The Midwife by Gay Courter

The tale of a Russian midwife who emigrates to America during the pogroms of the early 1900s.

The Midwife was a completely satisfying reading experience, not just because the plot and characters were so engaging, but because I loved the author’s perspective on birth. It’s as if Ina May Gaskin were writing historical fiction–it’s so rare to see birth treated like a normal event, not an emergency. I am not a birth junkie but I did have both my kids at home and loved my midwives so much, and it was great to read a book that portrayed the special heroism of midwives who believe that birth can happen at home.

The story itself is gripping. Hannah is training in Moscow when restrictions against Jews begin to tighten, so she travels on a harrowing train ride back to her home in St. Petersburg, where the violence becomes personal. She and her family decide to flee, at great personal and financial cost, and settle on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. NYC at the turn of the 20th Century is one of my favorite fictional settings, and I just ate up the perspective on Jewish culture and society, from least to greatest. There’s a romance element that really worked for me because it felt grounded in emotional truth. Loved it!

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