Among the many achievements of this gripping, insightful novel is the remarkable fullness with which Bohjalian (Water Witches) writes about both the physicality and the spirituality of childbirth. OB/gyn physician Connie Danforth looks back on the events of a wrenching summer when she was 14 and her mother, Sibyl, a Vermont midwife and ex-hippie with a ""distaste for most traditional and institutional authority,"" was on trial for murder. Sybil has successfully home-delivered more than 500 babies, but one freezing March night, the phone line down and the roads impassable, the laboring woman she is attending suddenly suffers what appears to be a fatal stroke. Sibyl saves the child with an emergency C-section only to find herself arrested after her assistant tells police that the operation was performed on a still-living woman. Is there, in fact, blood on Sibyl's hands? Or is she just a target of the hostile New England medical community, whose persecution of midwives dates back to the 17th-century expulsion of Anne Hutchinson from the Massachusetts Bay? As Connie wrestles with increasing doubts about whether or not her mother acted correctly, the Danforth family struggles to remain intact in the face of community ostracism and unrelenting media scrutiny. Readers will find themselves mesmerized by the irresistible momentum of the narrative and by Bohjalian's graceful and lucid, irony-laced prose. His warm, vivid evocations of child-bearing capture the wonder and terror of bringing a baby into the world. With acutely sensitive character delineation, he manages to present all the participants in this drama, from the family members to the grieving widower, as complex, fully realized individuals. This is a story with no obvious villains or heroes, which only renders the tragedy all the more haunting. Movie rights to Columbia Tri-Star; BOMC and QPB alternates. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/31/1997 Release date: 04/01/1997 Genre: Fiction
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