Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Birth House by Ami McKay

In The Birth House, Dora Rare is the first daughter born into the Rare family in five generations. In her teen years, she spends a lot of time with Miss Marie Babineau, a midwife and holistic healer in the remote village. As time goes by, Dora becomes the apprentice of Miss B and carries on her legacy of catching babies.

McKay presents a beautiful story about birth, sex and traditional medicine around at the time of WWI in a fishing village in Nova Scotia. These women live in a time when modern medicine is offering them a “choice” different from traditional methods. Even though the women are given a choice, sometimes that choice is made for them. In the end it comes down to the women’s right to choose.

I have a fondness for books set on the east coast of Canada and this one is no exception. I loved it. At times it was a little like going through a scrapbook with the little ad inserts, journal entries and letters interspersed with the main text of the story. My favorite character was Dora, but all of the characters were outstanding and believable.

The storyline was extremely interesting and reminded me that going to doctors and having babies in hospitals wasn’t always the norm that we see now. I especially loved the section at the back titled “Notes for the Willow Book” which contains fascinating information about how herbs and such are used as remedies in traditional medicine.

My favorite quote (page 153):
…And don’t forget to collect the seeds before autumn. You’d think the fruit was the prize, or the leaves or even the roots…but it’s the seeds that keeps the secrets. Like any other mother, the plant done spent all her life learnin’ the earth. It’s her seeds that does the rememberin’ for her. It’s all right there in the seed.

I’d definitely recommend this book. I'm looking forward to more works by this author.

[Somehow this review doesn’t do it justice. I just can’t find the words to express how I feel about this book. It’s an absolute joy to read. I wouldn't change a thing.]

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