Thursday, July 23, 2009


Joined a book club a few months ago, and Midwives by Chris Bohjalian was the first book I had to read.

It's the story of a midwife, Sibyl, who has to perform an emergency C-section in the middle of an icy winter night and the mother dies. But was the mother dead beofre Sibyl performed the C-section or did the procedure kill her?

Sibyl is put on trial for the mother's death.

The story is told by Sibyl's adult daughter Connie (she was a teenager at the time of the trial) through a series of flashbacks, and each chapter is prefaced by an excerpt from Sibyl's journals.

I loved the characters in this book. I was rooting for Connie and Sibyl through the whole book. The way Connie describes events as an adult remember what it was like to be a teen in a difficult time is fascinating. And having the journal entries helps give an idea of what was in Sibyl's mind without distracting from Connie's main storytelling.

I did have a couple of problems with the book. A minor one was every now and then Connie throwing in something that was not part of the timeline of the events leading up to the trial or the trial itself. Sometimes it was enlightening, but more often than not it was just irrelevant and distracting.

My major issue with the book is how, aside from one fate-changing incident, the trial was a let down. Throughout the story there are hints of a conflict between the medical establishment and the lay midwives, and I was hoping more of that would come to light during the trial, but it didn't. I really wish they had gone more into the conflict, since it is an issue that is relevant even now.

It's a good, entertaining and easy read, though.

Incidentally, Chris Bohjalian is a man, which completely blew me away. He really managed to get into a woman's mind regarding childbirth. Amazing for someone who has never been pregnant!

Anyway, I'm done with my copy and would be happy to pass it along, just leave a comment!


  1. I've read this book twice - the first time many years ago, I think before I ever had kids, or maybe I had my first kid, but it was certainly at a time in my life when I wouldn't have dreamed of contemplating midwife-attended home birth. I loved the book the first time I read it. The second time I read it was while I was pregnant with Finn. I had one home birth under my belt by that time and was planning my second. So it was interesting to read the book again with the difference in my own experience and perspective. I really liked the book the second time, but I think I found some things about it irritating and a little implausible, just based on the fact that I had actually experienced home birth now and knew quite a bit about midwifery, etc. Anyway, it's definitely a good, well-written, and engrossing book, and I agree, he did an amazing job of writing as a female.

  2. I'm interested. Both of your reviews have me sold.

  3. I read this book a couple of years ago and REALLY enjoyed it!!

  4. I loved this book!! Makes me wonder if I still have my copy, I'd like to reread it, it's been several years.