Book Review: Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

Midwives is an interesting fictional book about an accidental death during a home birth. It chronicles the incident and the ensuing trial in a way that is believable and authentic.

The main character is a wise 13 year old girl, and the story is about her mother, a local midwife who has received no official medical training, but has delivered babies as a midwife most of her adult life. It’s an interesting challenge – what happened during the delivery that made the mother die? Was it right or wrong of her to save the baby over the mother?

In the book, the medical community is in an uproar, and midwives across the country are all geared up to fight for the right of all mothers to have their babies at home if they want to. The drama is great as doctors who passionately believe that birthing mothers belong in a hospital, and midwives who, with a nurturing attitude support the experienced midwife through the trial.

If there is a flaw in Mr. Bohjalian’s book, I would have to say it’s the maturity of the 13 year old main character. Having once been 13 myself, and having known many 13 year old young women, I would have to say that she was remarkably unemotional, and never did anything that an adult woman wouldn’t have done. She never got mad at her parents or really burst into tears. If you ignore this and pretend she’s a different age, it’s a really wonderful and interesting story that presents the challenges of home birth, and at the same time, the seeming lack of heart in hospital births. The characters are extremely relatable, and the story seems so authentic, that I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had read it in the news. Recommended.