Bree T's Reviews > The Midwife's Confession

The Midwife's Confession by Diane Chamberlain
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May 08, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: arc, chick-lit, kindle-version, mystery, women-s-fiction
Read on May 08, 2011

Tara and Emerson were freshmen year room mates at college who were befriended by their third year RA Noelle. The three girls formed a tightknit friendship that has lasted close to twenty years at the opening of this novel, their lives intertwining in every which way. Tara loses her husband Sam in a car accident and then six months later, Noelle is found dead by her own hand in the cottage she was renting from Emerson and her husband Ted. There’s a garbled suicide note that reads ‘I don’t know how to tell you what I did’, baffling Tara and Emerson. They had no idea Noelle was depressed and as they begin to investigate her life and why she may have done this, more and more secrets start to tumble out. Noelle was a midwife, but she’d stopped practicing some 10-12 years ago whereas Tara and Emerson were under the impression that she’d stopped only a couple of years ago to start up a program for preemie babies in need. She also has more savings than someone who hasn’t undertaken paid work in some time and it seems that Tara’s late husband Sam, as her attorney, was privileged with more of her secrets.

Both Tara and Emerson, grieving for the loss of their friend (and Tara grieving also for the loss of her husband and her inability to mother the teenage daughter who is like a stranger to her) will discover things about Noelle that will totally change their lives. An unaddressed letter will send them on a terrible search to attempt to right a wrong that Noelle committed in the past, the wrong that weighed so heavily on her that she ended up taking her own life over it. And in writing that wrong, they will find themselves coming full circle in that search back to themselves.

Told from various viewpoints, The Midwife’s Confession tells the story of an amazing, lasting friendship – albeit one where secrets were being kept from two of the participants! Despite the fact that it jumps back and forward in time, it’s such a smooth and seamless transition each and every time. The story is intriguing – and from someone who has delivered a baby to a midwife, disturbing! It really makes you think just what sort of amazing job these people do but also how the slightest thing can place pressure on them, or put them under stress, or change the way they do things. Noelle, as a passionate midwife, made a mistake that changed the lives of so many people with the secret going undetected for so long.

Although the twists and turns of this book (and there are many) aren’t always completely and utterly out of left field, the ones that you don’t see coming will shock you and even the ones that you do guess or muddle through before the reveal will leave you reeling when your suspicions are finally confirmed.

The characterisation in this novel is so strong – the three main characters, Tara, Emerson and Noelle are so wonderfully fleshed out and real. Tara’s pain is so real, firstly at losing the love of her life, husband Sam, and also, the awkward phase she is going through with her teenage daughter. It’s so interesting to read that kind of struggle from a mother’s perspective as reading a lot of YA lately, I’m used to reading about repressive parents! I felt that the relationship between Tara and her daughter Grace was spot on – so perfectly written. The friendship between Tara and Emerson was wonderful too – rich with history and sharp with a sense of betrayal at the end that had to be repaired. Because Noelle commits suicide at the beginning of the book and all we’re treated to are a few flashbacks, I didn’t get as strong a sense of the friendship she had with them but their grief for her is all too real and consuming so you know that it was truly powerful.

This is a truly engrossing mystery tightly wrapped in the strength of the friendship these women have shared over more than half of their lifetimes. Written in a way that makes you want to keep on going, to uncover more and more of the secrecy that Noelle has carefully guarded. Everything about it is praiseworthy from the pacing to the drawing of relationships to the intricacies of the mysteries in the storyline. A highly enjoyable novel and I’ll be working my way backwards through Chamberlain’s back catalogue whenever I get a chance.

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