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Midwives by Chris Bohjalian, Kate Burton

"Superbly crafted and astonishingly powerful. . . . It will thrill readers who cherish their worn copies of To Kill A Mockingbird." --People

With a suspense, lyricism, and moral complexity that recall To Kill a Mockingbird and Presumed Innocent, this compulsively readable novel explores what happens when a woman who has devoted herself to ushering life into the world finds herself charged with responsibility in a patient's tragic death.

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. But what if--as Sibyl's assistant later charges--the patient wasn't already dead, and it was Sibyl who inadvertently killed her?

As recounted by Sibyl's precocious fourteen-year-old daughter, Connie, the ensuing trial bears the earmarks of a witch hunt except for the fact that all its participants are acting from the highest motives--and the defendant increasingly appears to be guilty. As Sibyl Danforth faces the antagonism of the law, the hostility of traditional doctors, and the accusations of her own conscience, Midwives engages, moves, and transfixes us as only the very best novels ever do.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780739343005
Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/03/2007
Edition description: Abridged, 4 CDs, 5 hours
Product dimensions: 5.79(w) x 6.22(h) x 1.02(d)

About the Author

CHRIS BOHJALIAN is the author of eighteen books, including The Guest Room, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, The Sandcastle Girls, Skeletons at the Feast, and The Double Bind. His novel Midwives was a number one New York Times bestseller and a selection of Oprah's Book Club. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages, and three of his novels have become movies (Secrets of Eden, Midwives, and Past the Bleachers). He lives in Vermont. Visit him at www.chrisbohjalian.com or on Facebook.


Lincoln, Vermont

Date of Birth:

August 12, 1961

Place of Birth:

