The Birth House

The Birth House An arresting portrait of the struggles that women faced for control of their own bodies The Birth House is the story of Dora Rare the first daughter in five generations of Rares As apprentice to the

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  • Title: The Birth House
  • Author: Ami McKay
  • ISBN: 9780061135873
  • Page: 371
  • Format: Paperback
  • An arresting portrait of the struggles that women faced for control of their own bodies, The Birth House is the story of Dora Rare the first daughter in five generations of Rares.As apprentice to the outspoken Acadian midwife Miss Babineau, Dora learns to assist the women of an isolated Nova Scotian village through infertility, difficult labors, breech births, unwanted preAn arresting portrait of the struggles that women faced for control of their own bodies, The Birth House is the story of Dora Rare the first daughter in five generations of Rares.As apprentice to the outspoken Acadian midwife Miss Babineau, Dora learns to assist the women of an isolated Nova Scotian village through infertility, difficult labors, breech births, unwanted pregnancies, and unfulfilling sex lives During the turbulent World War I era, uncertainty and upheaval accompany the arrival of a brash new medical doctor and his promises of progress and fast, painless childbirth In a clash between tradition and science, Dora finds herself fighting to protect the rights of women as well as the wisdom that has been put into her care.

    One thought on “The Birth House”

    1. Mark this down as another book that I quite enjoyed, but didn't quite love. Something kept me a bit separated from the story, kept me from falling head over heels for the characters (although the "women from away" stole my heart quite a bit.) It felt at times like I could see the story engine grinding too much behind the scenes, could see the way things were going to go.Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in policy and enforcement. You can read why I came [...]

    2. I should have known better than to read this. One thing I am not is pro-home birth. I'm not anti- home birth, but the more I read about the "exquisite, spiritual, satisfying" birthing of their babies, the more turned off I am by the usually-not-said-but-rather-implied understanding that any other kind of birth is not. I know it's not true. Birthing a child is exciting and scary and hard and wonderful and one of the most memorable things any woman will do in her lifetime. But, the variety in whic [...]

    3. "What can I do with all this neat feminist lore that women have just GOT to hear, like mercenary doctors wresting childbirth away from women and vibrators being the first electric appliance and Boston suffragettes who were also, get this, lesbians and herbal remedies that people are embracing again? I know, I'll write a novel and set it in the quaint town I just moved to and that I love love love." Awwww, it was mean of me to pretend Ami McKay actually said that out loud ever, because as far as [...]

    4. This book is a bit of a departure from my usual reading, but after reading a blurb on about it, I was intrigued. Luckily, my local small-town library had this book available, so I checked it out. I'm glad I did. It is an enjoyable story. Dora Rare is special. She's the first girl born in the Rare family in five generations, and she has the gift of healing. A local midwife, Miss Babineau, begins to teach the young girl what she knows so that Dora can continue the tradition of folk medicine and m [...]

    5. I really loved this book. It was so well-written and a very fast read. I was a little more than skeptical given the subject matter since I really hated The Red Tent, I don't want children and I'm a believer in hospitals, modern medicine and clinical trials over "natural" remedies. Luckily, this book wasn't overly preachy or whiny at all. Yes, the author did set up the physician to be a complete villain to better illustrate her good = the old ways, bad = the modern ways. Seriously, given the geog [...]

    6. I really enjoyed this book. The writing was so good I found myself wanting to read slowly so I could really pay attention to her descriptions and use of language. The book is set in the early 1900s in Canada during WWI. The main character, Dora is an apprentice midwife during a time when an obstetrical center has just opened nearby and the big push is for the end of home births and midwives. The women of the town fight for their right to be involved in the birthing process. The book also has a s [...]

    7. I found the premise interesting, but the execution flawed. Dora's ostracism from the rest of the town felt like the author telling the audience that she was just too special for the others to understand, and that taken with the slut-shaming of Grace Hutner made it difficult for me to sympathize. Dora was also a very passive character, and while in come circumstances it made sense, she seemed to drift through the novel on other characters' steam. I also felt that McKay tried to cram too much into [...]

    8. The Birth House by Ami McKay / William Morrow / 13-978-0-016 / 400pps / $24.95 When Ami McKay and her husband bought an old farm house in Scots Bay, Nova Scotia, she had no idea the history she would peel away from the walls or dig up in her yard. Removing layers of wall paper revealed plastered newspapers, tilling her soil unearthed bottle shards, and becoming pregnant led her to a midwife who related what she knew of the World War 1 village midwife that had once inhabited her very home. Throug [...]

