cover image The Miracle & Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets

The Miracle & Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets

Sarah Miller. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5247-1381-2

Beginning two days after their premature birth in rural Ontario on May 28, 1934, “the lives of the Dionne quintuplets were inextricably bound with the press,” asserts Miller (Caroline: Little House, Revisited), whose headline-style chapter titles reinforce that point in this compelling account. Together, the five babies weighed only 13 pounds, 6 ounces, and their desperate parents, Oliva and Elzire Dionne, traded privacy for critical necessities: breast milk and incubators. Those rushing to provide support simultaneously saved the quintuplets’ lives and wreaked emotional havoc upon the family. Miller details the efforts of Dr. Dafoe, the local medical practitioner; the nurses he chose to keep the infants alive; Dr. Blatz, who attended to the sisters’ emotional and mental development; and the government of Ontario, which tried to protect the family from being exploited by unscrupulous Americans seeking to profit from the story. The Dionne parents’ rights to raise their children were continually overruled, and the physical separation of the quintuplets from the rest of their family until age nine produced lifelong emotional dysfunction. Miller presents multiple viewpoints with sensitivity, enmeshing the reader in the Dionnes’ lives so successfully that it is impossible not to feel the tragedy of the quintuplets’ lives. Black-and-white family photos and notes further expand this eye-opening, thoroughly researched title. Ages 12–up. (Aug.)