Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Birth House

What a dream year 2006 was for a couple of rookie novelists in Canada. Out on the east coast it was Ami McKay with her debut novel, The Birth House, a story of midwifery vs modern medicine in early 1900s rural Nova Scotia.

McKay’s novel was an astounding success thanks in part to strong word of mouth – “You must read this” – its status as a book club natural and its clear connection to history. Here’s McKay’s description of the inspiration for the book, from her excellent website:
"In 2000, my partner and I moved from Chicago to Nova Scotia where we bought an old farmhouse on the Bay of Fundy. By the following spring I was pregnant with my second child. As word spread ..., my neighbours began telling me tales about the history of my home, which was once a midwife's house. Not only had the midwife traveled to other homes in Scots Bay, she had opened her home to the women in the community as a birth house. She took them in and saw them through labour and delivery, and then both mother and child stayed in the birth house for a week or more after the birth. My neighbour encouraged me to visit a woman who had grown up in my house. Nearly 90 years-old, she explained that her biological mother had died three days after her birth and that the midwife had adopted her… She then began to recite the names of all the women who had given birth in the house as well as the names of their children. I was so inspired by her stories that I decided to have a midwife assisted home birth. My son was born at home in the middle of a March snowstorm, another child in the long lineage of babies born in my house. Not long after his birth I began the first scribblings towards what became The Birth House."

The Library’s two Book Clubs will be discussing The Birth House this year: The Seniors’ Book Club on March 14 and the Monday Evening Book Club on September 10.


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