Glenda Bailey-Mershon's Reviews > The Birth House

The Birth House by Ami McKay
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's review
Nov 06, 2011

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bookshelves: fiction

Compelling characters light this story of Dora, a girl who trains as a midwife with a Creole woman who has been ostracized and feared as a witch among residents of a remote Bay of Fundy town. You can hear the wind howl and the fishing trawlers creak against their moorings in McKay's prose, which also deftly draws the reader into the somewhat arcane world of herbal medicine and goddess ritual. However, three quarters of the way through, the novel takes a baffling turn by throwing Dora and he rwader into World War I-era Boston. This twist seemed to tear the author and her characters away from a deeper exploration of Dora's transformation into a truly wise woman. However, this flaw is slight when measured against the author's skill in showing what we may have lost through the rise of modern obstetrics, and her extraordinary portrait of an obscure place. A more significant flaw is the harsh indictment of modern medicine, through the portrayal of the only medical doctor in the book as callous and manipulative. There is an agenda here, to blame modern physicians as the cause of lost women's wisdom. While there is enough historical evidence to convincingly argue such a point, the author's opinion stands out enough to distract from her character's story, and the detour to Boston underscores, through the introduction of bohemian females of various sexual persuasions, her opinions about female power more than it illuminates her characters. Still, the novel is well-researched and well-written. Some women will find it highly necessary. And it does preserve some important history and knowledge.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
October 1, 2011 – Finished Reading
November 6, 2011 – Shelved
October 8, 2013 – Shelved as: fiction

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