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The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere #1)

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4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  3,504 Ratings  ·  606 Reviews
Philip K. Dick Award Winner for Distinguished Science Fiction

When she fell asleep, the world was doomed. When she awoke, it was dead.

In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth’s population—killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant—the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in thi
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Paperback, 291 pages
Published October 11th 2016 by 47North (first published June 4th 2014)
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Popular Answered Questions

Susan Reeves deMasi It's from a few years ago, but I really enjoyed the Birthmarked series by O'Brien. Strong female main character, yay!
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Nadia Everything is explained in the next book, The Book of Etta!

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
A dark as night apocalyptic novel? That's actually good? All the stars going up.

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She wakes up in the hospital after being sick to realize that they are no people around. Just some dead bodies and the remembrances of a sickness that was rampant. Mostly all the women were dying and the babies and children were all gone.
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She ventures home shell shocked and is almost raped in her bed. She discovers that there are a few men still alive but the rules have changed.
She poses as a man because those are
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Melanie
ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

“There are battles and accidents; there are collapses and plagues. There is silence only when one side wins or everyone has died.”

This book was perfection, and probably the easiest five stars I've given all year. This was so thought provoking, meaningful, eye-opening, and important. This was also, as a woman, the scariest dystopian I've ever read.

What made me initially request an ARC of this was that it had won an
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Roxane
Jul 23, 2017 Roxane rated it it was amazing
One of the most utterly absorbing books I've read in a long time. A post apocalyptic novel that doesn't forget that before the apocalypse people were LGBT and full of yearning and need. Grim but lots of pockets of warmth. Really interesting protagonist, an unnamed midwife, who begins to create a written history that will survive her for generations. Loved this novel.
Kaceey
Jan 06, 2017 Kaceey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic!

Not my usual genre, but wow, so powerful and so very frightening. Even though this is a work of fiction, it's disturbing to think this could happen in our future.

Something has wiped out most of the world's population and only a small fraction of the survivors are women. It's a story of strength and survival in a post apocalyptic world. Very dark and violent at times, especially to women.
Between Ebola, Zika, super bugs or even biological warfare, are we that far off from something th
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Lyn
Sep 05, 2016 Lyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A gritty post-apocalyptic tale told with stark realism and frank sexuality.

Unlike other post-apocalyptic books that wash over the disaster and cleanly describes later events down the road, author Meg Elison tells the good, the bad and the ugly of the immediate days afterwards. The reader follows the travels of a lone female survivor after a cataclysmic epidemic has targeted women and babies, leaving a very ugly and stinky male post-pandemic world.

In writing vaguely reminiscent of Fritz Lieber, t
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Brad
Sep 10, 2016 Brad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC.

Post-Apocalyptic survivalism, featuring perhaps the very last midwife upon the planet.

This wasn't a particularly easy novel to get through, mostly for the emotions and the horror of what would likely happen to the surviving women after 98% of all men die from a virus and only 1/100 of that counts as women.

The author makes a pretty convincing case that what would result would be massive maltreatment of the rare women, mirroring what still happens today, but much
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Adina
Sep 22, 2016 Adina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book of the Unnamed Midwife is tragic dystopian post-apocalyptic survivalist novel. I read a more or less corresponding to this type and I consider this to be one of the best (right after Blindness).

The story does not sound so new. A fever wipes out 98 % of the human population, the women and the unborn babies being the most affected. A terrible world to live in. The main character is a nurse who wakes up in the hospital bed where she was left to die with the disease. Thanks to her fighting
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John Elison
Jun 11, 2014 John Elison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Full-disclosure: I am married to the author. However, she did not ask me to review her book. But she did ask me to read it many times during its development and I must say it never became tedious or a chore.

I was immediately pulled in by the prologue and I found myself nodding, quietly yet triumphantly by proxy, at the end.

Obviously,I have a personal stake in this, but having read it and the newspaper lately, even if I weren't married to its amazing author, I would recommend this book.

We need bo
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Sh3lly ✨ Bring on the Weird ✨


This book has one of those titles that makes you think twice. It's a bit generic, vague, clunky...? Makes you think you might be reading a lot about someone delivering babies... not really. Plus, it's a legit post-apocalyptic book instead of one of those that pretends to be but is really just fiction with the apocalypse as an afterthought, way in the background.

There was a virus that made about 90% of the world sick. But women and children? Let's say about 9 out of 10 women died. So society fall
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Emma
Feb 23, 2017 Emma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: post-apocalypse
4.5 stars.
This was a bit different from other post apocalyptic books because the outbreak that causes it wipes out almost all the women. This means that the women become prized commodities. Now this is a recurring theme in post apocalyptic stories, but it has more of a focus here: how the sexual dynamics of a community (where they survive or have organised themselves) pan out- where women are enslaved or sex is traded for booze or cigarettes or guns; where birth control is even more important w
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Choko
May 10, 2017 Choko rated it really liked it
*** 3.75 ***

A buddy read with the MacHalos, because we wanted something out of our comfort zone!!!


