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The Book of the Unnamed Midwife

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife

Scritto da Meg Elison

Narrato da Angela Dawe


The Book of the Unnamed Midwife

Scritto da Meg Elison

Narrato da Angela Dawe

valutazioni:
4.5/5 (148 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
9 ore
Pubblicato:
Oct 11, 2016
ISBN:
9781531830892
Formato:
Audiolibro

Descrizione

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016 and Philip K. Dick Award Winner

When she fell asleep, the world was doomed. When she awoke, it was dead.

In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth's population-killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant-the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. Gone are the pillars of civilization. All that remains is power-and the strong who possess it.

A few women like her survived, though they are scarce. Even fewer are safe from the clans of men, who, driven by fear, seek to control those remaining. To preserve her freedom, she dons men's clothing, goes by false names, and avoids as many people as possible. But as the world continues to grapple with its terrible circumstances, she'll discover a role greater than chasing a pale imitation of independence.

After all, if humanity is to be reborn, someone must be its guide.

Pubblicato:
Oct 11, 2016
ISBN:
9781531830892
Formato:
Audiolibro


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Recensioni della critica

  • A post-apocalyptic tale where a disease kills women at higher rates than men, leading to a society where rigid gender norms are put in place once again. The titular midwife does what she can to retain her freedom, disguising herself as a man and attempting to protect other women she meets on her journey across the western US. Pairs well with "An Excess Male."

