Monday, November 20, 2006
The Birth House
The Birth House by Ami McKay World War I in tiny, remote Scots Bay, Nova Scotia. Dora Rare is the only girl in a large family of boys, the first girl in generations. At her mother’s urging, Dora becomes the apprentice to Miss Babineau, the local midwife and moves in with her, eventually taking over Miss B.’s practice and rivalry with the local “modern” doctor. The story is more about the characters and setting than the plot; an author’s note said that she wanted it to feel like treasures pulled out a pocket at the end of the day. Filled with short glimpses of daily life, letters, and newspaper articles, it is a beautiful testament to the courage of women. The book feels very similar to Jennifer Donnelly’s recent A Northern Light, while the rural Canadian setting reminded me of L.M. Montgomery, if she had written darker books for older readers.