A-Z Wednesday Challenge. We are up to M and I had a few books make my short list: Stephen King's Misery, one of the rare books where I couldn't help but cheat and read ahead, almost sick with anticipation of what might occur, then backtrack and read through; Carson McCullers' The Member of the Wedding, a novel I read long ago and loved; Mostly True: A Memoir of Family, Food and Baseball, an excellent autobiography written by Mollie O'Neill. I had cookbooks on my short list too, including Mrs. Wilkes Boardinghouse Cookbook, a fascinating book by Savannah's Sema Wilkes. As well, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the Julia Child gem, had to make my short list.
But I went with a novel I read a few years ago, one that captivated me from first page to last, Chris Bohjalian's Midwives. I saw Bohjalian on The Oprah Winfrey Show, talking about his novel after Oprah picked it as one of her book club selections. After watching the show, I knew I just had to read it. Midwives is a gripping page-turner, a provocative book that features both courtroom suspense and domestic drama; a novel that challenges your sense of right and wrong and the moral decisions that sometimes must be made.
A book that stays with you. Even now, many years after reading it, I still consider it a favourite of mine.
I found this description of Midwives on the web and it sums up the plot perfectly: On an icy winter night of 1981 in the rustic community of Reddington, Vermont, seasoned midwife Sibyl Danforth is forced to make a life-or-death decision that will change her world forever. Trapped by the weather in an isolated farmhouse, cut off from the hospital or even the emergency squad, she takes desperate measures to save the life of a baby, performing a cesarean section on a woman she believes has died of a stroke during a long and painful labor. But what if the woman was still alive during the surgery? What if Sibyl herself inadvertently killed her? The hair-raising story of Charlotte Bedford's death and of the subsequent trial of Sibyl Danforth is hauntingly told by Sibyl's fourteen-year-old daughter Connie, now an obstetrician. She is remembering, and it is through her intelligent and watchful eyes that we witness the tragic effects of Charlotte's death and Sibyl's trial. And as Sibyl faces the antagonism of the law, the hostility of the medical establishment, and the nagging accusations of her own conscience, we are compelled to confront questions of human responsibility that are fundamental to our society.
Like I mentioned, the book captivated me from beginning to end. I highly recommend it. Here's an excerpt:
The morning the judge gave the jury its instructions and sent them away to decide my mother's fate, I overheard her attorney explain to my parents what he said was one of the great myths in litigation: You can tell what a jury has decided the moment they reenter the courtroom after their deliberations, by the way they look at the defendant. Or refuse to look at him. But don't believe it, he told them. It's just a myth.
I was fourteen years old that fall, however, and it sounded like more than a myth to me. It had that ring of truth to it that I heard in many wives'--and midwives'--tales, a core of common sense hardened firm by centuries of observation. Babies come when the moon is full. If the boiled potatoes burn, it'll rain before dark. A bushy caterpillar's a sign of a cold winter. Don't ever sugar till the river runs free.
My mother's attorney may not have believed the myth that he shared with my parents, but I sure did. It made sense to me. I had heard much over the past six months. I'd learned well which myths to take to my heart and which ones to discard.