Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Favorite Reads: The Birth House

Alyce from At Home With Books writes the meme My Favorite Reads that features a review of a book read pre-blog. Since my blog is so new, I decided to join this one.

 My pick for this week is:

The Birth House: A Novel (P.S.)
The Birth House by Ami Mckay
"An arresting portrait of the struggles that women faced for control of their own bodies, The Birth House is the story of Dora Rare—the first daughter in five generations of Rares.

As apprentice to the outspoken Acadian midwife Miss Babineau, Dora learns to assist the women of an isolated Nova Scotian village through infertility, difficult labors, breech births, unwanted pregnancies, and unfulfilling sex lives. During the turbulent World War I era, uncertainty and upheaval accompany the arrival of a brash new medical doctor and his promises of progress and fast, painless childbirth. In a clash between tradition and science, Dora finds herself fighting to protect the rights of women as well as the wisdom that has been put into her care."

I discovered this book not long after I gave birth to my first daughter, whom I had tried (and failed) to have "all-natural." By that time I was very well read on the topic of midwives and natural births, so this fictional book fit right in with my interests. I also found it interesting that the author was inspired to write this book after buying a house in Nova Scotia that had a history as a birth house. While reading the book, I felt a kinship with the pregnant women in the story and became quite angry at the "doctor" that came into town promoting his new science, which was really a sad excuse to take money from the town's inhabitants and hide his own inexperience and lack of knowledge on the subject of childbirth. The doctor even tries to bribe Dora to stop practicing midwifery even as he allows a woman to die in childbirth. The method the doctor employs in the book is the same method by which my grandmother gave birth, and reading the fictional accounts of this method caused me to feel sorry for my grandmother that she did not have the same joyful experience that I did with my first daughter, even after hours and hours of labor. In addition, the pages of the book also hold reproduced historical news clippings, advertisements, and letters that add an authenticity to the book with a scrapbook-style feel. Overall, the book is highly-emotional, and I shed more than a few tears over this wonderful piece of literature.


Alyce said...

I'm sure I would be quite incensed over the injustices caused by the doctor. I didn't have "natural" childbirth with my two boys, but I admire those who can. I am fascinated by birthing stories though, so I really think this is a book that I would like. Thanks for joining in this week!

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