"...“Find some people, wish you were alone. Live alone, wish for people.”..."

Well this was very different than what I was expecting... Different means just that, different. Not better or worse... I almost never read anything that has to do with plagues, because I just can't handle it usually. This was not exactly the case here. Once I started and got over the shock of the first several pages afte
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Trish
Sep 10, 2016 Trish rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received an ARC of this book from netgalley in exchange for an honest review (honestly, that phrase is so stupid, my opinion is always honest).

I've read my fair share of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic books and seen an almost equal number of movies/TV shows of the same genre, but this novel is exceptional! And to think that it's a debut novel too!

The beginning is a little bit like in "28 Days Later" (there is a reason I'm naming that movie, namely the rape theme) with the protagonist waking
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Shelby
Oct 19, 2016 Shelby rated it it was amazing
I'm a big fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, and this book was the best I've read in a while. Elison manages to create a fictitious futuristic world plagued by disease, death, and desperation without going overboard and forcing it down the reader's throat. The story flows and makes sense. Just the right amount of Mad Max-esque situations allow Elison to paint a detailed picture of the world post-plague. Gritty but not gratuitous, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife presents a realistic depiction of ...more
Althea Ann
Upon reading this, I was immediately reminded of PD James' 'Children of Men' - after all, how many stories are there which feature a near-future in which universal sterility has afflicted humanity, with the exception of one solitary pregnant woman, who is escorted through a dangerous journey by a former professional midwife? Well, there are at least two!

However, by happenstance, my post-apocalyptic book club was reading 'Children of Men' this month, so I re-read it after about two decades. (Whic
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Ian Mond
Jan 27, 2015 Ian Mond rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What’s It About

A plague has wiped out most of the population. The bulk of those who have survived are men, which makes women a scare resource. Our protagonist was once a nurse. Now she survives by masquerading as a man and offering her services as nurse and midwife. But what hope is there in a world where pregnancy is a death sentence for both mother and child?

Should I Read It?

Yes. Of the six books nominated for the PKD, this one just pips Memory of Water as my favourite.

Compared to other end of
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Carolyn
Sep 16, 2016 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A particularly virulent plague has wiped out 98% of Earth's population, being particularly fatal to women and their unborn children. With ten men left for every woman, life is dangerous for those women who survived, either fought over or enslaved by groups of men. The unnamed midwife is one such woman who survived the plague and woke to a frightening new world. Determined to survive without becoming a sex slave, this is the story of her journey.

This was an interesting study of human behaviour f
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Hannah
Nov 04, 2016 Hannah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dystopia, arc
This book was too dark for me. Yes, I'm a wuss, and yes I should have known before I started it. But it sounded intriguing, came highly recommended and won a prestigious award, so I read it anyway.

This is a more or less classic take on the dystopian genre. But while most books I have read concentrate on the "after" of a specific society-ending event, this book tells the story of that event and the early years after. Our heroine is a midwife and one of the very few women who survive a pandemic ou
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
Everyone knows I'm a sucker for apocalypse, but I almost didn't read this one. I was not sure I could take yet another breeder-apocalypse novel, one that focuses on women not being able to reproduce (a la The Handmaid's Tale or forces the women to become breeding machines to save the human race (every apocalypse novel, it feels like.) And this is present here, in fact the central character is an unnamed midwife who is one of the few survivors after some kind of virus has wiped out 98% of humanit ...more
Suzanne
Sep 30, 2016 Suzanne rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs, netgalley
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for this digital ARC for review purposes.

In a crop of samey dystopian novels that will likely continue for some time to come, Meg Elison manages to do something fresh and innovative with The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. There are shades of Margaret Atwood, N. K. Jemisin, Vonnegut, and Children of Men here, so if you enjoy those things, it's a safe bet to say that you'll enjoy this one.

Elison's end of the world is a gruesome one: it happens very quickly
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Justine
A darkly realistic post-apocalyptic fiction without any lingering hint of adventure. This isn't a place you would ever want to be.

In Elison's imagined world, the plague that has decimated humanity has taken an exceptional toll on women and children. The minium protection afforded by law and society are just gone, meaning that for women, and for anyone who cares about a woman, life is extremely dangerous.

Elison's book is a bit of a fresh take in that the main character is a smart, self-aware woma
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Kelsey Cretcher
Oct 03, 2016 Kelsey Cretcher rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
So far this is the biggest contender for "Biggest Disappointment of 2016".

