“Midwives” perfectly combined home births and medicine with the legal drama of a trial. I was again impressed with Bohjalian’s strong writing that turned an odd subject into a mesmerizing read. When Charlotte’s home birth results in her death, midwife Sibyl decides to perform a Cesarian to save the life of the baby. But in the days following the tragedy, Sibyl’s assistant and the baby’s father claim that Charlotte was not dead when the Cesarian was performed and Sibyl is suddenly accused of murdering Charlotte. By telling the story from the perspective of Sibyl’s thirteen year old daughter, Connie, the reader gains a global understanding of the impact of the claims against Sibyl and resulting trial.
At times, I was, for lack of a better description, a little grossed out by the intricate details of home births. But, ultimately, it was those details that provided the foundation for such a provocative story. The courtroom scenes were not entirely accurate, but were strong enough for my legal brain to accept. I liked that Connie told the story as a flashback and provided information about the future of her and her parents at times that perfectly moved the story along. Through her eyes, the reader realizes how difficult it is for Connie and her father to place trust in Sibyl’s version of events to stand by her through the trial. The book does an amazing job of examining the repercussions of Sibyl’s conviction that Charlotte was dead when she performed the Cesarean. There was a realistic quality to the characters that made the story gripping. Despite the focus on births, there were enough male characters and other aspects of the book to make this an attractive read for men also.
I can see why this was such a successful book. It was worth reading to the very last sentence, which provided a stirring ending. I can’t praise Bohjalian enough. His writing captures characters in an amazingly unique and creative way. He is quickly becoming one of my new favorite authors. If you are looking for something different, but strong, this might be for you.