- Oprah's Book Club Selection
Midwives Paperback – Nov 8 1998
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Oprah Book Club® Selection, October 1998: On a violent, stormy winter night, a home birth goes disastrously wrong. The phone lines are down, the roads slick with ice. The midwife, unable to get her patient to a hospital, works frantically to save both mother and child while her inexperienced assistant and the woman's terrified husband look on. The mother dies but the baby is saved thanks to an emergency C-section. And then the nightmare begins: the assistant suggests that maybe the woman wasn't really dead when the midwife operated:
Did she perform at least eight or nine cycles as my mother said, or four or five as Asa recalled? That is the sort of detail that was disputable. But at some point within minutes of what my mother believed had been a stroke, after my mother concluded the cardiopulmonary resuscitation had failed to generate a pulse or a breath, she screamed for Asa and Anne to find her the sharpest knife in the house.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. --Margaret Prior
From Library Journal
In this new tale from the author of the acclaimed Water Witches (LJ 2/1/95), a New England midwife is accused of murder. Film rights were bought by Columbia-Tristar Pictures.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
This is an interesting book ~~ you'll learn more about childbirth than you ever wanted to know ~~ and it does preach the cons and pros of midwives compared to hospital births. This is a story of a love between a mother and a daughter, wife and husband, friendships, loyalties, client and lawyer ~~ it covers a lot of range in this book. It changes the way you perceive things too ~~ I didn't know much about midwives or what their roles are ~~ I usually hear of the old tales where midwives are usually dirty and so forth, but not in this book. Sibyl takes care of her clients better than a lot of doctors do ~~ only something went wrong with one delivery. It seems that Mother Nature was conspiring against her as well as a jealous intern. This book does provoke a few emotions, so be warned.
It is a quick read as well and not as depressing as some of Oprah's other books. It's a learning experience.
I was originally put off by the flashback device, not a favorite of mine, but I was able to overcome my dislike of that and get through the book. I always feel like an author is trying to "hook" readers by using this device....like dangling a carrot and then pulling it away out of sight!
I thought this was a good story and a very thorough exploration of certain thorny moral, ethical, and legal issues. I knew that, no matter what the outcome, the lives of Sibyl and her family would never be the same.
Bohjalian did a really wonderful job of conveying the feelings and emotions of all the characters. His character development was first-rate, as I think it always is in his books.
You have to kind of overlook some of the artsy-craftsy-kooky-spooky elements of the home birth movement, to which the author seems really sympathetic. Not all midwives are such out-there Earth Mothers as the one in this novel. Still, Sibyl and her family--and her lawyer--are likaeable enough (so too is the family of the deceased). You can have the best intentions and a fair amount of expertise, and one mistake--or perceived mistake--can destroy the lives of so many people. That's pretty scary, and that tension is what drives this book.
I might mention that I would never have been considered for the jury in this case. Seven years ago, my sister and her firstborn almost died because the midwives attending her birth refused to call in the doctor despite extreme fetal distress. But she wasn't at home during an ice storm. She was in a state-of-the-art hospital in downtown Minneapolis. She probably would have been in more compassionate hands if she had been in a taxi and had to rely on the driver to catch the baby.
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