White Plains, New York


Amherst College

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Midwives 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 167 reviews.
Morning-Star More than 1 year ago
A courageous story of a Vermont midwife attempting to save a mother and her unborn after intensive labor showed no promise of birth, causing a risky health situation for them both. I believe the point of view this story is told from really impacted my enjoyment and eager interest while reading. Many significant, acute details are smudged and hidden throughout the book, but the author skillfully places them in spots I never seemed to forget. This made it important for complete comprehension. It truly is a unique plot that adds momentum as its told and allows the reader to see both points of view, which I think is a big part of the writer's intention for the story. I very much enjoyed this.
JHiggy23 More than 1 year ago
I was an English major when I was in college and have read at least a book a week for years. Midwives was one of the better books I've read in the past year. It is not a unique story in its construction, but it is unique in its topic. Some critics have referred to it as the modern To Kill a Mockingbird. While it certainly is not up to that level (what is?), it is a great book in its own right. The characters were immediately involving, even if characterization is not extensive. Bohjalian did a great job of taking me inside the mind of a 14 year old girl witnessing the trial of her mother. There is no doubt that he has a simplistic but elegant prose style that is both involving and enjoyable to read. The previous two reviewers really missed the point of the novel, I must say.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel is a must read which narrates the case of Sybil Danfoth, a midwife by heart, who attends the childbirth of Charlotte Bedford on a cold and stormy winter night at Charlotte's Vermont home. Charlotte is a fragile woman who, although tries very hard to push, cannot make the baby crown. After hours of trying, Charlotte doesn't have any pulse nor heart bit and Sybil, aware that the former has perished, performs a cesarean section with a kitchen knife and accomplishes to save the newborn. Nevertheless, before she does so, she tries to reach both her backup doctor and an ambulance, but she couldn't get through any of them. Sybil also tries to get to her station wagon however, the freezing climate doesn't permit her to start it. Here commences the story. The state prosecutes Sibyl Danforth for 'involuntary manslaughter' that could send her to jail from one to fifteen years and no more midwifery, do to what the prosecution calls extraordinary negligence from the midwife. In addition to this fact, the prosecution suspects Charlotte was not death prior to the cesarean section. So a trial begins and both the prosecution and defense witnesses declare. The narration and prose in general throughout the novel are outstanding and specifically the recounting of the trial is superb. However, when Sibyl is cross questioned she gives out a clue that might be horrendous for her defense...and so it goes. The narration of all the comings and goings is done by Sybil's daughter, Connie, a fourteen year old adolescent, in the first person singular. This fact definitely turns into an excellent narrative prose. I give 5 stars for believable and credible story. I give 5 stars for excellent narration. I give 5 stars since I couldn't stop reading till the end. And, above all, I give 5 stars to the author, Chris Bohjalian since he must have gone through a profound research on trials, midwifery, doctors, and obstetrics, among others.
CathieArms More than 1 year ago
I'm not a fan of home births, so I really didn't expect to love this book or to find any sympathy for the characters in the story. I'm not saying women shouldn't be allowed to have home births, or that they must have a board-certified doctor present during labor; I'm simply saying it's an option I would never have entertained for even a second. With those thoughts in mind, I picked this book up with low expectations and never expected to find the least bit of empathy for the main character. Boy was I surprised! Regardless of one's personal feelings on home births and lay midwives, it would be very difficult to read this book and not be lured into a strong feeling of empathy for the main characters in this book. I found myself turning the pages, almost against my will. I found myself siding with the midwife and hoping that the legal proceedings would find her innocent and set her free to continue her life's calling. I expected a lot of things from this book - mostly negative. What I didn't expect was to truly love it, or to find myself having to pick up my jaw off the floor as I turned the last page. Excellent read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Midwives, by Bohjalian, is an EXCELLENT read! Treat yourself!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Of all the Oprah's book club books I've read, Midwives is the best. It is definitely a thinking book -- not a good choice for general audiences. While not a feel good book (as is the case with most Oprah books), it does not depress the reader to the point of making it unpleasant to read (as in White Oleander), or shock the reader so violently as to cause apathy for the characters (as in She's Come Undone). Even though parts of the book were unquestionably slow, the heart of the story was engaging enough to justify reading on to the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm really coming to like chris b as a writer. This is the third novel of his I've read ( the double bind, and secret of eden) and they've all been great. A little suspense and mystery in each. I have two more on my nook i'll get to soon. Midwives was no disappointment.
songcatchers More than 1 year ago
Midwives is an engrossing, well written story. It follows the trial of Sybil Danforth, a midwife accused of involuntary manslaughter, after one of her patients dies. The book is told from the perspective of Sybil's 14 year old daughter. The death in question occurs in Vermont in March amid an ice storm. Sybil and her patient are trapped at the house with no option of getting to a hospital when things turn bad. The patient dies and Sybil performs an (illegal) emergency C-section to save the baby. The baby lives but Sybil is accused of performing the C-section on a living woman, resulting in the woman's death. Midwives is a page turner where we see the main characters on a roller coaster ride of emotions. I couldn't wait to get to the end to see what the verdict was and how that verdict would effect the Danforth family and everyone else involved.
levly More than 1 year ago
This book was not original. Although the topic is dramatic, I found the book to be lacking in any real depth. Perhaps because it is being told from the point of view of a young teen it seemed too generic. Had the story been told from the point of view of a woman who had given birth or even the midwife there may have been more emotional tension in the book. This book left me unsatisfied.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i selected this book to read from a book list given to me for my college reading class. i have plans to become a nurse midwife when i finish my schooling. i found this book exciting and heart wrenching at times it is a great read if for nothing elce to learn about how dramatic it can be for a child to enter this world and also to gain knowledge of the process of a criminal trial. i found this book hard to put down and when i was not reading i was going over the story line making my own conclusions and questions
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have just finished reading 'Midwives'.This book is very scary! I am a nurse midwife who trained in England in the early 70's. I came to America in 1977, went to live in New Hampshire and almost got involved with the lay midwives up there. I backed out as I was only too well aware of the risks of home deliveries, especially in an area where hospitals were few and far between. My only dissappointments with the book were that Mr.Bohjalian did not mention the meaning of the word 'midwife' which is 'with women', and I also did not like the words 'catching babies' - that infers a ball of some kind that is tossed into the air and has to be caught. Delivering a baby is a hands-on skill that assists the emergence of the baby.But it was a darned good read, and I am already looking for more books by the same author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Midwives was a great read. Not only was it superbly suspenseful, but I learned a great deal about midwifery and what happens in a courtroom. I also enjoyed the narrator, Connie. She observed what was going on around her with the eyes of an adolescent, but told the story with the heart and mind of a wise adult. Both of these perspectives made this book an awesome read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Why I didn¿t like this book, David 16, March 13, 2002 I didn¿t really like this book because, it was very boring and it didn¿t keep me interested long. It seemed like it dragged on. It was very descriptive in parts and other parts it wasn¿t. I guess though I am a guy and things like this don¿t really interest me, but I also understand that this is part of life. It just did not grab my attention like some other books do.
Anonymous 4 months ago
It shmells like your mama's fart hole.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I justed started reading this author ans so glad i did!
ibmom More than 1 year ago
One of my all time favorite books and author!
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Something you don't see a lot. Loved the story and the. Characters.
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