Monday, November 3, 2008

Review: Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

The November book for LOLAs is Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. I read the entire book on my Oprah-given Kindle - my first book on the Kindle. I will review the Kindle later this week.

Midwives was just okay for me. It took me a long time to get into the book. I don't know if part of that was learning the new way to read via the Kindle or just the book. Here's the summary:

The time is 1981, and Sibyl Danforth has been a dedicated midwife in the rural community of Reddington, Vermont, for fifteen years. But one treacherous winter night, in a house isolated by icy roads and failed telephone lines, Sibyl takes desperate measures to save a baby's life. She performs an emergency Cesarean section on its mother, who appears to have died in labor. But what if--as Sibyl's assistant later charges--the patient wasn't already dead, and it was Sibyl who inadvertently killed her?

As recounted by Sibyl's precocious fourteen-year-old daughter, Connie, the ensuing trial bears the earmarks of a witch hunt except for the fact that all its participants are acting from the highest motives--and the defendant increasingly appears to be guilty. As Sibyl Danforth 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.

The story is narrated by Connie, the fourteen-year old daughter of the midwife Sybil Danforth. Connie's voice is a high point for me in the novel. I did get to know Connie and felt what she described. But I don't feel like her character was shared enough. In the telling of her mother's story, we get small glimpses of the girl but not the anguish, worries, scared feelings that I would imagine she would be feeling.

Nor do we really get that from her mother's voice. At the beginning of each chapter, we get a glimpse of Sybil through an excerpt of her personal notebooks.

Maybe it's because I love to read courtroom dramas that this book didn't grab me. Because the courtroom pieces are not all that suspenseful. And since the characters were not that deep either, I don't feel like I connected well with them.

It was a good book, one I am not sorry I read. It just wasn't great. It will be fun to see what the other LOLAs have to say about it. We will be meeting the second week of November. Maybe I missed something that our discussion will bring to light and change my view of the book? It's been known to happen.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars


bermudaonion said...

Thanks for the review, Michele. I don't think I'll be picking this one up.

Shana said...

You know, Michele, I read Bohjalian's The Double Bind and while I really enjoyed it and thought that OVERALL it was a wonderful story, character development (and character likability for that matter) was certainly not the strong point of the novel.

I wonder if all his books are this way. I've only read the one.


Elizabeth said...

Yep, this was very much my reaction to this book. Good to know I wasn't the only one!