Tuesday, August 7, 2012

When the last page left me speechless!

Here's something I am writing witout editing, without thinking much; just the raw emotions in whose grip I am dictating all the words. I just have to get it out of me. Similar to the subject matter of what I am writing about. A novel on childbirth and midwives, set in the US of the 1980s.

Imagine watching a movie in the cinema, an emotional roller-coaster, filled with drama, suspense, intrigue, intense conflict; where everything is a vague grey; which simply does not let the audience pass their verdict till the end; which leaves a small nook in the audience's mind unsure about what's right or wrong... you are all the time at the edge of your seat, wondering if the expected is inevitable or will a more-desired outcome relieve your tension. Scenes keep unravelling, sometimes slowly, most of the time with a stressful pace, and then you feel so much a part of the movie and the story of its characters that you just want it all to be over. So you can breathe free.

Finally the relief does come. You are happy that the climax didn't let you down. You are thankful that justice prevails. AND THEN imagine the very last scene coming down on you with a huge blow, almost badgering you with the most unexpected twist... followed by the credits. That is exactly how I feel after being entangled in the lives of a midwife and her family in Chris Bohjalian's 'Midwives'. If ever you come across this novel, please do grab it! If you do grab it and manage to read at least one page, you are sure to reach the end in less than two days!

The novel portrays the travails of an expert, but unlicensed, midwife, who believes helping mothers deliver their babies through 'home birth' (as opposed to in a hospital under the care of a doctor) is her calling. Sibyl Danforth has handled more than 500 child births, with success. But one single delivery goes wrong, under unprecedented circumstances. She conducts an emergency C-section on her 'dead patient' as she firmly believes, to save the baby. The State and the gynecs, who have always opposed midwives and their practice, are up in arms. Sibyl is charged with manslaughter. The prosecution's case: Sibyl's C-section killed the mother. Sibyl's Defence: She performed the operation only after confirming that her patient was dead, in order to save the child, which she does with success.

The ensuing court case, the local community's reaction, the midwives' association's support, and the moral and ethical conflicts are played out in the most gripping style. The story is told years later by Sibyl's daughter, Connie, who was 14 years old when the drama unfolds. Excerpts from Sibyl's personal diary adds more perspective to her daughter's account. The court scenes kept me hooked to the novel. Just when I thought that the jury's verdict comes as a surprise, the last page of the novel, which is an entry from Sibyl's diary, left me reeling in shock.

I sort of felt like I wanted to re-read portions of the novel just to be sure.
Very few novels can have this kind of a profound effect on readers!

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