Rather than just write a review of the book Midwives, by Chris Bohjalian, I am hoping to have more of an online book club discussion for anyone who read the book and wants to participate.
This was not a book I picked out. I do not follow which books are selected to be part of Oprah's Book Club. Although this book was first published 12 years ago, I had actually never heard of it that I could recall. This book came into my possession from a 20-something coworker who listens to me talk about my kids and nursing and childbirth and pregnancy and lack of sleep and all the other joys and frustrations that come along with parenthood. Although young and dating, my coworker's mom has young children and she's seen her mom go through so much of the same things with her half-siblings. She kept telling me that I had to read this book, and finally lent it to me to read.
I loved it.
Because of our infertility troubles and need for specialists, my husband and I went with OB doctors for the pregnancies and deliveries. My sister, however, had midwives and even attempted the birth of her first child in a birthing center. Before reading this book, I fully supported people's decision to go with midwives and give birth in birthing centers or even at home. While reading the book and after reading it, I more than support it. I wish I had gone with midwives. My guess is that some people who read the book might actually feel the opposite, and I was surprised by how strong and consistent my own reaction was, even when the book discussed the negatives of going with midwives or birthing outside of hospitals.
The book itself was really well written. I was unsure about how the story would come across because it was written by a man, and the main character was a woman and the story line very female focused. But he did a great job of making me forget it was a man who wrote it. By using a main character who, although a woman, had not had any kids herself and was remembering a time during her youth, he was able to speak about women's issues from an interesting perspective of an intimately involved "outsider," which is a voice that I think would be similar to a man whose wife had beent through childbirth (Chris Bohjalian has a wife and daughter).
I also felt that by having this main character and by putting the main story in a "remembering" voice, he was able to provide just that touch of distance that I needed to read about certain situations without becoming so emotionally involved that I would have to put the book down. You see, I am still so close to the pregnancy/childbirth experiences that I generally can't read news stories, blog entries or even fiction about bad things happening to mothers or children. But I didn't put this book down once. Not because it didn't move me or touch me or reach me emotionally, but because the voice he used and the way he wove different pieces of the story together through the trial details, memories and journal entries that gave just enough distance (this isn't the right word, but something close to it) for me to not be overwhelmed.
And the story... I thought it was just amazing. Obviously well researched and definitely something the author came across as passionate about. All those aspects I mentioned in the preceding paragraph and more was woven together well, and the story really kept me guessing. Some things I saw coming, but not everything.
POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT BELOW!!!!!
As for the very end...
I really did not know which way the jury would go. I liked the reason he basically gave for why the jury went the way it did. But he kept me guessing, and then the relief I felt was, well, upended. The very end of the book? Wow. Just wow. I am getting shivers right now thinking about it. But even with the twist at the very end, I didn't think it cheepened the story at all, unlike some other books I read. I mean, I like a good twist in general, but I hate it when I feel like the twist is just to pull the rug out from under you or to trick the reader in some way. I didn't feel this twist was like that. I thought that this twist actually was crucial in explaining some key parts of the book. It helped let everything fall in place.
SPOILER ALERT OVER!!!
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. I felt like I learned a lot, I went on an interesting ride, I liked the characters and the plot. And most important to me in books, movies and TV shows: It was well written. I am totally going to recommend this book to others.
What about those of you who read the book? Do you agree with what I said? What did you like about the book? What did you dislike? What will stay with you over time? Did your feelings on midwives and birthing outside hospitals change or strengthen? I'd love to hear everyone's opinions!