    9. After buying this book years ago and not recalling why (other than it was on sale) I finally got around to reading it. I was pleasantly surprised!! The story revolves around one main character, Dora Rare. The reader is introduced to her while she is a teenager and progresses to fill us in on her journey into adulthood, including training to be a midwife. Given the focus of the story was around midwifery during the early 1900s, I thought it might be depressing or filled with never ending stories [...]

    10. I thought this was an interesting light read and I had fun with it.Now to make myself hated just a little, I have to disagree with the reviewers who complained about the "confusing" combination of narration, letters, and diary entries. I thought that the arrangement was easy enough for a junior high graduate to follow. The letters and diary entries were dated, after all, and with the exception of the first . My apologies to those who disagree, but maybe you should try a book with smaller words i [...]

    11. A real treat to read, and an unexpected treat at that. Found it at B & N on the Discover New Authors shelf and took a chance. Glad I did. This is the story of a midwife in Nova Scotia who finds herself in the middle of being part of the old way of doing things vs. the new way when a medical doctor establishes a women's hospital in a nearby town. But more that that, this is also a story of the connection between women in a male-driven society. The author paints the landscape so effectively yo [...]

    12. What I found interesting about this book it pits science against religion, and I ended up rooting for religion-mainly because it's presented as a refreshing mix of open-mindedness with a splash of mysticism and intuition, instead of the more over used portrayal of religion equaling ignorance. It starts an interesting debate in favor of midwives over doctors, mostly because the doctor in this novel is really just in it for the money, so he can easily be turned into a villain (therefore science in [...]

    13. I enjoyed this book. Mostly about a young woman, Dora, who is the only girl in a long line of all males in her dad's family. She is deemed "special" for a few reasons upon her birth. It takes place in a small village in Nova Scotia around the time of WWI & the life of the people in the town was quite interesting. Dora is friends with the town's medicine town/midwife. Through this relationship Dora also starts to "catch babies".I found some parts of the book a little far fetched but it is fic [...]

    14. 2.5/5The world will know and understand me someday. But if that day does not arrive, it does not greatly matter. I shall have opened the way for other women.-Amantine Aurore DupinSome historical fiction is inspired to the level of meant to be, whether due to quality or the issues it raises or both. Others reek of the "let a history book open to a random page and point to the subject of one's future novel" syndrome, something that additional research and family history and touching upon topical i [...]

    15. This book definitely has some charms - chiefly the idea of the eponymous birth house itself, which really existed.However, the writing is heavy handed, and the characters caricatural. The heroine is perfectly modern in attitude and character (feminist! pacifist! rebel against the medical establishment! non-homophobe! respectful of people who engage in sex-work! etc.) despite living in a small town in the early twentieth century. This would be interesting if the book explored how she came by thos [...]

    16. Wow. What did I think indeed!Thoroughly enjoyed.McKay weaves a beautiful, haunting story of life on the Bay of Fundy right around the time of WWI. Her ability to carefully craft character development and plot made for an irresistible read that had me feeling a full range of emotion and constantly turning the page for the next bit of story. Written from the perspective of pre-suffrage women in a small east-coast community, the range of characters were fascinating to observe and even through the g [...]

    17. The Birth House .Ami McKay The author was inspired to write this story from the home she lives in. Located in Nova Scotia; which was a birth house many years before. In that period of time between 1910 - 1920 women preferred a mid wife to a male Dr. The midwife used many holistic remedies where as the Dr. used chloroform and forcepts in his deliveries. Dora the midwife had to crusade for the rights of women. At the end of the story they ran the male Dr. out of town, and Dora's home became the n [...]

    18. The Birth House is one of the most unique and moving pieces of Nova Scotian literature I've ever read. The story of midwives and their struggles in a rural Canadian community, it's not only historical but also brilliant and imaginative.

    19. What a book! I can see why it made the ripples it did in the Canadian fiction scene a few years back. For whatever reason I ended up reading a different McKay novel first -- the Virgin Cure -- and that book was so compelling that I found myself hiding in a bedroom at a holiday party reading, unable to put it down.This book is obviously a sister to that one, and McKay's enthusiasm for the women of early 20th century North America again shines through. Being a transplant to Nova Scotia since 2005, [...]

