Published by St. Martin's Griffin, St. Martin's Paperbacks Pages: 320
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A novel about three generations of midwives (a woman, her mother, and her grandmother) and the secrets they keep that push them apart and ultimately bind them together
THE SECRETS OF MIDWIVES tells the story of three generations of women devoted to delivering new life into the world—and the secrets they keep that threaten to change their own lives forever. Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, is determined to keep the details surrounding her own pregnancy—including the identity of the baby’s father— hidden from her family and co-workers for as long as possible. Her mother, Grace, finds it impossible to let this secret rest. For Floss, Neva’s grandmother and a retired midwife, Neva’s situation thrusts her back 60 years in time to a secret that eerily mirrors her granddaughter’s—a secret which, if revealed, will have life-changing consequences for them all. Will these women reveal their secrets and deal with the inevitable consequences? Or are some secrets best kept hidden?
Check out another fantastic book I reviewed that centers around midwifery HERE.
Here’s a vague, three run-on sentence long history of delivering babies:
Skilled women helped other women deliver their babies and would pass the torch of ”mystical delivery” down to other women because, after all, a woman knows how women things work better than a man. Fast forward to the nineteenth century and the medical field becomes ”professionalized” and the field of gynecology was invented in which ONLY MEN were allowed to seek professionalization in. After this, midwives began to be demonized and were called ”witch doctors” and were looked upon by the male dominated medical profession as incompetent, ignorant busy bodies that had no right delivering babies even though they had been successfully doing it for centuries.
A few years ago (heck, maybe even a few months ago), I would never have imagined myself being remotely interested in a story with midwifery as its vehicle. But it seems like midwifery and midwives in general have been making a comeback over the past decade, not only in real-life, but also in the entertainment industry. A good question to explore would be why this is happening. Why are more and more women turning to birthing centers that employ nurses and skilled midwives and turning to at home births instead of state-of-the-art hospitals with M.D.s?
To answer and explore this question with the attention it deserves, I would have to write a dissertation for this blog post. So, instead, I will leave you some questions to ponder on your own (for those of you who are interested): How has the medical industry (in America) changed over the past two decades? How does access to healthcare impact the way women choose to deliver their babies? And what new information, documentaries, etc. have been released over the past decade that may have heavily influenced the way mothers-to-be have approached child birth?
Okay, moving on to my review of Sally Hepworth’s The Secrets of Midwives now, lol.
In short, I loved it. I ended up reading it in a couple of sittings because it was fascinatingly informative and had a mystery at the heart of it. The social set-up and dynamic between the characters reminded me of the film How To Make An American Quilt, only this novel was way more entertaining.
This widely popular documentary appeared on Netflix in 2008 and created a movement of women who turned away from hospital births and reinvigorated the Midwife movement.
The story revolves around three generations of women and switches off between their perspectives. I thought this would be confusing at first, but it is clearly queued and so well done. I had no problem following their individual story lines in addition to the main story line.
The three women characters were fun, entertaining, and well crafted. I finished this book wishing I had these ladies as friends of my own, or the kind of friendship that they had with each other. The peripheral male characters were the perfect addition to the story to give it just the right amount of intrigue and… male-ness (?) LOL.
The Secrets of Midwives is a humorous, heart-warming, emotionally complex story full of laugh-out-loud, intimate, and watery-eyed moments. A satisfying and quick read that left me wanting to Amazon Prime all of Sally Hepworth’s other novels. Young Adult, mother, grandmother, daughter, husband- I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys an entertaining yet meaningful novel.
Do you have an interesting birthing story? Would you ever deliver your baby at home with a midwife? I’d love to know what you think in the comments below!
Just for fun:
This is an attention-grabbing film about hippie women in the 1970s teaching themselves to be Midwives. Click on the photo of the film to watch a preview of Birth Story on YOUTUBE.