Thursday, November 19, 2009

Have you Read...?

I'm a little behind as this book came out in 2006. I first saw it on shelf at a bookstore at the Toronto International Airport last year in October. I was intrigued by the title and the book description:

Dora Rare is the first girl in five generations born to the Rare family who live in a small Nova Scotia fishing village. Set in the years before World War I, this down-to-earth novel relates the life story of a most unusual woman. In her youth, Dora apprentices to Miss Babineau, an aged Acadian midwife known for her storytelling and herbal acumen. She is also considered something of a witch by those locals most desperate to embrace modernity. The arrival in the village of Dr. Gilbert Thomas, a doctor of obstetrics, sets up the major conflict of the novel as the haughty and presumptuous newcomer quickly denigrates the use of midwives by the local women. McKay has caught the voice of rural Nova Scotia with uncanny clarity ("A breech baby’s just waitin' on trouble") and adds period documents from local newspapers, including an advertisement for an early
vibrator from Sweden. Altogether this is a richly satisfying novel filled with intriguing characters, both good and evil, as well as voluminous lore on birthing traditions, herbs and earthy wisdom.--Mark Frutkin
I am hugely interested in anything to do with obstetrics and midwifery, having felt I may have missed my calling by not pursuing one profession or the other.

When I visited my sister in Ontario, I saw this book on her shelf and immediately picked it up and started reading it. I couldn't put it down and got through it in just over 4 days. What a great read!

I was absolutely fascinated by Miss Dora Rare and her life. Fictional or not, I felt her character true to life, with the author using a great variety or historical references and vintage advertisements to assist in the storytelling.

What fascinated me the most in the book was the struggle women had: to make that crucial decision on the best course to take for the health of themselves and their babies. With the arrival of the doctor in town, midwifery practices were questioned as witchcraft, women were told their pregnancy ailments were the result of over-indulgences of the written word and the failure to obey their husbands, all ending in the freedom of pain-free birth laced with ether and delivered with a scalpel and forceps.

The sad part is how close to reality this struggle still is. I had the priveledge of having a midwife in Ontario attend the birth of my daughter, with pregnancy considered a natural course of life. Since moving home, however, I have witnessed obstetricians taking advantage of the surgical practice of c-sections to accomodate their personal schedules rather than allowing a baby the time it needs to enter the world.
And don't even get me started on the lack of knowledge women have about their own bodies and cycles, pre- and post-natal care, and breastfeeding! Most doctors just don't seem to have the time to answer these questions. Of course, I'm sure this is not always the case, but it seems so common, one has to wonder. And have you ever heard of a doctor coming to your home to help with the baby?! No, probably not!

In the book, as now, I believe midwives truly have the best interest of women and their families at heart. And I thoroughly enjoyed reading about midwife Dora Rare and her life - a story I never would have questioned as real had the front cover stated "based on true events".

So, if you haven't already - pick it up at your local library! Or, has a great selection of used books at reasonable prices.

Tell me what you think.


Sandy aka Doris the Great said...

I rarely buy new books. We have loads of Frenchies Thrift stores and Value Village. So, I pick up my books there. That one has been on my list for a couple of years. Sounds wonderful!

Photo Quilts said...

I bought and read it a year or so ago. I totally forget what it was about though.... I think I may just re-read it :)

Quirky Christa said...

My neighbour loaned me her copy and I LOVED it! So glad you had a chance to read it.