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3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  106,376 ratings  ·  3,130 reviews
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 Caesarean section on its mother, who appears to have died in labor. ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published November 8th 1998 by Vintage (first published April 1997)
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Rima Karamyan Hi Shirley. I just started reading Midwives, but I greatly enjoyed the Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian! I highly recommend you read it if you…moreHi Shirley. I just started reading Midwives, but I greatly enjoyed the Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian! I highly recommend you read it if you haven't done so yet. It is one of those books that I can reread and enjoy several times! Rima(less)
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The premise of the book is that a very experienced lay (not certified) midwife has a messy delivery in a patient's home in which the mother ends up dying. In order to save the baby when her efforts at CPR fail, she performs a cesarean on the mother. The baby, incidently, does live because of her efforts. However, her inexperienced assistant and the father of the baby both have their doubts about whether or not the mother was actually dead at the time of the incision, and the midwife goes to tria ...more
It was very well-written, but I read it with mixed feelings. When I was done I had to say that I didn't like it. The author says many positive things about midwifery but in the final analysis it really is an indictment of lay midwifery and home birth. I gave birth to 5 children at home: 1 with an old-time doctor and 4 with a lay midwife. I had 3 at the hospital: 1 without drugs, 1 with an epidural, and 1 with a C/S. So I feel qualified by experience to at least comment. My home births were by fa ...more
I’ve had Midwives, Chris Bohjalian’s fifth novel, on my to-read list for quite a while, but I resisted reading it until now because of some personal baggage: my only son was born, perfectly healthy, in a hospital; but the labour was prolonged, resulting in life-threatening complications that brought me back to the hospital in isolation for almost three weeks during which I was not even allowed to hold my own newborn child.

Midwives is a story about a pregnancy that goes wrong, but not in a hospi
Feb 03, 2010 Stephanie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: women, esp. mothers
Recommended to Stephanie by: Stephanie Hodnett
I LOVED this book, which was totally unexpected. It was absolutely riveting for me. There wasn't a slow part in it.
I really enjoyed the organization, with the journal entries, and the tone associated with the author's reflections (kind of "if only..."). It made the whole book feel like you were hearing an exciting story first hand, where the story-teller felt compelled to add little bits of insight or extra information along the way to help enhance your experience. I really enjoyed how it begin
So the Washington Post Book World says that this will keep readers up late until the last page is turned. I started the book this morning, and only had hopes that it'd be as good as the last few books I've read. Didn't think I'd do all 370 pages today. LOL

I guess depending on how you feel about midwives and home births, you could view this book as an injustice upon Sibyl, or an injustice against the woman who died. Personally, I feel that a woman has the choice as to whether she wants a home bir
Books Ring Mah Bell
I'd give this book 5 stars, but there's that damn Oprah sticker on the cover and that kinda wrecks it for me. Kinda like meeting that perfect guy and discovering he has a vagina.
I hate when that happens.


This book was exactly what I needed. A great story. Thoughtful topic. (I highly suggest this book for book clubs - it is sure to generate some conversation)
This book was like a Grisham on steroids; meaty.

I would like to preface my comments with a recommendation that if you are pregnant or are planning to have children sometime soon this would NOT be a good book choice. Having said that, I thought this book was exceptional. I was definitely drawn to this book, having delivered both of my children with a nurse midwife. This story is told from the adult daughter's perspective regarding her mother's role ( a midwife) during a home delivery gone bad. As I noted in someone else's review, I had to stop ...more
my mom insisted i read this book for years. now it's on the oprah book club so i feel lame saying i read it, because i find oprah's book club to be lame and i find the 'oprah book club' logo on a books front cover detrimental. But it was an interesting book. I liked it; a quick read. It follow the court case of a midwife in vermont who delivers a baby via an emergency c-section in which the mother dies and then they discover that the mother wasn't actually dead before the c-section occured. it's ...more

I have no idea how Chris Bohjalian wrote the voice of a 14-year-old girl so well that it actually made me remember what it felt like to be 14. AND against my will, mind you. I would do anything to never feel 14 again. There are many other wonderful things about this book. But it's enough to say read it because here is a man writing in the perfect 14-year-old-girl voice and that's some amazing motherfucking writing.
Well, I finished my adult beverage I wanted to finish before writing this last review of 2012 of the last book I read in 2012. I also wanted to make sure I kissed my husband at midnight, so, I delayed this review.

I'm going to give Midwives 4.5 stars. I initially was going to give this 4 stars, but the end kind of "wowed" me, and it deserved a half star.

