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The Birth House    by Ami McKay order for
Birth House
by Ami McKay
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2007 (2006)
Hardcover, Softcover, Paperback, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The Birth House portrays the women of an isolated Nova Scotian village during the years of World War I and their struggle to keep control over their own bodies. Miss Babineau, the local midwife, helps the women through not only normal childbirth but also infertility, breech births, difficult labors, unwanted pregnancies as well as unfulfilling sex lives. Miss Babineau is a necessary figure to this small community.

This novel is the story of Dora Rare who is learning to be a midwife, studying under the tutelage of Miss Babineau. Dora takes to the practice eagerly. However during the war years a brash young doctor arrives to inform the women about painless childbirth. He insists that his way is the only way a child should be born. He doesn't think he is right. He knows he is right and isn't bashful about insisting that all pregnant women come to him for childbirth.

He ignores women telling him that distance and rough terrain would hamper expectant mothers from reaching him in time for a birth. He even tries to make it a law that they must all give birth under his direction. The last thing to tell these strong women is what they must do. They have a hard enough time with their husbands who don't understand the whole birth process and expect their women to arise from childbirth and attend to their husband's needs. Some of these women have more than ten children and still enough years left to produce more!

This is just one more tale of women fighting for their rights. But a very well-told tale. One that might make you grit your teeth over the fatuous doctor and wish that you could tell him off. Dora is a strong character who does what she thinks is right for the village women many of whom are close friends of hers, as well as seeking her hard-learned expertise. The Birth House by Ami McKay reminds us that we must never stop battling for our rights.

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