Friday, June 13, 2008

Julie's Review: Midwives

Photobucket Summary: 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.

Review: This is my 2nd Chris Bohjalian book and I have to say I love his writing style. There is a certain cadence to his books without writing the stories in the same manner. Midwives (Oprah's Book Club) is an excellent, fast paced, well researched and thought provoking novel. Again, I have to say "Thank You" to Lisa for not only recommending the book but sending it to me to read.

The book isn't for the faint of heart, as Mr. Bohjalian gets quite graphic at certain times in the novel, but it's not gratuitous, it's necessary to the plot. Sibyl Danforth is a highly experienced midwife but even in all of her experience she could have never foreseen the complications of the labor of Charlotte Buford. What happens during this labor will have dire consequences for both women.

The story is told through the eyes of Connie, Sibyl's 14 year old daughter. I think it's interesting that he chose a child's voice instead of an adults to tell the story. Mr. Bohjalian writes children well and he nailed Connie's voice throughout the book. I also think that telling the story as a reflection instead of an "in the moment" makes it that much more powerful.

There are a few twists that I didn't see coming. My sister didn't care for the ending but I enjoyed it and thought it left me with a lot to think about and reflect on.

I appreciate all the research that Mr. Bohjalian did on midwifery. I didn't have much of an opinion on the subject before reading the book and I would say it didn't sway me either way. My thinking is..."to each their own".

I will be putting The Double Bind (Vintage Contemporaries) in the next short TBR pile that will occupy my nightstand.

Final Take: 4.75/5


Wendy June 13, 2008 at 11:05 PM  

This is probably my favorite Bohjalian was the first one I read of his, and it made me an instant fan. I also loved The Buffalo Soldier, and most recently Before You Know Kindness. I also have Skeletons at the Feast (his most recent novel) on my TBR pile. I will be interested to see what you think of The Double Bind. I was disappointed in that one...but I was in the minority of those who didn't like it.

Unknown June 17, 2008 at 8:44 PM  

I am glad you enjoyed this book Julie. This was the second Chris Bohjalian book I read and I thought it to be extremely well written and well done. I particularly enjoyed the twist at the end mostly because I didn't see it coming.

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