The Week In Books, No. 22

Kim sent me a copy of “The Birth House” that is making the rounds among some mamas we know. It’s a fast read, and engaging, although I should warn you that there are some pretty earthy parts so if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing you might not like it. The book follows an isolated community in Nova Scotia during World War I, and the conflicts that result from clashes between the old ways and modernity. With a primary focus on the lives of the women of the community, the book follows a young woman who apprentices to the local midwife. A “modern” doctor had just moved into the community, and it was interesting to see the strengths and weaknesses of both the midwifery and “modern” medical practices. The midwives showed much more care and concern for the women, and were able to treat symptoms and problems like morning sickness, preeclampsia, and breech births far better than the doctor. The doctor diagnosed EVERYTHING as “hysteria” and had some truly insane treatments for that (I thought the author had made them up, but then I checked her bibliography and she didn’t!!!), and when childbirth came up, the doctor nearly killed people with a cocktail of chloroform (!), ether, and opium (!) and then quickly moved on to knives and forceps. On the other hand, I was shocked by the things the midwives were willing to do when women didn’t want their babies for whatever reason. Anyway, in addition to the childbirth stuff, the book also talks about how women’s roles changed with voting, domestic abuse, and so forth.

It is difficult to talk about “Never Let Me Go” without spoiling it for those who haven’t read it, but I’ll do my best. Kazuo Ishiguro is a fantastic writer, and has a talent for expressing depths of emotion. The book takes place in an alternate present, in which a whole class of people has been cloned merely for medical purposes. The population at large found ways to assume the clones were unhuman, but the book is concerned with the humanity of these clones, and how their innocence and feelings of loss and isolation impact their short lives. In some ways, this would be a good book for a book club, but I think it would be especially interesting to discuss it with people who are not pro-life.

I started “Then We Came to the End” but elected not to finish it. The book was billed as being a novel similar to the movie “Office Space” or the TV show “The Office,” both of which I find hilarious. Although it has it’s funny bits, for the most part I thought the book was contrived and the writing style, a sort of stream-of-consciousness type thing, got old and annoying REALLY fast. The book works at times, but overall I thought it was a waste of time, and that is why I will never come to the end of “Then We Came to the End.”

Also Completed:
Matthew, Titus, Philemon

Currently Reading:
1 Chronicles, Psalms, Mark, Hebrews
“Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons” by Lorna Landvik
“By the Banks of Plum Creek” by Laura Ingalls Wilder (to Hannah)
“Training Hearts, Teaching Minds” by Starr Meade (as a family)

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