I was so excited for this book, and it's not even that I was too excited that it was a letdown. This book sounded like everything I'd love; an epidemic that wipes out 98% of humanity, and 99% of women. The book opens it up to be this interesting journalistic look into the fall of humanity, of society as we know it. Plus an image of what a world may be like when there are way more men than women, and what that could result
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Michelle M
In the not so distant future a sickness covers the world, killing most and leaving one woman alive for every ten men. But worst of all babies aren't surviving birth, most killing the mother in the process. The Unnamed Midwife, disguised as a man, wanders the country looking for women to pass along doses from her stash of birth control.

There are quite a few pocket dystopias she stumbles across, and many different permutations: from woman-led "hives" to women on chains owned by gangs, and everywh
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Dana

Gritty and stark post apocalyptic book. A mysterious virus has swept through the nation, wiping out almost everyone, but especially women and children. Women are soon rounded up like cattle and treated even worse. Being a woman in this new world is a terrible fate.

Our unnamed heroine wakes up to such a fate, after being left for dead after initially contracting the deadly virus. The reader shares her terror and confusion as she tries to navigate this new world.

There were some pretty brutal sce
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Veronica
Apr 09, 2017 Veronica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first glance, "The Book of the Unnamed Midwife" by Meg Elison might seem like a typical pandemic doomsday type of book but do not be deceived. It is much more than that. After an unexpected pandemic decimates the world; particularly women, the Midwife must struggle to survive amid the collapse of civilization and the new reality of the scarcity of women. She is the only hope for the future of Mankind.
The struggles and triumphs of not only the Midwife but also other survivors is so complex and
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Tudor Vlad
I missed bingeing a book. I don't think there was another way for me to properly to enjoy The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. It lends itself so well to bingeing, with the sole condition that you can stomach the pain, the misery, the horror and unfairness of this book.
It is a hard read, but that's what made it so compelling to me, when the characters and the world feel so real, despite the crudeness of it all you just can't stop reading.
The concept of this novel isn't new, a post apocalyptic world
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Cynthia (Bingeing On Books)
I am still trying to wrap my head around this book because it was so different and so much more . . . everything than the usual dystopian books I read. I know that sounds vague, but it's kind of hard to say just how much I loved this book.

First of all, we never, ever know the name of the narrator of this book. We know it's a woman who is a midwife and who survived the mysterious plague that wiped out most of the female population. Oh, and she's bisexual. That's it. I know that the woman is a tot
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Alina
A book of great tragedy, depicting a post apocalyptic dysfunctional and nearly-womenless society. You can almost feel everything: the chaos, the fear, the loneliness, the anger, the lust.
Highly recommended.
When the sirens quit, the rules gave out. Some people had been waiting their whole lives to live lawlessly, and they were the first to take to the streets. Some people knew that would happen; they knew better than to open their doors when they heard cries of help. Others didn't. What disease
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Cathy (cathepsut)
Excellent. Loved the stroy, although it depressed the hell out of me at times. The audiobook was extremely well done as well.

The main character waking up in a hospital and figuring out that the world has ended is a pretty tired idea by now. Nonetheless, the book started on full throttle and was great from the get-go. And horrific. By chapter three I had goosebumps allover and was close to crying. The story had an episodic feel to it, as it follows the midwife on her trip across the country, chr
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Karen
Oct 28, 2016 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An engrossing dystopian post-apocalyptic novel that is dark and depressing. A fever epidemic is wiping out the population of mostly women and unborn children, one woman left for every ten men. The actions that ensue are twisted and difficult to read. But I commend the author for her fresh and interesting perspective of what life could be like if mankind were put into a similar situation; one in which the world is predominantly male and fighting for few resources; some good and lots of bad things ...more
Lisa
Nov 24, 2016 Lisa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This poorly written book was making my skin crawl so I returned it to Audible. I'm giving it the lowest possible rating = one star too many (that's how much of this book is written, with equal signs in the middle of sentences. I can't tell you how much I hated that). Life is too short to read about women being brutally captured, repeatedly raped and kept on chains, bleeding and sick from their trauma. This book made me feel physically ill. One shriveled-up little star.
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Meg Elison is the author of THE BOOK OF THE UNNAMED MIDWIFE, a post-apocalyptic feminist speculative novel, Tiptree recommendation, and winner of the 2014 Philip K. Dick Award. The sequel to MIDWIFE, THE BOOK OF ETTA, was published in February 2017. Elison is a high school dropout and a graduate of UC Berkeley. Find her online, where she is always saying something:

megelison.com
@megelison
More about Meg Elison...

Other Books in the Series

The Road to Nowhere (3 books)
  • The Book of Etta (The Road to Nowhere #2)
  • The Book of Flora

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“There is no argument to be had with faith.” 3 likes
“It does no good to tell a beautiful woman how beautiful she is. If she already knows, it gives her power over the fool who tells her. If she does not, there is nothing that can be said to make her believe it. Dusty did not know everything, but she knew that.” 3 likes
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