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Book Review on "Midwives by Chris Bohjalian"

Updated on August 26, 2014

What can you expect about "Midwives"

"Midwives" is a book about the struggle of practicing traditional midwife, where during the rural Vermont era way back the 80s, Sibyl Danforth became a passionate practitioner of traditional medicine and home birthing.

It's not a typical narrative of the protagonist but also in the eyes of her young daughter, Connie.

Like mother, like they say.

Connie, as she related each important event in their lives, since her mother Sibyl have been accused of involuntary manslaughter, it unfolded to the readers, like me how the community got affected by the news.

In school, in supermarket or public places, a small community,like Reddington, Vermont will easily absorb different interpretations of what happened on that snowy/stormy night (blizzard) when Charlotte Bedford delivered her second baby.

That's how I became interested with continuing to read this book I bought from the local thrift store.

Reading 'Midwives' helped me understand the situation of rural practitioners.

Characters come alive, every page you'll never want to skip, a unique kind of storytelling as you can see the innocence of the daughter's point-of-view regarding her mother's plight as the 'midwife in jeopardy.'

The main protagonist Sibyl Danforth, a midwife in rural Vermont was put on the spotlight due to her death-defying decision to save the life of an infant in exchange of its mother's life by using a kitchen knife for an emergency ceasarian operation.

The whole community was appalled by her decision and so, a controversial case was staged and featured the plights of midwives in rural America until the 80s were controversies were disputed if practicing midwives without college degrees will be allowed to deliver babies at home or doctors should be the sole responsible for hospital birthing.

In the eyes of then, teenage-daughter Connie, she must help her mother escape the accusation of involuntary manslaughter as she hid the March 15, 1981 entry on her mother's diary during a very dramatic, suspenseful trial which brought local media in frenzied coverage.

Sibyl's husband, Rand (an architect by profession) and her defense attorney, Stephen Hastings and ward of midwives supporting the accused rallied in and outside the court to erase the doubt that Sibyl really committed a criminal act.

The moving thoughts throughout the book of Mr. Chris Bohjalian are between the mother (Sibyl) and daughter (Connie), who's latter's decision to help her mother and her hysterical crying inside the court during decision time, didn't falter the verdict of the jury and the affirmation of the presiding judge that her mother-midwife was acquitted of the crime she has been accused of.

Even,if she didn't removed the controversial page from her mother's diary, dated March 15, 1981.

Chris Bohjalian: An inspiration to aspiring historical writers, like me

Photo Source:
Photo Source:

As I review this book...

I've been reviewing books that I've read for the past months by using this platform and it earned positive comments from fellow hubbers.

The more fictionalized-but-larger-than-life play of emotions on "Midwives" makes me want to conduct a close-up interview with the author, Chris Bohjalian.

The events are not in chronological order as the two storytellers (Sibyl, with her diary and Connie, her flashback accounts) but it will not confuse you to stop reading the developing event from chapter to chapter.

As if forgetting details, Mr. Bohjalian will supply such information in the eavesdropping sprees of Connie.

Mr. Rand Danforth, who's always away all the time, still have to support his wife throughout the ordeal in-and-out of the courtroom.

The emotional ups-and-downs both of the Danforths and the Bedfords were clearly observed during the arraignment and the trial periods.

Supporting characters are worthy of mention, since they also affected the lives of the leading characters.

As I read the book...

Photo Source: Ireno Alcala (travel_man1971)
Photo Source: Ireno Alcala (travel_man1971)

If I can write a book, like "Midwives"

Call me a retro-guy, but I still like the upbringing of the golden era, that's my father call it, when he was still alive.

The music, the country-way of life and simple living...I like it all.

With this book,I am inspired to write a book with setting like it.

Here in the Philippines, rural folks, especially mothers still prefer to deliver their babies at home. Although, some organizations and foundations are tying up with the local government by installing laying-in or birthing clinics without the worry of going to the hospitals.

I also have story to tell about rural midwives or its male counterparts who are still practicing traditional healing and delivery practices.

The mortality rate is not alarming as it was long ago, since the installations of barangay health centers aid in monitoring pregnant women during their trimester period, the 9-month period of carrying babies in their wombs and in the end, delivering them safely on Earth with the help of midwives.

WPTZ Anchor Stephanie Gorin interviews Oprah Winfrey in Vermont c/o WPTZ NewsChannel 5

YouTube Videos on "Midwives"

Most books of Chris Bohjalian have reviews via YouTube channel.

I refer two uploads, featuring the personal recommendation of the US Queen of Talk Show, Ms. Oprah Winfrey and the trailer video made by the staff of Burlington Public Library.

  1. Published on Jun 24, 2013 - WPTZ Anchor Stephanie Gorin interviews Oprah Winfrey in Vermont. Oprah visited Vermont during her Book Club days. She chose Vermont author Chris Bohjalian's book MIDWIVES in 1
  2. Uploaded on Jan 12, 2012 - Book Trailer: Midwives Chris Bohjalian by BPLStaffer using Animoto

Midwives as television movie

Photo Source:
Photo Source:

Mr. Bohjalian's suggestion to become a good or perhaps a great writer, like him

  1. Write what you don't know.

  2. Do some research.

  3. Interview someone who knows something about your topic.

  4. Interview anyone else.

  5. Read some fiction you wouldn't normally read.

  6. Write for a day without quote marks.

  7. Skim the thesaurus, flip through the dictionary.

  8. Put down on paper the most interesting lies you can imagine and make it plausible.

  9. Write one terrific sentence.

  10. Pretend you’re a banker, but you write in the night to prove to some writing professor that she/he was wrong, wrong, wrong.