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Recensioni dei lettori

  • (5/5)
    I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    From the very first page of this novel, I was hooked. The premise, the prose, the characters ... everything was so gritty and raw and perfect. Reading about the struggles of the main protagonist (who remains nameless throughout this story) gave me an adrenaline rush while also horrifying me at the same time. The events that transpire are both gruesome and completely realistic ... which makes it scarier than any horror movie. The emotions and scenarios that are people are thrust into really make you think about how well you know a person. This novel is more than just a dystopian fiction; it is a novel that explores the realm of sexuality, independence, women's rights, and the value of life. I cannot state enough how much of a fantastic novel this is, so please do yourself a favour and check it out! I promise it will not disappoint.
  • (5/5)
    An apocalypse odyssey as the unnamed midwife, one of the very few women to survive a plague that kills most humans, journeys through an almost empty world dodging rapists, slavers and worse. At the end, she does find a refuge and eventually hope for the future. I was mesmerized by her believable passage through any number of threats.
  • (4/5)
    This book was really different than what I usually read. First, it's not a YA novel but an adult dystopian. At first I wasn't sure if I was going to stick with it but I'm glad I did.The futuristic world is bleak and the people the midwife encounters are those that live in the extremes. This was almost a cross between The Handmaid's Tale (the book) and The Walking Dead (the TV series) for me.The nameless main character can't stay in one place long, nor does she seem to want to. As we follow her through her new life in this decimated world, we slowly unravel what her life was like before, what happened to her and the planet, and what kind of future she might have.A unique read.
  • (4/5)
    My maiden dip into audible.com and it was a good one, both for the story and the voice actor reading. (I've experienced books where the reader has sucked the life out of a story, but Angela Dawe did a great job.) What if it's not climate change or nuclear power that destroys our world? If you wake up one morning and find you've somehow survived a pandemic, how do you go on, what do you do? Set in a not too distant future, as close as tomorrow, Elison brings the reader along as one woman struggles with the world she finds she now inhabits, one where much of the population is gone, women are vastly outnumbered by men, and babies are nonexistent.
  • (4/5)
    This novel sucked me in and I stayed up rather too late to finish it. It's very dark and certainly makes you think that as a woman, you might not want to survive the apocalypse. Scary but very readable. Will read the sequel soon.
  • (4/5)
    I normally don't read post-apocalyptic fiction. You know the ones where almost everyone dies and the rest are fighting and killing and suffering, where everything is like Mad Max? I don't really see the point, they are always the same - most everyone dies, then a whole bunch of people you start to care about suffer and then end up dying anyway. This is one of those books. So why did I read it? I have no idea. To be honest, I don't even remember buying it so I really had no idea what it was about when I started reading it very late the other night. Am I glad I read it? Yes, I am. It's the same sad story about everyone for themselves but this one had a really great main character that was able to hold her own, had all the right instincts and played the game smart. I am so surprised to have really enjoyed this.
  • (5/5)
    A nurse in San Francisco is witness to an epidemic--a fever that kills nearly all, but certainly all women having babies, and their babies. Then she starts to feel ill.When she awakes, she is alone. She makes her way through the city, meeting a few survivors--most of whom want to catch the few women left. She knows she needs to get out into rural areas, raiding for supplies as needed.And we follow her, for the next year or so, as she travels, meets people, hides, and finally hunkers down for the winter in a home outside a small town in Utah. This novel tells the story of how she survives, different types of people and new societies she comes into contact with, and the place she finally settles down.
  • (5/5)
    What an amazing story! This story is about one of the few women left in the world who has survived a plague that targets all of humanity but the mortality rate is even worse among women, especially those who are pregnant. No babies survive and many take their mothers with them to the grave. When our protagonist wakes several days after succumbing to the fever that's taken everyone she wakes to find the world has died. She was a midwife/nurse at a busy hospital in San Francisco and decides to leave town when she realizes that women are a rare commodity that are being taken by gangs of men prowling the city.
    Her journey is mostly solitary, dressing as a man to keep safer, writing down her thoughts and observations as she makes her way north then west across country. The few situations she comes across where women are being captive she makes deals to get alone time with them and gives them birth control to try and help them avoid pregnancies and potential death. The Florence Nightingale of women's health so to speak. There were many memorable lines in this story but the one that I keep thinking about is when they talk about a couple she spent time with and their story ends with the line "They lived together the rest of their lives and never saw another human being." It just strikes a nerve....thinking about spending the rest of your life and NEVER seeing anyone else. It's mind boggling.
    The ending of the book described some new characters in other parts of the world that sounded super interesting and I was so pleased to see that there is another book coming out. I'll definitely be getting it.
    To me this was a very realistic view of what could potentially happen one day and it was a very insightful look at what it means to be truly alone.
  • (5/5)
    In modern-day San Francisco, a midwife finds herself surrounded by people dying of a new infection, especially newborns and their mothers, all of whom die. She falls sick and is one of the very, very few women who survive, and they soon become members of a hunted species. Men travel in gangs, enslaving women who duly die when they become impregnated. The midwife, who takes different names with each situation she encounters, stocks up on birth control supplies, hoping to stave off some deaths, and heads north to avoid the majority of survivors, who are traveling south. She disguises herself as a man, practices the walk, talk and attitudes of the men she's known, and stays alive and free by arming herself and avoiding humans as much as possible. Occasionally she does find someone with whom she can spend a few days or weeks, but otherwise she slowly deteriorates with despair and loneliness. A few months after she leaves San Francisco she runs into a group of Mormon survivors in Utah and becomes an uneasy neighbor for the winter. I'm not going to go on about the plot, because the rest really is a wonderful unfolding of human caring, hope, stupidity, and cruelty, but the reader should find this out individually. The first third is pretty much "woman on 'The Road' ", but then a few changes occur which give her more of a purpose in continuing. Most of the book is told as a writing exercise for a small group of boys who are copying from originals of the midwife's diaries, so the reader is made aware from the beginning that there is at least some future for humanity. At that point the midwife is legend. Her diaries intertwine with those of another survivor and with the voice of a narrator. At first I thought the narrator was a way for the author to change the tone but paraphrase the diaries themselves. After about the midway point, however, the narrator takes several detours out of the story line to fill in what's happened to some of the earlier characters and around the world in general. This seemed to be a mistake when I first encountered it, but it was interesting to hear a few other stories mixed in, and I got used to it quickly. But it would have been just equally effective to leave the action confined to the situation in the Midwest and the plot line with the midwife. There is some nasty violence, and the portrayal of men in general was scary and unflattering, but I'm not sure it was far off. Mob behavior is always ugly, and when sex is involved it gets out of control. Very, very effective post-apocalyptic fiction, being republished this year and with a sequel planned for 2017 (and already ordered for my Kindle).(Courtesy of netgalley.com)
  • (4/5)
    Not your Handmaid's Tale and yet

    I enjoyed this book. The main character, who is unnamed is in the midst of a dystopian future that makes her career obsolete. How she survives makes for an interesting story.