Initially, I didn't know much about midwifery until I read Midwives, and there really is a lot to learn about it. This read definitely gives yo
Jun 10, 2008 Kristen rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kristen by: Jenny P
I read this book when I was on business travel in Zimbabwe and it definitely kept me turning the pages. As someone who values very strongly the role of midwives in healthcare, this was a tough book to read. The midwife at the center of the story is faced with a very dangerous (and statistically incredibly unlikely) situation and the outcome makes her a pariah in the community. She becomes a scapegoat and a target of all sorts of anger, most of which is misdirected and misguided and often comes f ...more
This book is told by the prespective of a 30 year old woman who is recalling her life and turmoil at age 14. The cause for the turmoil...her mom, a self-appointed 70's-throwback-midwive who preforms a C-section on a patient in an extreme situation, to save a dying baby from his alreay dead mother. Why the drama? Well, maybe the birthing mother wasn't the court drama begins. Will her mothr be convicted of involuntary manslaughter or will the jury find her innocent?

All I can add was that
Jul 22, 2008 Joann rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Mothers- Home Birthers- OBGYNs?
Shelves: fiction
As a home-birther I was very intrigued by the topic of this book. I know the risks that accompany both home and hospital births and, after much study and prayer my husband and I know that home births are the way to go. I have gotten many different reactions from the "fish eye" look to anger from people who find out our girls were delivered naturally, at home, by a midwife.

I loved the author's portrayal of midwives; his description of their mannerisms, their education, and their outlook was righ
Aug 13, 2007 Jennifer rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: my_favorites
I didn't read this book because it was an Oprah read...I don't think I even knew this was one until today. I found it at a little independent bookstore in Monterey years ago. This was one of those books I couldn't put down but... because of the intense emotional content of the book I ended up stepping away from the book a couple of times. I was amazed by the authors ability to write about such an emotional subject(home childbirth gone wrong)and had to remind myself numerous times that it was wri ...more
In this book we follow a US midwife who is at a home birth during a storm when all communication is cut off. The mother dies and the midwife performs a Caesarian section to save the baby. She is later charged with murder as there is some confusion as to whether the mother had actually died or was killed by the operation.

The book follows all of this through the eyes of the midwife's 14 yr old daughter. As such some of what we view is not necessarily a reliable account. The story then becomes esse
This was a book that I started several years ago and then lost interest. As it is a popular book, it remained on my TBR list, but somehow I just never found the motivation to pick it up again - at lest not until GR challenges came along for which it was an ideal choice.

This is the story of a young girl's family, particularly her mother and the singular event of her mother's life which helped to form hers.

Sibyl Danforth was a dedicated midwife who one horrible night had a mother to die giving b
I felt like I really couldn't connect with the characters well. It didn't go into other characters head and how they felt. We only knew how Connie felt. I could not sympathize with Sybil ( the midwife) or her husband. I felt she was so selfish. She did what she wanted and didn't care how anyone else felt.
#1. She couldn't give up "catching" babies for the sake of her marriage when she and her husband fought over it.
#2. She knew her daughter was upset when she couldn't make it to dinner, but she
Okay I really did like this book. I actually think it deserves 4 stars, but the circumstances that surrounded the reading of this book insist upon a 3 star rating. Here are a few of those reasons:

1. I am pregnant! What was I thinking reading a book about a tragic home delivery 4 months before I'm due? It was all a little too close to home for me. And although I am not planning on having a home delivery (not that there's anything wrong with that) Just the description was a little to vivid for me
This is the second time I read this book, the first time being 10+ years ago. The first time I read it I'm not sure I had even had a baby of my own yet, and if I had, it was a highly interventive, mainstream hospital birth. Now that I've had a midwife attended homebirth, and am planning another, I think my perspective on the story has changed somewhat. I was disappointed, mostly, in the author's use of the word "patient" in reference to the mothers the midwife cared for and attended - a little t ...more
Right. Midwives. Which I had been looking forward to since it came out and I spotted it on a grocery store bookshelf (yes, really).


Bohjalian wrote four books before this one, but you wouldn't know it from the awkward prose. His dialogue isn't bad. His characters are... more or less realistic (I buy everyone except the narrator). So much of the writing meanders into tangential places that have little, if any, bearing on the story as it stands.

Either we needed less of this book or different
I only read two chapters of this book, so I can't write a completely useful review. I couldn't read this book for two reasons: one, I found the prose unreadable right from the beginning. It has a lot of awkward phrasing that could have been avoided- really inexcusable bad writing. Coupled with poor word choice and much more narration than necessary. I guess I've spoiled myself by getting used to reading actual literature, because I'm sure there was a time when I would have found nothing wrong wi ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book tells the story of a modern day midwife who is on trial for involuntary manslaughter when a patient dies during labor. This is a home birth set in a rural area in a snowstorm, making contact with a hospital or emergency assistance impossible. The midwife performs an emergency Caesarean with a kitchen knife to save the baby after the mother dies. The story is told through the eyes of the midwife's 14 year old daughter, as the case goes through the trial, with flashbacks of the event and ...more
Sorry, what was this book about? Because if the author stuck to what I believe to be the original idea, a courtroom drama-esque debate of ethics and assumptions surrounding homebirth and modern medicine, it would have kept my interest. These are certainly things that interest me. Well, there is that, but this book is also littered with totally irrelevant tangents, dead-end storylines, rambling emotions and love-life details of a 14 year old, and weird wavering between timelines.

It also drove me
I have two opinions on this book.

First of all, it really does a great job of explaining why some women choose to have their babies at home, why it is safe, why we should have that choice. I feel passionately about my own homebirth experience. It is not, for the most part, dangerous or an unwise decision. For most people. I don't think most pregnant women are sick and therefore do not need hospitals. So many women have been trained by OBs to think things like: "My body doesn't go into labor on it
Casee Marie
Across the landscape of his career, author Chris Bohjalian has written novels about a murderer’s plight against a privileged family in World War II Italy, about a young social worker driven into Jazz Age Long Island by a homeless man’s photographs, of an American woman’s love for an Armenian man in early-twentieth century Syria, and more. In his contemporary classic, Midwives, he tells the unforgettable story of midwife Sibyl Danforth and a home birth gone tragically wrong. Narrated by Sibyl’s f ...more
I wrote this review below, and then before posting it, I realized how negative it sounds, so please let me start this by saying: The book was a solid 4-star book, one that I will think about long after I turned the last page....a book with a huge WOW factor.....then let the remainder of the review tell you how it didn’t get 5 stars.....

I found the first 3 or 4 chapters hard to get through and honestly might have stopped reading the book had the author not been recommended to me by someone with w
I thought this book was a compelling read, but also felt it supported and fed into a lot of the paranoia surrounding midwifery and homebirth in the U.S.

Most midwives - whether direct entry (lay) midwives or certified nurse midwives - are highly trained professionals. In the case of a low-risk pregnancy, homebirth is typically a very safe option. In fact, worldwide, most babies are born at home (yes, even in developed countries. The U.S. is an anomaly in this regard.)

Complications do arise and
Really a supergreat book. I got sucked in as if by a vaccuum, and spent many nights up later than I should have trying to finish. The suspense was superb, and some of the passages were so well written it was impossible to tell that it was a man trying to write from the point of view of a woman.

Perhaps some of the birthing language was a give-away as far as the author being male - I just don't hear females discussing it the way it was handled in this book, but I can see how men might think women
Midwives goes into detail about the practice of midwifery, following Sibyl Danforth as she catches babies. Sibyl's 14 year daughter, Connie tells the story of a home birth gone terribly wrong. What really happened to Charlotte bedford? Did she die on her own, or was still alive when Sibyl tried to save the baby??

This book started out extremely strong for me. I didn't want to put it down and the content was really interesting to me. Each chapter started out with an excerpt from Sibyl's journals,
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Chris Bohjalian 12 81 Jan 06, 2014 04:05PM  
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Chris Bohjalian is the author of seventeen books, including Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, arriving July 8, 2014 from Doubleday.

His other books include such New York Times bestsellers as The Light in the Ruins, The Sandcastle Girls, The Night Strangers, Secrets of Eden, Skeletons at the Feast, The Double Bind, Before Your Know Kindness, and Midwives.

Chris's awards include the ANCA Arts and Letters
More about Chris Bohjalian...
The Sandcastle Girls The Double Bind Skeletons at the Feast The Light in the Ruins The Night Strangers

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“Everything about [chance] scares the bejesus out of so many people; it's the this thing they try to avoid at all costs. Don't travel to the Middle East these days - there's a chance something could happen. Don't get involved with that new fellow on Creamery Street - I hear a lot of mud was scraped off his floor after the divorce. Don't have your baby at home - there's a a chance something could go wrong. Don't don't don't... Well, you can't live your life like that! You can't spend your entire life avoiding chance. It's out there, it's inescapable, it's a part of the soul of the world. There are no sure things in this universe, and it's absolutely ridiculous to try and live like there are!” 14 likes
“No one said living isn't a pretty chancy business, Sibyl. No one gets out of here alive.” 12 likes
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