In a tale spanning the 20th century, Ami McKay takes a primitive and superstitious rural community in Nova Scotia and creates a rich tableau of characters to tell the story of childbirth from its most secretive early practices to modern maternity as we know it.
Epic and enchanting, ‘The Birth House’ is a gripping saga about a midwife’s struggles in the wilds of Nova Scotia.
As a child in the small village of Scot’s Bay, Dora Rare – the first female in five generations of Rares – is befriended by Miss Babineau, an elderly midwife with a kitchen filled with folk remedies and a talent for telling tales. Dora becomes her apprentice at the outset of World War I, and together they help women through difficult births, unwanted pregnancies and even unfulfilling marriages.
But their traditions and methods are threatened when a doctor comes to town with promises of painless childbirth and sets about undermining Dora’s credibility. Death and deception, accusations and exile follow, as Dora and her friends fight to protect each other and the women’s wisdom of their community.
Hauntingly written and alive with historical detail, ‘The Birth House’ is an unforgettable, page-turning debut.
Reviews of The Birth House
- ‘Ami McKay cleverly points out the good and the bad in both old and new attitudes, while contemporary newspaper reports and advertisements illustrate the pace of change.’ Guardian
- ‘Ami McKay’s debut novel vividly captures the apparently quaint world inhabited by the people of Scot’s Bay, Canada. McKay creates a magical world, and her exquisite descriptions draw the reader further and further from reality.’ Time Out
- ‘This is a truly captivating read, set in early 19th-century Novia Scotia. The story weaves lyrical detail of the natural beauty in which these pioneer families live with the pricklier reality of the First World War era, when centuries-old folk wisdom collides with science. The underlying theme of the shared strength that women give each other in hard circumstances lends this tale a solid bedrock.’ SHE
- ‘“The Birth House” has a spirited momentum and it is difficult not to be swept along by it. Her writing is often beautiful, with colourful turns of phrase that mirror the earthiness of her setting, and her protagonist’. Sunday Business Post
- ‘By turns lyrical and gripping, brimming with historical detail and with a touching love story at the core, “The Birth House” brings to life a time, place and traditions long forgotten.’ Irish Post