Fiction. Literature. HTML:NATIONAL BESTSELLER ‚?Ę This modern classic from the author of The Flight Attendant is a compulsively readable novel that explores questions of human responsibility that are as fundamental to our society now as they were when the book was first published. A selection of Oprah's original Book Club that has sold more than two million copies.

On an icy winter night in an isolated house in rural Vermont, a seasoned midwife named Sibyl Danforth takes desperate measures to save a baby‚??s life. She performs an emergency cesarean section on a mother she believes has died of stroke. But what if‚??as Sibyl's assistant later charges‚??the patient wasn't already dead? The ensuing trial bears the earmarks of a witch hunt, forcing Sibyl to face the antagonism of the law, the hostility of traditional doctors, and the accusations of her own conscience. Exploring the complex and emotional decisions surrounding childbirth, Midwives engages, moves, and transfixes us as only the very best nov

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