February 8 Our Own Country by Jodi Daynard This was book number two in what the author calls “The Midwife Series”. Book number one was The Midwife’s Revolt which I read well over a year ago and really enjoyed. In my review of the first book I mentioned that it was a rather poor/misleading title because there was next to zero mention of midwifery, and I’d reiterate that again for this book. At any rate, this book was odd. It rehashed many, many events of the previous book, but from a different character’s perspective. It was not a bad book, or a boring book, but it was somewhat off-putting because I pretty much already knew most everything that was going to happen, before it happened. There were some parts, particularly the end of this one that had some interesting, different events in it. Like the other book, this was set in revolutionary war times, in Massachusetts. Some of the characters were real (John and Abigail Adams make appearances) but most were not. This time the main character was the sister in law of the main character of the previous book. I think the struggles of that time were depicted accurately and it was interesting, but not riveting. There is a 3rd book in the series that has very recently been published, and while I’m sort of tempted to see how it all pans out, there are so many other great books to read, that it will not be tops on my list. The really cool thing about this book is that I borrowed it from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library – which is awesome. There are NO return times, the only caveat is that you can’t borrow another book until you return this one (one book at a time, in essence).
February 3 Homestead by Rosina Lippi Picked this book up some time ago at a thrift store and thought it sounded good. It even won some literary award so I figured it would be well worth a read. I was SO disappointed. I’ve got to say that I really struggled to get thru this one. Have you ever read a book where each chapter was a “short story” but all the short stories (chapters) had a common theme and intertwined in an interesting way? I have, and I loved it! It was called “Olive Kitteridge” and actually won the Pulitzer prize for fiction one year. I also read one years ago by Maeve Binchy that had this premise and I really enjoyed it. This book was the same type of format, but oh my, it just didn’t click with me. It was set in Austria during the very early 1900’s and worked it’s way up to the 1970’s. While the writing took on the style of the times, it was confusing. All the people in this town had very confusing names and backgrounds, and I honestly couldn’t keep them straight. I’ve read a lot of family sagas with many characters and have NEVER had problems knowing who-was-who until this book. I give it 2 stars at most and cannot recommend. I Googled the author and see that she’s written several very successful historical novels under the name Sara Donati. That name rang a bell, and I now remember trying to read her first novel (under that name) called Into the Wilderness and couldn’t follow that one either! It was well received, so maybe it’s just me. What I DO know is that I’m done with Rosina Lippi AND Sara Donati. Oh well.
January 12 The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas Less about midwifery, more about life in a small mining town in Colorado in the late 1800’s, this book was just SO good (in my opinion). I thought it was quite realistic in describing how life actually was back then – including the sometimes sordid, covert human elements. We follow the life of the one and only local midwife who has delivered most of the babies in the region. Then one day she is accused of murdering an infant. I’m not a big fan of mysteries or “whodunits”, but this sure kept me intrigued. I really, REALLY like this author, have read lots of her her books and will continue to do so in the future.
January 9 Teacher Man by Frank McCourt First off, I listened to this book, read by the author with his great Irish accent, on my old fashioned cassette tape player! I get the tapes from Paperbackswap.com and while it IS old fashioned to listen to cassettes, I find it actually easier to stop and start listening to them over CD’s. I listen while I’m having a shower…. I listen while I’m folding laundry…. I listen while I’m getting ready to go out – what a great way to “read” a book while doing something else! Anyway, I have now read all of Mr McCourt’s books and have enjoyed them all. I like biographies and this was a good one, describing McCourt’s life as a high school teacher in New York City. I’m actually sad that this is the last book he wrote before he passed on. I HIGHLY recommend reading Angela’s Ashes – the story of his childhood, growing up in Ireland. Fantastic reading. Totally deserving of the Pulitzer Prize it won.
January 3 Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent Chronicles of a Modern Midwife I enjoy books about midwives and midwifery, so it should come as no surprise that I enjoyed this book, written by a Certified Nurse Midwife. It was published in 2002 and I do think that times have changed for midwives considerably since then. This book actually ended in about 1993, when the author quit her private practice and went into hospital midwifery. Nowadays, many midwives practice outside the hospital in their own “birthing centers” – we even have one in our small town. I believe they are held in greater regard and with higher respect these days as well. Anyway, on to the book. It was good, but not great. I did enjoy all the descriptions of memorable births she attended, but 99% of them turned out with happy, pink, squealing babies, and mothers who, after their home birth, would never do it another way. I know from personal experience that 99% of births, home or otherwise, do not turn perfect without a bit of some sort of intervention. This author never mentioned needing to be certified in NRP (neonatal resuscitation), which I am sure was in widespread use at least through some of her career. While I feel like she painted a very rosy picture of birthing, I still enjoyed it and must keep in mind that midwives can really only see the lowest risk patients – and these patients often have the best outcomes. In my career, I really enjoyed attending deliveries, where I was responsible for the immediate care of the infant. It was fun and nerve wracking, stressful and even sad sometimes. Things are not always as rosy as an evening sunset – and that’s how I felt this book portrayed childbirth. It was worth the read, however.