Summary and book reviews of Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

Midwives

by Chris Bohjalian

Midwives
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  • First Published:
    Oct 1998, 372 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 1998, 255 pages

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Book Summary

Sibyl faces the antagonism of the law, the hostility of traditional doctors, and the accusations of her own conscience. Midwives engages, moves, and transfixes us as only the very best novels ever do.

On an icy winter night in an isolated house in rural Vermont, a seasoned midwife named Sibyl Danforth takes desperate measures to save a baby's life. She performs an emergency cesarean section on a mother she believes has died of a stroke. But what if Sibyl's patient wasn't dead--and Sibyl inadvertently killed her?

As Sibyl faces the antagonism of the law, the hostility of traditional doctors, and the accusations of her own conscience, Midwives engages, moves, and transfixes us as only the very best novels ever do.

Throughout the long summer before my mother's trial began, and then during those crisp days in the fall when her life was paraded publicly before the county--her character lynched, her wisdom impugned--I overheard much more than my parents realized, and I understood more than they would have liked.

Through the register in the floor of my bedroom I could listen to the discussions my parents would have with my mother's attorney in the den late at night, after the adults had assumed I'd been sleeping for hours. If the three of them happened to be in the suite off the kitchen my mother used as her office and examining room, perhaps searching for an old document in her records or a patient's prenatal history, I would lie on the bathroom floor above them and listen as their words traveled up to me through the holes that had been cut for the water pipes to the sink. And while I never went so far as to lift the receiver of an upstairs telephone when I heard my mother speaking on the kitchen...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Midwives: Reading Guide & Q&A

Reading Guide
The questions, discussion topics and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group's reading of Chris Bohjalian's Midwives. We hope they will give you a number of new angles from which to consider this enthralling and provocative novel, a gripping combination of courtroom thriller, domestic drama, and novel of ideas that adds up to a lyrical and suspenseful work of art.

On an icy winter night of 1981 in the rustic community of Reddington, Vermont, seasoned midwife Sibyl Danforth is forced to make a life-or-death decision that will change her world forever. Trapped by the weather in an isolated farmhouse, cut off from the hospital or even the emergency ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Boston Globe

The courtroom settings provide . . . ample suspense, but Bohjalian is equally adept at rendering . . . quieter, individual drama. . . . A writer of unusual heart.

People

Superbly crafted and astonishingly powerful. . . . It will thrill readers who cherish their worn copies of To Kill A Mockingbird.

Portland Oregonian

A treasure. . . . It is a rare pleasure when a finely written novel also grips us with sheer storytelling power.

Kirkus Reviews

A classic coming-of-age story in this To Kill a Mockingbird--like reminiscence...a compelling, complex novel.

Publishers Weekly

Readers will find themselves mesmerized by the irresistible momentum of the narrative and by Bohjalian's graceful, lucid, irony-laced prose.

Reader Reviews

keilla love

midwives is a nice book!
I really liked the novel midwives. It is really exciting and very breathtaking story.

Melissa

Did She or Didn't She
I enjoyed this book for so many reasons: It was a courtroom drama not centered in a courtroom; It was narrated by the eavesdropping daughter of the protagonist, which provided a great viewpoint; It was suspenseful and touching and the writing ...   Read More

Cadi

Midwives
I loved the book. I read it in 2 days on a lovely 18 hour road trip. It was very compelling, so deep. I didn't think the end really changed that lingering doubt. I think just taking that risk of acting on those instincts for what you love really ...   Read More

Chris McCluskey

I've been studying this book for a grade 13 independent study, and after three months with it by my side, it has yet to become a burden. I enjoy picking it up every time.

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