Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

An Oprah’s Book Club pick, Midwives is the second Bohjalian novel I’ve read; I had previously read Skeletons at the Feast, which was published in 2008. The story is told from the point of view of a thirty-year-old woman telling the tale of what happened the fall and winter of her fourteenth year. Her mother Sibyl Danforth, a midwife, takes desperate measures to save a baby’s life during an icy winter night in rural Vermont. Believing the mother has died of a stroke she performs an emergency cesarean section, but then there are questions over whether Sibyl’s patient was actually dead and if Sibyl’s actions inadvertently killed her.

Bohjalian’s novel was very reminiscent of Jodi Picoult novels as the novel deals with a moral issue and ends up in a courtroom. I thought the conflict between midwives and doctors particularly interesting, but as this novel takes place in the early 1980s I was left wondering if this is still the case. (I would assume that it probably is.) Interestingly enough Sibyl’s daughter becomes an OB-GYN despite this conflict between doctors and midwives, but this is only a side effect of the story at hand. The main question is over whether or not Connie’s mom will be convicted of involuntary manslaughter and serve fifteen years in prison, but there is also the question of whether or not women should have the right to give birth at home or whether it’s in the best interest of mother and child to force women to give birth in the hospital.

The answer to what really happened isn’t answered till the very last page of the book long after the conviction is handed down. There are a couple of instances where I wish the novel would pick up its pace, but overall I thought it was an interesting read. Perfect for the long airplane ride across the country.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Bohjalain, Chris. Midwives. New York: Vintage Books, 1997. 372 pgs. Print. ISBN: 0375706771. Source: Purchased.
Book Cover © Vintage Books. Retrieved: August 26, 2010.
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