A Review of Midwives by Chris Bohjalian


If you’ve read any of our book club posts then you know that Midwives was the first book chosen. This was actually my selection. I was secretly hoping that Midwives would be the one out of my three choices that would win the vote and it did!

Midwives is a story about Sybil Danforth as told by her daughter Connie. Connie is telling us the story as an adult, but she was 14 during the time of this particular story. Sybil Danforth is a lay midwife and during one home birth she finds herself in a terrible situation where she takes desperate measures to save the life of a baby whose mother has seemingly passed away during childbirth. After the labor, doubts arise as to whether the mother was actually dead, which brings Sybil’s actions into question and we’re taken down the intense road of a criminal trial that sees Sybil Danforth at the center of it.

Right from the start I had a hard time putting Midwives down. Even though the story is told from the perspective of Sybil’s daughter, we’re not left feeling like we didn’t get enough information. Even knowing the premise of the book, I was in disbelief that Sybil was charged with the woman’s death. It seemed obvious to me that the woman, Charlotte, was dead when Sybil saved the baby and I felt that if I were in Charlotte’s position I would want my midwife to do everything she could to save my baby. As the story went on I got a better understanding of why Sybil was charged and also why there were so many doubts about Charlotte’s death, but I never personally thought Sybil should be found guilty. Bohjalian does a superb job of giving different perspectives. We’re shown the prejudices that many people had (and still have) about midwives and home birth, and we’re also shown the side of people who believe wholeheartedly in the practice of midwifery.

For me, this was an edge-of-your-seat story until the very last page. I know a lot of members of the book club agreed with me, while others enjoyed it, but weren’t crazy about it like I was. I’d love to tell you more of my thoughts on Midwives, but for fear of giving away any vital parts of the story, I will stop here. Please feel free to join Three Ladies and Their Babies: The Book Club at Facebook and join in our discussion of Midwives, as well as the book we’re currently reading, She’s Come Undone.


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