Paperback Published: November 8, 1988
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy / Book Club Selection
Recommended for readers looking for a good book club selection
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 stroke. But what if Sibyl's patient wasn't dead--and Sibyl inadvertently killed her?
I actually first read this book over a decade ago when Oprah Winfrey chose it for her book club. All I really remembered of it was that it was set in Vermont, a midwife is on trial because a mother died, it is told from the daughter's point of view, and that it was a solid book that pretty much left me after I had turned the last page. Obviously, I was going to need to re-read it for my book club.
Because so much has happened in my life since I first read this book (moved to the east coast, moved back to the west coast, went through 3 jobs, got married, had 2 kids), I think my experiences enhanced what I read in this book. Unlike my first reading, this time the book stayed with me after I finished it--and it is still with me.
There is no argument that Bohjalian is a skilled writer--his prose is deep, but still readable. I enjoyed how he structured the book, with the main narration coming from Sibyl's daughter, but each chapter being prefaced with Sibyl's own words. The last half of the book mostly takes place in the courtroom and, as a reader, I felt as if I was a member of the jury.
I did not especially like Sibyl, but I understood her. I understood what drove her to midwifery and what led her to the fateful decision that landed her in a manslaughter trial. Sibyl's daughter, Connie, is exactly what I would picture a girl of her age who finds herself in her position would be. I do wish, however, that Sibyl's husband, Rand, was fleshed out a bit more.
I will say that I have questions about this book. Are non-certified midwives really as self-trained as Sibyl was? Does the medical community really have it out for midwives? Did Sibyl really do the best that she could? I'm looking forward to my book club discussion on this book because there will be at least one doctor with us.
All in all, this was a great book for me to re-read and I think it will be an excellent selection for our book club.
I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation.