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message 1: by Deb, Queen Bee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Deb | 2378 comments Mod
read and discuss

please preface your comments with how far along you are in your reading

✿Sandra | 2973 comments I started this, but then changed to The Rose Garden to join in on the Buddy Read. It started with a bang for me, and I am looking forward to getting back to it.

message 3: by ☮Karen (last edited Jun 01, 2012 05:13PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

☮Karen | 6422 comments Finished -- read this probably 9-10 years ago and would give it 5 stars. Bohjalian's best, and in my opinion, none of his other books can compare. So I can't wait to hear everyone's comments.

message 4: by Connie (Ava Catherine) (last edited Jun 07, 2012 05:44PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Connie (Ava Catherine) | 112 comments I have finished this book. I read it many years ago and read it again this month for our book club group. It is an interesting tale, and I am looking forward to everyone's opinions.

message 5: by ♥ Sandi, Me! ~~ on a good day (last edited Jun 02, 2012 07:44PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

♥ Sandi (TakingTime) | 9581 comments Mod
Karen, I like you read this book at least 5 or 6 years ago. I may have to go to cliff notes to remember the actual story, but I do remember liking it very much.

De Ann | 17 comments I read this one recently for an in-person book club and I really liked it. It really made me think about childbirth at home vs. the hospital. I like Bohjalian as well.

✿Sandra | 2973 comments On page 144 -

So far this story is interesting and well told. This book is making me want to read more of this author. I have already looked into some of his other books. He is coming out with a new one on 7/17/12, The Sandcastle Girls: A Novel The Sandcastle Girls A Novel by Chris Bohjalian, for anyone that is interested.

Britany | 3605 comments Just started last night... I'm on page 62, so far I really enjoy how the book is formatted and it feels likes its going to be a great read. I love how each chapter starts out with notes from Sibyl's notebook and then the rest of the book is from the daughter's perspective. The stories of the births at the beginning really set it up well. I appreciate that the narrator (I'm drawing a blank on her name right now) continues to mention the trial, so I'm waiting for the bough to break on that.

message 9: by ✿Sandra (last edited Jun 08, 2012 12:35PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

✿Sandra | 2973 comments Britany wrote: "Just started last night... I'm on page 62, so far I really enjoy how the book is formatted and it feels likes its going to be a great read. I love how each chapter starts out with notes from Sibyl'..."

I'm on page 227

I also love the sections on the notebook. They continue to add to the story and give good insight to Sibyl as a person and midwife.

(view spoiler)

This book brings forth the topic of how tough it would be to work in the medical field. I can see where the loss of a loved one, under such terrible circumstances, would make the family want to find someone to blame. It is one of those books that really makes me think about what I would do if I were in a similar situation.

Angelica (lttlegel) | 3 comments Sandra wrote: "On page 144 -

So far this story is interesting and well told. This book is making me want to read more of this author. I have already looked into some of his other books. He is coming out with ..."

Thank you! This is the first book I've read by him and I too am enjoying the book:)

Angelica (lttlegel) | 3 comments I finished this today.

Very very good, though not what I was expecting.

I love that Sibyl's character showing that she is a strong, educated women who can do things differently perhaps better.

message 12: by Vicki (new)

Vicki I just started this one, looking forward to discussing it with you ladies.

message 13: by ✿Sandra (last edited Jun 13, 2012 11:30AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

✿Sandra | 2973 comments Finished - Here is my review (I was careful not to give anything away):

Connie, Sybil's daughter, was the perfect narrator for this story, because we got to see everything through her 14-year old eyes. Because she was an only child, her mother was a midwife, and her parents were pretty open with her, I think she was mature for her age and saw things differently than a lot of 14-year-olds would.

I felt the story unfolded nicely from the beginning to the end. Sybil was likeable as a midwife, and I feel she did everything humanly possible to save Charlotte. There were times I didn't like her choices as a mother. Sybil's journals were a wonderful addition to the story. I didn't see the ending coming until Sybil spilled the beans in court, and even then, I wasn't sure what the outcome would be.

message 14: by ✿Sandra (last edited Jun 12, 2012 09:53PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

✿Sandra | 2973 comments Finished -

(view spoiler)

Britany | 3605 comments Finished!!

Here's my review:

Really enjoyed this book, but I felt that the middle section dragged on too long. I found myself wondering what you all thought about the trial... Did you believe that Charlotte was alive?

I personally felt that Sibyl did the right thing by saving the baby.

✿Sandra | 2973 comments Britany wrote: "Finished!!

Here's my review:

Really enjoyed this book, but I felt that the middle section dragged on too long. I found myself wondering what you al..."

I debated between 3 and 4 stars because of the same reason you listed in your review - there were times I felt the trial drug on a little too long. I also felt that Sybil did the right thing by saving the baby.

Britany | 3605 comments ❀Sandra wrote: "Britany wrote: "Finished!!

Here's my review:

Really enjoyed this book, but I felt that the middle section dragged on too long. I found myself wonde..."

Great minds Sandra :) Now, how do you hide spoilers?? I can't seem to figure that out...

message 18: by ✿Sandra (last edited Jun 13, 2012 06:43PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

✿Sandra | 2973 comments Britany wrote: "❀Sandra wrote: "Britany wrote: "Finished!!

Here's my review:

Really enjoyed this book, but I felt that the middle section dragged on too long. I ..."

If you click on (some html is ok) above the comment box, it shows you how to do things like spoilers, bold text, italic text, etc. You type all of the symbols & words it shows you, and the dots in the middle stand for what you want to be in the spoiler, bold, etc. I will give you an example, but I have to put spaces in the formatting, or it will automatically hide it as a spoiler: < spoiler >Goodreads is awesome< /spoiler >. So, if I wanted Goodreads is awesome to be hidden as a spoiler, I would do it like this but with no spaces at the formatting parts. I hope this makes sense! :)

Britany | 3605 comments (view spoiler)

Hope this works.

Britany | 3605 comments Success! Thanks Sandra :)

✿Sandra | 2973 comments Britany wrote: "Success! Thanks Sandra :)"

Yay! Sure :)

Andrea (amneske) | 7 comments I am about half way through right now, I havnt had more than about 15-30 minutes per day to read, but really enjoy the layout of the book. I am really enjoying the daughters character. So far she seems like a very mature and thoughtful character. I also like how you can really feel Sybils passion for her profession and how much she loves what she does. I am excited to see how it all ends!

Sheri | 9 comments Just finished and I can say I really enjoyed it. I thought the 14 yr old daughter as the narrator really worked. I too thought the middle did drag on a little, but the end had a twist that surprised me.

message 24: by Connie (Ava Catherine) (last edited Jun 15, 2012 08:52PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Connie (Ava Catherine) | 112 comments (view spoiler)

message 25: by ✿Sandra (last edited Jun 15, 2012 09:29PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

✿Sandra | 2973 comments Connie wrote:

I felt the same way about her family!! It made me angry!

Also, very good point about Anna.

Angelica (lttlegel) | 3 comments I agree with you. I'm not a mother, but I imagine being away from your child for 15 years would be the hardest sentence of all.

Rachel Murphy (facelikefizz) | 53 comments Finished. I had never heard of Chris Bohjalian before this book was chosen and I'm really glad it was. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was well written, gripping and thought provoking.

(view spoiler)

✿Sandra | 2973 comments Rachel, I agree with your last paragraph.

Connie (Ava Catherine) | 112 comments I agree with Rachel's last paragraph, also.

Britany | 3605 comments I agree too Rachel!!

Andrea (amneske) | 7 comments finished. I really enjoyed this book, but the last chapter (the diary entry) frustrated me. I had a feeling something like that was going to happen, but for some reason it made me upset with Sybil. I felt bad for the daughter, she was going through so many emotions and no one even seemed to see her. But I did enjoy the trials and the way they were written. Now I will start on the books I received through the goodreads giveaways

☮Karen | 6422 comments On the topic of Bohjalian, I'm currently about 1/2 way thru another of his books, Skeletons at the Feast and I'd highly recommend this one too, especially if you at all like WWII stories. I've read 2-3 other books by this author and did not enjoy them nearly as much as Midwives and Skeletons.

Cyndi (BookChick64) Just starting this, will check in soon.

Cecilia | 33 comments ***possible spoiler***
Just finished. I loved this book. I thought the journal entries were a great insight into Sybil's point of view, which gave a first hand perspective into the midwife's life. I also think that the daughter Connie served as a good narrator. And boy did she grow up quick!!!
It really opens your eyes to the differences in the choices that some women make (when having children), and along with that, the possibilities and risks in making such a huge decision. Scary!
And to see Sybil's love of what she does be turned into murder because of an awful, unimaginable, mistake????.....heartbreaking. One night and your life is changed forever. Crazy!
A good story told well. Although I saw the March 15th journal entry coming it still leaves you wondering how the story would have ended if Connie hadn't done what she did, which is fun too.

Britany | 3605 comments I agree with you Cecelia, it's unthinkable how one night could have so many consequences and completely effect you and your family's lives as much as it did.

Renee (ReneeBuerkle) I just finished this book, I thought it was really good. I enjoyed Sybil's journal entries, and liked that the book was narrated by Connie. After reading the March 15th journal entry I felt sad for Asa, but at the same time I can understand why Sybil did what she did.

message 37: by Cyndi (last edited Jun 27, 2012 07:50PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cyndi (BookChick64) I too enjoyed this book. It was well constructed and very moving.

The familial relationship shown was intense and the dynamic was a bit different.

I feel that Sybil lacked a certain humbleness. I also felt her own family was neglected and considered a poor substitute for the swirling auras that kept her tethered to midwifery.

All and all a fine selection that I may not have chosen on my own, but so glad to have read.

message 38: by Leonora (new)

Leonora Shahon | 185 comments I finished this book about a week ago and it took me a very long time to get through the book. I am sure it is only because I am 35 weeks along in my pregnancy! The book did give me some really sad moments and things to consider as I get ready to have my 4th baby.

I agree with many of the comments posted above, particularly about Sybil's family life and how she could have been there more for her daughter and husband. What was so interesting to me was that when jail seemed a possiility for Sybil she only thought about missing her daughter in terms when her daughter would give birth. It was very troubling to me that she did not seem to even consider that jail would divide her from her daughter in so many other ways.

The last journal entry really bothered me. If Sybil was really a stand up gal then why didn't she just come forward and say she was not sure what happened.
I felt that she should have given up midwivery right after the incident happened. I was really disappointed in Sybil at the end after reading the last journal entry. I just thought she should have admitted that the lady flinched and agreed not to birth anymore babies.

Alana (alanasbooks) | 2079 comments I just finished this. ***Spoiler alert*** because everything I think about it is going to give away something. :)

I was actually glad when the journals were finally mentioned in the trial, because at one point while reading the chapter openings, it occurred to me that some of her thoughts could be very damaging in court and I was surprised that they weren't being included. It didn't occur to me that her lawyer had carefully avoided mentioning them to the prosecution. I wondered what I would have done, because while I don't keep a journal myself on a regular basis, often during times of incredible stress I will, simply because writing down my thoughts has a remarkable way of sorting them out in my mind so I can see the truth more clearly. Yet in this case, she had to know that it could potentially damage her testimony if the prosecution got wind of it, so the best thing for the trial would be for her to stop (as she was instructed to do). What else should she have turned to?

It's also interesting the way Sybil's relationship with Stephen was handled. Connie presents it in a way that neither condemns nor condones it, merely states the facts as they happen. We get the sense of a woman who married a man older than she and during a time of crisis turns emotionally to the man who while also younger, also is her hope of a future. It's clear she never lets anything get too out of hand, but perhaps there is some flirtation that occurs because of the high level of stress and uncertainty.

I took Sybil's focus on giving up midwifery as twofold; one, that she is so determined that she is innocent that giving up her work truly is her only fear and two, that focusing on this aspect allows her not to think about missing out on those possible 15 years of her daughter's life, which may matter to her far more than she lets on in her journals. Perhaps it's so devastating that she can't even bring herself to think about it.

Sybil may also have had the same/opposite problem as Anne. If Anne "imagined" or not the geyser of blood, etc, and once she had made her phone call to the doctor and committed to her side of the story, she could not change without casting doubt on herself, she had to force herself to believe what she thinks she saw, then perhaps Sybil's problem was that she convinced herself that Charlotte truly was dead because she can't allow herself to believe otherwise. Neither of them is dishonest; they each truly believe their own side. But medically only one side is possible and we do not know which side is right, or if it even matters in the end.

Has anyone else read Water for Elephants? *spoiler alert if you have not read it* I found the opening very reminiscent of Water for Elephants in that one ending is implied, but it really turns out to be very different. In Water for Elephants, you assume that Marlena is the culprit and murderess when really it is the elephant, Rosie, that is to blame. In Midwives, you assume the verdict comes back "guilty" because of Connie's sobbing in the courtroom (and other places where she makes references to her mother's "still assuming she would be able to go back to delivering babies" etc), when really it turns out very differently.

I also would not have chosen this book myself and wasn't sure what I was getting into, but by the end I really enjoyed it and was glad I read it. If nothing else, it can apply to all areas, not just home birth, where one group of people is persecuted because the way they choose to live is not as popular among the powers-that-be.

Rachel (wolfewoman) | 110 comments I really liked this book and the choice of the narrator. She had a very distinct voice that I found very appealing, and you could certainly understand why she would choose to become a doctor, especially after reading the last entry. I was expecting a different ending as well, and the author deserves credit for keeping the suspense up throughout the entire book. We weren't sure until the very end as to what happened, and these days, that's rare. It seems like a lot of books and movies and tv shows give away endings & plot points too soon.

I probably would not have picked this book to read, and I am glad the group chose it.

message 41: by Jenny (new)

Jenny | 62 comments I am 3/4 finished. I am slow reading this book because I just don't find it all that engaging. I wanted to have finished weeks ago. I can't really put my finger on it, but it's just not "moving" to me. It reads more like a memoir or a very long magazine article than a novel. The whole "anti-midwife" furor just doesn't seem realistic to me either.
I have heard hints that there is a twist at the end. Hopefully that or something else will change my opinion of this book.

message 42: by Jenny (last edited Jul 10, 2012 12:27PM) (new)

Jenny | 62 comments I finally finished and am happy to report the rest of the book, specifically the trial, really came together for me and I ended up liking it after all.

Connie's maturity and insight into her mother's case seemed very atypical of a 14 year old. Her keen perception just didn't seem realistic to me, in addition to the notion that she had such a deep fear of losing her mother when they didn't even appear to be very close. That just didn't click for me.

*Spoiler Alert*

Besides those perceived flaws I think the story ended up good. I too think Sybil did the right thing. It highlighted the fact that, in an emergency life-or-death situation such as this, sometimes there is no clear right or wrong and one has to make a decision on faith. There are decisions that would haunt us no matter the outcome.

My assessment was that Charlotte was perhaps only a few inperceptible heartbeats away from inevitable death, and that they both may have died had Sybil tried one last time to administer CPR. It made me wonder: if Sybil, in that crucial moment after making the first incision and noticing the "flinch", had asked Asa if he wanted her to try one last time save Charlotte or instead save the baby, what he would have chosen, or if he would have crumbled completely and forced Sybil to make that choice anyway. I wonder if he would have wanted to be given that choice.

Alana (alanasbooks) | 2079 comments Jenny, I like your insights about that "crucial flinch." What WOULD have happened if Asa had said no? Would he have been capable of saying anything? If he hadn't, who would the blame have fallen upon for those extra seconds spent thinking about a decision instead of just acting? Would Sybil have been on trial for the same crime, but because she hesitated too long instead of taking action?

