Sunday, November 27, 2011

Review: The Birth House

Author: Ami McKay
Publish date: 2007
Source: Library
"The Birth House is the story of Dora Rare, the first daughter to be born in five generations of the Rare family. As a child in an isolated village in Nova Scotia, she is drawn to Miss Babineau, an outspoken Acadian midwife with a gift for healing and a kitchen filled with herbs and folk remedies. During the turbulent years of World War I, Dora becomes the midwife's apprentice. Together, they help the women of Scots Bay through infertility, difficult labors, breech births, unwanted pregnancies and even unfulfilling sex lives. 

When Gilbert Thomas, a brash medical doctor, comes to Scots Bay with promises of fast, painless childbirth, some of the women begin to question Miss Babineau's methods - and after Miss Babineau's death, Dora is left to carry on alone. In the face of fierce opposition, she must summon all of her strength to protect the birthing traditions and wisdom that have been passed down to her. 

Filled with details that are as compelling as they are surprising-childbirth in the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion, the prescribing of vibratory treatments to cure hysteria and a mysterious elixir called Beaver Brew-The Birth House is an unforgettable tale of the struggles women have faced to maintain control over their own bodies and to keep the best parts of tradition alive in the world of modern medicine."

I saw The Birth House on a blogger's Top Ten Tuesday list of books bought based on the cover (I wish I could remember whose blog it was!). The cover intrigued me as well, so I borrowed the book from the library. It was an interesting piece of historical fiction that I neither loved nor hated. 

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, so I knew I would like that aspect of the book, and I also like learning about how medical practices have changed over time. Midwifery can be a fascinating topic, so it was fun to learn more about it. The author sprinkled in real historical events throughout the story also, so I found myself googling a bit as I was reading. Maybe it's the nerd in me, but I love learning about real events as I read.

The reason I didn't love this book was that the story itself was kind of boring. The author's connection with it is interesting: she moved into a new house and found out that it was used as a "birth house" many years before, which is what prompted her to write the story. That fact pulled me in, but the plot was just not that interesting. The story also seemed to abruptly end, after which the author wrote an epilogue of sorts, which was disappointing. Interesting information and premise, but unfortunately, just not a page turner.

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