Tradition clashes with modernity in this unforgettable debut novel, set in a small Nova Scotia village in the early 20th century, that is reminiscent of the works of Annie Proulx and Chris Bohjalian.
As a child, Dora Rare, the first female in five generations of Rares, is taken under the wing of Miss Babineau, an outspoken Acadian midwife with a gift for storytelling and a kitchen filled with herbs. As she grows into adulthood, Dora becomes Miss Babineau's apprentice, and together the pair help the women of Scots Bay through infertility, difficult labour, breech births, unwanted pregnancies, and even unfulfilling marriages.
But their idyllic community is threatened with the arrival of Gilbert Thomas, a brash medical doctor armed with promised of sterile, painless childbirth. Soon some of the women begin to question the midwives' methods - an uncertainty that erupts in a war of gossip, accusations, and recriminations after a woman dies. Overshadowed by this powerful, determined male doctor, Dora must summon all her strength and wisdom to protect herself and the birthing rituals of her ancestors, and the village she loves.
An enthralling tale with deep resonance for today, The Birth House brings to light the struggles women have faced to control their own bodies, and to keep tradition alive in the face of modernity.