Title: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife
Author: Meg Elison
Publisher: Sybaritic Press
Pub. Date: 5 June, 2014, 11 Oct. 2016
Genre: Dystopian, Post-apocalyptic, Survival
When an illness sweeps across the world wiping out nearly all women and children and many men as well, one of the few survivors—a woman who happens to be perhaps the last midwife in a world without live births—cannot help but adapt to her new world in the only way she knows how. As she continues to survive, she becomes rescuer and helper to men and women in her path. Though the world of humanity seems to be sinking, the midwife may offer the only hope of rising again, but will there be a safe enough place for her to move beyond survival to change the world?
This is an award winning novel that has me conflicted. I tried to read it twice and put it down for long enough that I had to start again. The third time I stuck to it and finished. I both loved and was frustrated by this book. I love the world, the premise is well executed in the plot, the pace is more literary than genre, the writing is solid and has a lot of impact. I wanted to love it!
Where I felt the book fell short was in the delivery of character. The midwife is not the problem, she is complex, though distant and difficult to sympathize with at times. It is the men, who come off as just a hostile hazard of the terrible lawless world, every one of them a rapist or brutalizing fiend with no boundaries, out to own and abuse any woman he comes across, or an ineffectual weak man who is devoid of value. Even the good ones were bad. The women were individuals with needs and strengths, but men were just part of the furniture of a dystopian world. It became so pervasive a strategy that I could not suspend disbelief at times.
I have both sons and a father, about whom I absolutely know that it is not just the rule of law that keeps them from being rapists and traders of abused women. They are genuinely kind individuals, as are most men, I would hazard the guess.
Ultimately, I felt this was a potentially great book that was only held back by a few shallow elements. I have told people to read it, but included a caveat that they have to just let the shallow sexist claptrap go by. It is still an enjoyable read that leaves an impression, and for that I give it four stars.
A review copy was provided by the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.