On an icy winter night a seasoned midwife was faced with a difficult decision – allow a fetus to die or perform an emergency cesarean section on a woman she believed had died from a stroke. The midwife’s decision left her exposed to the antagonism of the woman’s family, the hostility of the traditional doctors who oppose lay midwives, and the risks of a lawsuit.
Midwives (Oprah’s Book Club) by Chris Bohjalian explores these issues in a gripping way. This novel is fascinating for anyone interested in the intersection of medicine and the law. It explores the relationship between a criminal defendant and her attorney. It explores the roles of midwives, the difficult decisions that have to be made with split second timing, and the impact on families of defendants. Primarily told through the eyes of the midwife’s teenage daughter, the novel includes sections from the midwife’s diary. It deftly moves back and forth in time until the final secrets are revealed.
On a rain drenched night, a teenager has two beers, gets behind the wheel of her family car, and drives her mother through a storm. Their car hits a man who is running in the dark. Determined to shoulder the blame, the mother sends her daughter home before the police arrived. Her difficult decision leads to a deception that takes on a life of its own and begins to unravel the relationship between mother and daughter. The mother is faced with the possibility of a civil suit.
The novel, The Secret Between Us by Barbara Delinsky focuses on the changes in the family created by this decision. The personal injury aspects of this case include the medical condition of the runner, the forbidden relationship that develops between the runner’s brother and the mother, the police chief who looks the other way, and the teenager’s guilt. Family relationships shift and change, old hurts are exposed and new insights are achieved.
Pat Iyer is an avid reader. She reads 2-4 books a week.