The Birth House

The Birth House

A Novel

Book - 2007 | 1st Harper Perennial ed
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The first daughter in five generations of her Nova Scotia family, Dora Rare becomes an apprentice to a gifted midwife and storyteller before their home is threatened by the arrival of a brash medical doctor who promises sterile and painless births.
Publisher: New York : Harper Perennial, 2007
Edition: 1st Harper Perennial ed
ISBN: 9780061135873 (pbk.)
0061135879 (pbk.)
Branch Call Number: FIC MCKAY
Characteristics: x, 385, 18 p. : ill. ; 21 cm


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Feb 28, 2020

I had expected this book to be about midwifery in Canadian history, stepping back in time, but it suddenly took a turn I didn't expect and became about women's 'personal pleasures.' I was immediately turned off and will not pick this book back up again... for once a book goes unfinished.

Nov 21, 2017

Wanted to read this for years, definitely waited way to long. A very good book in general, but especially for anyone who likes history. Check out the Author if you liked this one.

Jul 25, 2017

A super enjoyable read. Filled with history and such believable interesting characters.

Feb 12, 2017

I liked this book. It was easy to read and the addition of historical events such as WWI, the Halifax fire, the Boston Molasses explosion (I had never heard of this incident) made the book more interesting. The characters were well developed and that I came to love Miss B, Dora, the women from "away" and Harl and that I hated Aunt Fran, Dr. Thomas and Archer is a good indication that we get to know these characters well.

About 3/4 through the book I realised that even though many dramatic events happen, the birth and death of baby Darcy and the mother, the beatings Dora endured by the hand of her husband, the Halifax explosion and Dora's participation to help the wounded, Dora's flight to Boston to escape arrest for the death of Mrs. Ketch, I felt no dramatic suspense. I am not sure why. That is the reason why I gave it only three stars, I enjoyed the book but it will never be an all time favourite.

Dec 29, 2016

I found this novel to be a refreshing change from anything I've ever read. It flowed well and the characters were very believable. It's interesting how many people have the same feelings about doctors today, and for good reason. The doctors do put too much faith in "modern" medicine and completely disregard all of the midwives and healers that came before them.

Chapel_Hill_SarahW Jan 26, 2016

Loved the setting early 1900s Nova Scotia and the rich interplay between spirituality and midwifery. Strong, independent, creative female heroine.

sydniec Aug 11, 2015

easy read, very enjoyable

ehbooklover Jun 22, 2015

An amazing, compelling, and emotional read. I loved the rural Nova Scotian setting and the numerous interesting and complicated characters. This wasn’t a light read, but it was a total page-turner that opened my eyes to many difficult issues faced by women during the World War I years.

Dec 31, 2014

The Birth House by Ami McKay is the story of Dora Rare. Growing up in Scots Bay, Nova Scotia Dora the first daughter of five generations of Rare families finds herself captivated by Miss Babineau, the town mid-wife whom has exceptional powers of healing and the understanding of childbirth. Dora soon becomes her apprentice for as Miss Babineau ages even more she knows one day she will no longer be able to help the women. When a doctor comes to town with promises of a new birthing center with modern medical advances it looks as though tradition and experience through midwifery might just disappear. Through infertility, difficult labors, breech births, unwanted pregnancies and even unfulfilling sex lives the town becomes divided by what is best for the women of Scots Bay. As Dora Rare struggles to figure out who she is and what she really wants she creates a stitched up family of women that reminds her of the old ways; the best parts of tradition and the struggles that unite women to have control over their own bodies.

Jul 15, 2013

good read but pretty typical of the region. feels like i've read this book many times before in varying forms. anne-marie mcdonald does it better (the way the crow flies).

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Jan 26, 2012

varaidzo89 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


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Jan 26, 2012

The Birth House is the story of Dora Rare, the first daughter to be born in five generations of Rares. As a child in an isolated village in Nova Scotia, she is drawn to Miss Babineau, an outspoken Acadian midwife with a gift for healing. Dora becomes Miss B.’s apprentice, and together they help the women of Scots Bay through infertility, difficult labours, breech births, unwanted pregnancies and even unfulfilling sex lives. Filled with details as compelling as they are surprising, The Birth House is an unforgettable tale of the struggles women have faced to have control of their own bodies and to keep the best parts of tradition alive in the world of modern medicine.


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Jan 26, 2012

Mother works and prays too hard to have anyone but those with the cruellest of tongues doubt her devotion to my father. When there's no good explanation for something, people of the Bay find it easier to believe in mermaids and moss babies, to call it witchery and be done with it.


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