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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon May 19, 2016
The “Swiss Cheese Model” of system failure states that every step in a process has the potential for failure, to varying degrees. The ideal system is analogous to a stack of slices of Swiss cheese. Consider the holes to be opportunities for a process to fail, and each of the slices as “defensive layers” in the process. An error may allow a problem to pass through a hole in one layer, but in the next layer the holes are in different places, and the problem should be caught. Each layer is a defence against potential error impacting the outcome. For a catastrophic error to occur, the holes need to align in each step of the process allowing all defences to be defeated and resulting in an error. Each slice of cheese is an opportunity to stop an error. The more defences you put up, the fewer the holes and the smaller the holes, the more likely you are to catch/stop errors that may occur.

In 'Midwives', the layers were lined up with all the 'holes' in a row and Sybil Danforth, a lay midwife in rural Vermont in the early '80's finds herself on trial for manslaughter.

This book refers to Sybil's personal diaries at the beginning of each chapter, but the story is told by her 14 year old daughter, Connie who provides her perspective on the trial, her mother's midwifery practice and the complex family relationships that are tested during a time of high stress. I first read this book almost twenty years ago and I remembering liking it. When I came across it again recently, I decided to give it another read and had forgotten how much I had liked it. This one will stay on my bookshelf.
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on March 21, 2016
This isn’t normally the type of book I would pick up and feel the need to read. However, my sister absolutely loved it and lent it to me and told me I had to read it. So I did.

I’m surprised how much I actually enjoyed this book, because like I said it’s not really my type of book. At the same time, I’m disappointed I didn’t like it as much as my sister did. A bit of mixed feelings for me on this book.

The writing was very good. It’s clear Bohjalian is a great writer. And the story was good and interesting. I definitely wanted to keep reading to discover the outcome. However, I wasn’t able to become completely captivated when reading. While I enjoyed the story and wanted to see what happened, I had no problem setting it down to do something else. It actually took me a surprisingly long time to finish this book.

People who are into this type of story will devour this book and love every minute of it. So, if the synopsis sounds like it’s a story right up your alley, definitely pick up this book!
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on February 9, 2016
Wonderful story. As a nurse and mother I was fascinated by this story. Definitely a great read!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon September 4, 2007
A very entertaining book, speaking of a series of difficult decisions to be taken in a split second and against a further series of negative circumstances surrounding the problematic birth of a baby, delivered by an experienced midwife during a snowy night in rural Vermont. When things deteriorate, Sybil, the midwife, has to make a crucial decision which will then lead to a lawsuit.

This book certainly makes you think about how everything can go wrong if adverse fate interferes, but not only. It also gives rise to a crucial question regarding the choice between childbirth taking place in the serenity of a home or at a hospital, where everything would be "colder" but most risks could be kept at bay.

With all due respect, I must admit I was really impressed that the author of this book is a male, as everything is recounted with such feminine accuracy. Well done, truly well done. A book to be remembered. I still do and I've read it at least five years ago!
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on June 5, 2007
What a great story. Told by the teenage daughter, this book has everything and keeps you interested until the end. I have recommended this book to many friends and I recommend it to the readers of this review - you will surely appreciate this read.
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on June 23, 2004
Midwives is a gut-wrenching novel about Midwifery in rural New England. Midwife, Sibyl Danforth, through the eyes of her daughter. Cut off from the outside world during a blizzard in rural Vermont, Sibyl performes an emergency C-section on a mother she believes is dead to save a baby. What follows is a trial between the ancient art of midwifery and modern medicine. But what is really at stake here is a tradition going back thousands of years between strong self-sufficient mothers and the self-proclaimed security blanket of the establishment.
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on June 22, 2004
Chris Bohjalian did an Excellent job writting Midwives. I was enormously shocked to find out that the person writting this book was a man!! They way he used such words as Vulva and the vocabulary were perfect. I have never heard a man know so much about birth. I really had forgotten it was a man writting the book and not a woman!
I recommend this book to anyone and everyone!! It is a Masterpiece in the way that the book draws your attention from the beginning to the end. The character selection does not stay behind at all either. Connie was very independant in the book and the connection that her and her mother had was beyond believe. I would have never thought a girl so young could know so much about a topic that is kept away from kids.
I am not going to say much to not give the book away, but It was great. This book is my favorite so far from any of the summer readings I have done this summer. Oprah could not have chosen any better. High Five Mr. Bohjalian and High Five Oprah...5 BIG STARS.
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on June 21, 2004
If there is any book that exemplifies self-doubt and innocence, it is Chris Bohjalian's Midwives. The story is told by a grown woman about the most important moment in her life which was the events leading to and the trial of her mother Sybal for the involuntary manslaughter of her patient Charlotte Bedford. Never have I read a story where the terms of a character's self-doubt resulted from a human error, which ended in a life and death situation. Chris Bohjalian has done well to portray all this from the perspective of Connie when she was fourteen but by the end of the story, although my heart goes out to every character who was deeply effected by the tragic event I'm still not too sure whose side I'm entirely for. If you're a reader of suspense and tragedy, Midwives is a must.
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on June 17, 2004
Chris Bohjalian did a great job with this book. The life of a midwife occupation and the risks they take everyday to make women feel comfortable in their homes was beautifully portrayed. The court room drama held out right to the end...there were twists and turns throughout the book. The becoming of age of the narrator, Connie, makes a great connection between mother and daughter. My hat is off you Chris Bohjalian!!!
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on June 17, 2004
I really enjoyed reading this book. I was really impressed with the form of narration that this book was written in. This book is framed by a dramatic story of a midwife and the struggles one might face when working outside "the establishment." This is a wonderful coming of age story.
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