More on "Midwives" and what keep Mr. Bohjalian busy online

As the journey to Chris Bohjalian's abode let this hubber play a search-and-seek game in finding the 'lot' in the author's 'lair', I find him active on the site:

The site will include about your bio-data and what you are presently reading, and unique interviews that you can get an answer coming from him.

Aside from exploring in the different emotions human beings express, Mr. Bohjalian is an honest-to-goodness writer who cares for his readers.

I became an instant fan as I joined the site for book searches, readings and reviews.

What readers say about "Midwives"

One of the reviews on "Midwives" which I will share with you is one of the 5-stars that Mr. Bohjalian received.

Ms. Joann: 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 right on with my fabulous midwife. Like the heroin my midwife gives the biggest, tightest hugs, is truly concerned about me and my children, and is very well educated and engages in a constant state of learning.

As I got more into the book I realized it was about much more than home vs. hospital birthing. It carried the same moral dillemma as "To Kill a Mockingbird" (one of my personal favorites). When I was done I enjoyed comparing the situations from "Midwives" and "Mockingbird". I admit that, while I hold honesty as one of the most important of virtues, the actions of the young characters in these stories are justified and I would hope that I would have the courage to do what they did.(Source:

Reading the book is somewhat a kind of redemption, amid all the kinds of sadness happening in this world.

Ms. Kristen opined:

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 from people who weren't even affected by the situation.

It's a tragic novel, and one that I didn't feel a lot of satisfaction from reading. The story is well-told (from what I remember). But this is another book that is just too sad and depressing (aren't most Oprah books that way?), and there's enough sadness in the real world that I don't really need to subject myself to more through the books I read.

Chris Bohjalian's Book Quiz

What books by Chris Bohjalian did you read, aside from "Midwives"?

See results

"Midwives" as Bestseller and other Awards

I will never namedrop other popular authors,as Chris Bohjalian created his own unique genre in literary world.

Awards and accolade are some of the positive feedback he received and will continue to gain as more and more positive reviews are truly catapulting him to the top.

Since his active career as Burlington Free Press columnist in 1992, he moonlighted as author during the night (or a banker, as he jested).

In a span of a decade, his works were reviewed and gained popularity, not only in book form but also in audio-visual media (adopted as television movies or series).

Truly, as he lives modestly in Vermont (as he mostly use as plot in his stories) with his wife and daughter, I came to know more about his achievements.

Maybe, the journalist in me is now prying closely with this New York Bestseller author.

Chris Bohjalian is the author of seventeen books, including Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, arriving July 8, 2014 from Doubleday.

His other books include such New York Times bestsellers as The Light in the Ruins, The Sandcastle Girls, The Night Strangers, Secrets of Eden, Skeletons at the Feast, The Double Bind, Before Your Know Kindness, and Midwives.

Chris's awards include the ANCA Arts and Letters Award for The Sandcastle Girls, as well as the Saint Mesrob Mashdots Medal; the New England Society Book Award for The Night Strangers; the New England Book Award; a Boston Public Library Literary Light; and the Anahid Literary Award. His novel, Midwives, was a number one New York Times bestseller, a selection of Oprah's Book Club, and a New England Booksellers Association Discovery pick. His earlier novels have been selected as "Best Books of the Year" by the Washington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Hartford Courant, Publishers' Weekly, and Salon. His work had been translated into over 25 languages and three times become movies (Secrets of Eden, Midwives, and Past the Bleachers).(

A Salute to my Sister-Midwife

I will close this review with a particular shout-out with my elder sister, Ruffie, who studied midwifery in the late 80s.

I know she'll be reading this review as I link it on her Facebook account.

I'm sure she'll never forget her experiences as an active student-midwife in the rural areas of our province, Camarines Sur (Philippines).

She started her on-job-practice at Naga City Puericulture, the infamous lay-in center in the first-class city in Bicol.

Her plight as an practicing resident midwife at Bicol Medical Center (BMC) will never be forgotten.

During my high school years, I became intrigued with her stories about women delivering babies, both in hospitals and homes.

And so, this story about "Midwives" transcends my high-regard with their chosen profession.


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    • travel_man1971 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ireno Alcala 

      4 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      @Nell Rose: Thanks Ms. Nell for dropping by and taking an interest in this hub . Yes, it's a very good read!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      4 years ago from England

      Wonderful review, and it sounds like a fascinating read, nell

    • travel_man1971 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ireno Alcala 

      4 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      @always exploring:It's nice having you here, ma'am. Thanks for dropping by.

    • travel_man1971 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ireno Alcala 

      4 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      @towfiqzaman: Thanks for the hub-visit.

    • travel_man1971 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ireno Alcala 

      4 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      @billybuc: Thank you Sir Bill and my appreciation for always supporting my hubs.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Nice review. Thank you...

    • towfiqzaman profile image

      Md Towfiq Uz Zaman 

      4 years ago from Bangladesh

      gr8 and thanks for the review...

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for the review my friend, and blessings to you always.


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