    20. This was a great read! Set in a more remote part of Nova Scotia in the early part of last century. The family of Judah Rare were part of a group of Scottish immigrants who came because of being storm blown off course in the Scots Bay area during the last half of the 19th century, and stayed. The family was known to only have sons, except for Dora who in some ways might have been more like a boy should be at that time (and the story is set with all the mores and issues of that period of time, and [...]

    21. This is a solid 3-stars, and I would recommend this to certain people.This is not a masterpiece and it does not have an amazing storyline (See below), but it is a nice read for a rainy day, and it has enough going for it that I enjoyed it (and finished it within 24hours of starting). I won't say that I couldn't put it down, just that I was happy to keep reading.The storyline is basic and typical of this style of book. Take a beautiful and intelligent woman in a backward-township. Give her some k [...]

    22. Since I bought this the first month it came out, I have read it multiple times, and I am likely to read it again.Ami McKay paints a picture of a time when midwives were the most called upon form of doctor, not just for childbirth, but for all of the other everyday medical practices that we now go to a doctor for, but also for relationships, taboos, domestic violence and smaller, but no less interesting things such as food choices, and religious beliefs. She leads us through the life of the first [...]

    23. I liked the setting of the book and the interspersed newspaper advertisements of the time but wasn't so keen on the storytelling. To me it felt as though the author had thrown everything she knew about the era into the book without much feeling for whether it actually needed it. So we find the First World War, the Halifax Explosion, Spanish Flu and the Boston molasses disaster all featuring, but curiously briefly and without full engagement with any of them.Dora seemed anachronistic: a woman of [...]

    24. A wonderful depiction of the gentle arts of midwifery under attack by an outrageously patronizing and paternalistic obstetrician trying to promote his "new modern methods" involving rendering women unconscious at the birth of there own babies and painting that gentle art as medieval witchery. The sad part is that many women buy this fluff. Full of amazing characters and centered around Dora Hare, the only girl born in their family in five generations, who is apprenticed to Miss B, a loving, wise [...]

    25. The Birth House was an unexpected delight, not only because of the setting, a remote coastal village in Nova Scotia, but because of two extraordinary characters, Dora Rare, the apprentice midwife, and Madame Babineau, her Acadian teacher. In many ways the book reminded me of Eva Figes' beautiful book, The Seven Ages, which is now just about impossible to find. It deals with the reality of women's lives in a rural area in the early part of the twentieth century. The characters are entirely believ [...]

    26. This book was so good that I read it in a single day. I was completely captivated by the story, and even though I pretty much could see where it was going it didn't feel contrived at all. Beautifully told, and very thought-provoking.The only reason I rated this down is because at times the narrative gets confused with the diary entries that are incorporated into the story; sometimes I got confused about what was going on in the literary present and what had happened in the past, what was actuall [...]

    27. I liked this book quite a bit. The story is centered around Scots Bay in the Northeast. I liked the history of the area. The introduction of doctors into the rural town over the traditional midwife was the issue in this story, and how midwifery was preferred. All the natural remedies used were very interesting to read about.

    28. I would even say 4.5. It took me a while to fully connect with the main character, Dora Rare, but once I did, I couldn't put the book down. Now that I'm finished it, I feel like holding onto her for a little bit, before starting a new book. I just came back from Nova Scotia so I quite enjoyed the setting of the book. I found myself astounded by the practices in women's health that were done during this time period (early 1900s) and it left me wanting to learn more. This book was an easy read. It [...]

    29. Review by Cassandra Halikas'The Birth House' follows the life of Dora Rare, the first girl born in five generations of Rares. Dora is the fourth of seven children (Albert, Borden, Charlie, Dora, Ezekiel, Forest and Gord) and often struggles with being a lady around six brothers. Dora's often called a witch, or changling, due to being the only Rare girl. The book mainly follows Dora between 1916-1918, between her being 17 and 19 but does touch on her childhood and her adult life. She and her fami [...]

    30. “Lyrical prose and deft story telling”—Chicago Sun Times (front cover)EXCELLENT. ENJOYABLE. ENLIGHTENING.“Iris Rose had started her life with a soul that wanted to die.”—page 218“Medical training, scientific method, modern knowledge…these things have never been part of their daily lives, they have no use for them…but heaven forbid they show it.”—page 112Being part French-Canadian myself, me, and having grown up among friends and relatives with last names like Benoit, Comeau [...]

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