Monday, August 27, 2012


I recently had the chance to borrow the electronic version of this novel, by Chris Bohjalian, from my library.
I really enjoyed this novel! I don't think its a spoiler to report that it focuses on a home birth that results in the death of the mother. The midwife is then accused of having caused the mother's death, and the story is told by her teenage daughter, Connie. There is quite a bit of frank discussion of home birth and general, and this unfortunate home birth in particular, so I wouldn't recommend this for readers who are not interested in those subjects (or who are likely to become queasy reading about them).

I think my favorite aspects of this book were those that reminded me of one of my very favorite books of all time, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. Both books featured extensive descriptions of nature, climate and weather and made these subjects central to the story, though they could easily have been left out. They both paint vivid pictures of scenery very different than I'm used to, with Midwives set in a rural community in northern Vermont. They both deal with important social issues, in this case, the role of planned home birth in modern society. But, most significantly, they both describe a trial.

If you watch Law and Order, or Boston Legal, or any of the other similar programs, you might get the impression that legal cases rarely have an impact, like grains in a mill. I certainly think that way. In this book, we see a case, and a trial, that impacts the community. Of course, its easier to draw this conclusion since the book is narrated by the daughter of the defendant. Nonetheless, the book shows us the breadth of community reactions to the allegations against the defendant and suggests the changes to the defendant as well as those around her as a result of what has happened. Sometimes a trial can be transformative. Moreover, sometimes fiction about legal topics seems to focus on swift maneuvering and outsmarting the other side with extraordinary confidence. This book describes a trial that is less about cleverness and more about trying hard, recognizing risk, and telling the truth within the limits of human memory. It's a portrayal of our justice system that is quite different than what you might read in a John Grisham. I was totally intrigued by it. The book captivated me and has left me thinking. A winning combo!

No comments:

Post a Comment