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3.99  ·  Rating details ·  152,371 ratings  ·  4,485 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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Tessa I read this book at least 10 years ago, and didn't remember much about it. Then my Book Group chose it for our February 2021 read, so I reread it, and…moreI read this book at least 10 years ago, and didn't remember much about it. Then my Book Group chose it for our February 2021 read, so I reread it, and was glad I did. It's definitely intense, and a page-turner at times. I think it does reflect the concerns of the 1980's and 90's somewhat, but it was still a good book.(less)
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Average rating 3.99  · 
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 ·  152,371 ratings  ·  4,485 reviews

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Feb 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 27, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Mar 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club

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.
Jun 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Feb 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookclub
Another book loan from a bookclub member and an author that I cannot resist reading. Written in 1997, Chris Bohjalian takes readers to a wintry night in Vermont where a seasoned midwife, named Sibyl Danforth makes a decision to save a baby's life. But by the next evening, rumors will begin to fly that Sibyl is actually a killer. Told through the eyes of Sibyl 's daughter, Connie, the unfolding investigation and courtroom drama definitely kept me wondering as to who is telling the truth?

I was ab
Sep 24, 2007 rated it liked it
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
May 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: oprah-picks, bookriot
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,
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
Dec 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a gripping read and I loved Connie, the 14-year old narrator of this story. A compelling story and great characters. I'm glad I had the chance to read this novel which was written in 1997. If I hadn't have seen mention of it in a review of another Chris Bohjalian novel I would probably never have chosen to read it! Highly recommended. ...more
Oct 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Read this book some years ago and I remember really enjoying it, especially the trial.
Jul 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Chris Gager
Aug 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Next up for book club, although we're skipping August. I have heard of this author, but other than that I have no clue. I picked up four of his books at our recent library book sale. Starting tonight ...

Started this last night. So far it's reminding me of Jodi Picoult only with a better writer. The story is pretty matter-of-fact so far. The author's style, as it adopts the voice of a 14-year old girl, seems a bit pedestrian, but I suspect the story is all in this one. Tom Perrotta might be an ap
Dec 24, 2018 rated it liked it
*Spoiler alert*

The plot is good: a midwife who does home delivery gets stuck in a blizzard and is forced to deliver a baby via c-section after the mother dies trying to give birth. She is then accused of manslaughter.

So this is both a gripping medical thriller and a courtroom drama. Which are fine plot devices, but I was just plain overwhelmed by the sadness of the story and its people. In the course of telling the story, it seemed like the mother died over and over again, with the same agonizin
Jan 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 75-books-in-2017
An inside account of one midwife's moments and ordeals in dealing with courts and controversy surrounding a decision she made with a patient. Each chapter begins with the midwife's diary entry, but then is told from her daughters point of view.
When one of the midwife's patients dies due to an emergency C-section(in order to save the babies life) all heck breaks loose. Was the mother of the baby dead before she did the C-section or was she instead alive?
I felt really sorry for this midwife but
Lana Del Slay
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
May 29, 2019 rated it liked it
I so expected to like this more. The writing was good, but I felt that it kind of plodded along for me between the death of the mother giving birth and the trial of the midwife. Then I expected that the trial would be more exciting and it wasn't what I expected. I certainly can understand why others enjoyed it. It just wasn't a favorite for me. ...more
Oct 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Sharon Huether
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: family, chick-lit, novel
A very unexpected story. Sibyl the midwive and her patient. Sibyl is accused of murder, but she saved a life . The majority of the story took place in the court room, with all the drama. Sibyl's life changes forever. The story was very well written . ...more
I read this a very long time ago so I’m not able to review it. I know I liked it but again it was a long time ago. Would I still like it today? I’m not sure. We do change and grow over time so something that tugs on heartstrings may not any longer when an older version of one’s self. And something that intrigued in my 20’s might fall flat now that I am rapidly approaching 50. I also believe for myself, personally, when I was younger and had not yet experienced much, I delved into emotional and t ...more
Apr 18, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Dec 22, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
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Chris Bohjalian is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 21 books. His work has been translated into 35 languages and three times become movies.

His new novel, "Hour of the Witch," is now on sale. It's a tale of historical suspense set in 1662 Boston, a story of the first divorce in North America for domestic violence -- and a subsequent witch trial. Diana Gabaldon in her review in the Washin

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41 likes · 12 comments
“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!” 18 likes
“No one said living isn't a pretty chancy business, Sibyl. No one gets out of here alive.” 14 likes
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