✿Sandra | 2973 comments Alana wrote: "Jenny, I like your insights about that "crucial flinch." What WOULD have happened if Asa had said no? Would he have been capable of saying anything? If he hadn't, who would the blame have fallen up..."

Your last sentence is a very good point, and I totally agree with Jenny's 1st spoiler paragraph that there was no clear right or wrong and she had to make a quick decision based on faith. If the birth had taken place in a hospital, there would have been a heart monitor, and the decision could have been a little more clear. I feel like the family made a decision to have their baby at home, and these were some of the risks they took.

message 45: by Katie (last edited Jul 12, 2012 11:01AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars


I just finished the book and I was pretty much blown away by the last journal entry. I believe that no matter what it was an accident. Sybil did what she had to do to save the baby. Even if she didn't do the c-section I don't think Charlotte and baby could have been saved by the time help had come. I don't think it's anything that should have been brought to trial. This books really comes down to the doctors who want to be rid of mothers birthing at home.

I believe birthing at home should be an educated decision but it is something that it up to the parents. Knowing the risks, knowing the weather, knowing what could happen it's up to them! Not to the doctors who think they know best for everyone and demand mothers should labor at the hospital.

Anyway, back to the book. I didn't like that the daughter took the entries. I wanted Sybil to be found innocent because she was not because her daughter took the journal entries. But I still REALLY liked the book. My mother in law is a midwife and I'm debating wether it's something she would like...?

I LOVE casting the book as if it's going to be a movie so I'm curious who you would cast? Here's what I pictured while reading...

Sybil = Gwenyth Paltrow
Stephen = Jon Hamm
Connie = Elle Fanning
Still deciding on the Dad. I see someone older in my head but then I remember he was only 34.

ps: I hate Anne. I understand she had to do what she had to do but I see her the way Connie saw her. A little rat. She could have called Sybil and at least shared her feelings on the matter instead of ignoring her calls and leaving town. She didn't have a problem calling her out on breaking the water and other trivial matters. WHY didn't, if she felt so strongly, tell her to stop when she thought Charlotte was still alive. Check her pulse herself. DO SOMETHING. Instead she let her do it and then tattled on her later to ease her conscience.

message 46: by Barb (new) - rated it 3 stars

Barb | 6 comments I finished. I normally finish a book in a week or so, yet this one took me over two weeks to read. I am undecided if I really liked the book or not. I think it was "just a book" for me.

I had a hard time relating to Sybil or Connie, maybe because I had my children with all the medical intervention they would possibly give me. I don't really know. I don't agree that Connie should have hid the journal entries. Given the crises at the time, I agree with Sybil's decision to perform the C-section. However, if she was confident in her decision, she should have been forthcoming with the journal entries and her personal thoughts towards it. Even before the end of the book, I kept thinking they were hiding something, and in the end, they were. Just my opinion.

Alana (alanasbooks) | 2079 comments One thing I thought was interesting was that Asa, the father, never brings any charges against her (which was actually what Sybil's fear was in the first place). There are several reasons he could have chosen this, and I'm not sure which it is. 1) He was a minister and took the approach of turning the other cheek, choosing to forgive and let it go. 2) It isn't in his personality to be confrontational, and while he did testify for the state, he wasn't malicious or angry in his testimony. He treated it more like a duty he had to perform but he was really just broken inside and just wanted the whole thing over with. 3) He really didn't think Sybil's actions were wrong and he either believed his wife was already dead or that it wouldn't have mattered if she was because she might have died anyway or she would have been so upset if he'd chosen to save her over the baby that it wouldn't have been worth living anyway, so he chose to let it go, merely testifying to what he thinks he might have seen, again out of a sense of obligation.

Either way, I wonder how much his personally not pursuing legal action influenced the jury's decision, if at all?

message 48: by Deb, Queen Bee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Deb | 2378 comments Mod

This was SO good! (view spoiler)

I did think part of the middle dragged on a little, but the pace picked back up for me and I really liked this book.

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Books mentioned in this topic

The Sandcastle Girls (other topics)
Skeletons at the Feast (other topics)
Water for Elephants (other topics)