    I had recently reread The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, another dystopian novel with women's roles as the theme. I have to wonder which vision of the future I would prefer to live in and what the main character from each book would think of the others lives. Even though both books were different I had a sense if familiarity. Both portray woman as victims/yet strong. Both had dim views of possible futures with just a possibility of hope.
  • (4/5)
    Winner of the 2015 Philip K Dick award, this is a brutal post-apocalyptic novel set nearly-now. The world has been ravaged by a flu-like sickness that has spread like wildfire, killing 98% of infected men - and more women. The midwife recovers in a hospital full of the dead, and must make her way in a dangerous new world where women have become prized commodities and men are willing to stop at nothing. Aware that her medical skills are now rarer than hen's teeth, and rapidly apprised of the situation most women find themselves in, she disguises herself as a man and sets off in search of a refuge, swearing to help as many women as she can to at least avoid pregnancy (an almost-certain death sentence as the plague has claimed every newborn since it first appeared, as well as most mothers) even if she can't free them from their immediate predicament.This is not a cheerful post-apocalypse. While it's not entirely clear how long it is since the main die-off (i.e. how long it has taken her to recover), the world is practically empty and the midwife must come to terms with the challenges of survival - including the threat posed by other humans - and the more insidious threat of loneliness and despair. Elison takes the harshest lines here; civilisation is non-existent, and social contracts have expired. Where pockets of human goodness survive, they are constantly under threat.I do think it's flawed - I repeatedly tripped over the narrative structure: it is introduced as the midwife's diaries, but is predominantly third person - whuh? - and sometimes swaps briefly to an omniscient third person to detail what happens to characters after the midwife has moved on, or to outline events elsewhere in the world that the midwife is ignorant of - none of which makes sense given the set-up. I honestly think Elison would have done better to leave this broader world-building for her own reference and cut it out of the final draft. This is an intimate tale of one woman's survival in a world gone to hell in a handbasket - and for my money would have worked even better if she had kept it in tight focus. Elison also re-uses a few tropes that are too well-trodden for my liking: waking in a hospital and unlikely radio messages promising salvation both recall 28 Days Later (although the hospital waking is an older and more tired trope), and her depiction of a small Mormon enclave in Utah suffered from my recent read of A Study in Scarlet. Overall, not one to read lightly or if you're feeling down on humanity, but worth picking up if you have a particular interest in (post)apocalypse downers and notable for focusing on the mental/emotional aspects of survival as well as showcasing a strong female protagonist. A good read, that promises well for future novels by this author.
  • (5/5)
    This is a dark and gritty post-apocalyptic tale. The protagonist is a nurse working in a bay area hospital when a world-wide pandemic breaks out. Seemingly everyone gets sick and few people survive. Like Captain Trips in The Stand or The Georgia Flu in Station Eleven, the fast-moving virus in this book decimates nearly the entire population of the planet. Hardest hit are women. Not only does the disease leave few females alive, the ones that do survive can no longer bear children. The human species is seemingly doomed. To make matters even worse, most of the remaining men form enclaves and enslave any women they can catch. Written as a series of journal entries, with several omniscient-view asides to fill in a few blanks, the book tells how our female protagonist navigates this scary new world.Get this book. While it is likely to keep you up at night, it's short so it should only be for a couple of nights. If you are 16 or under, do not get this book. It is not for you. It's probably better that you re-read The Hunger Games or Divergent instead.
  • (5/5)
    Fabulous book well narrated. Absolutely loved it. The world created by the author feels real and the characters full, rounded and believable. Can't wait to start the next in the series
  • (4/5)
    Actual Rating 3.5 stars, it dragged in places I wished it didn't, but the ending has me looking forward to continuing the series
  • (4/5)
    lots of characters to keep up with but it works
  • (5/5)
    This was a great story. Nice to have a female lead - not enough of that. I really enjoyed the book - made me feel like I was there!
  • (4/5)
    I loved the book up until the end. The story was great! I loved following the main character, the story is amazing. But the end was so sudden and rushed and a bit confusing
  • (5/5)
    Absolutely brilliant! This is the best dystopian novel I've come across so far.
  • (5/5)
    I stumbled upon this book and am sooooo glad that I did. Unique to this genre and thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • (5/5)
    This is a powerful post-apocalyptic story about hope, loss, and identity. The main character is compelling, and there's a good balance of worldbuilding detail with the limited knowledge of the protagonist. I liked that the story didn't ignore the existence of queer and trans people. I'm excited to read more in this series!
  • (5/5)
    4.5/5 stars!

    Just like in the novel REBECCA, we never learn the main character's name in this book. Hence the title!

    I discovered Meg Elison through a few short stories she's written for horror anthologies and magazines and I decided that I wanted to try one of her novels. This one was recently on sale and to add the audio to the Kindle version didn't break the bank, and here we are.

    THE BOOK of the UNNAMED MIDWIFE was a bleak post-apocalyptic tale wherein a disease wipes out nearly every woman on the planet. The scarcity of women soon becomes a problem for those that did survive the disease. Will they also be able to survive the wandering groups of men, many of whom haven't seen a woman in over a year? You'll have to read this to find out.

    I loved the main character in this novel. Yeah, she swore a lot, was bisexual and independent. (These are a few aspects other reviews have pointed out as being negative; I actually enjoyed them.) I liked how her previous work as a nurse and midwife helped her to try to save other women she came across in her travels. I also respected her intelligence-dressing as a man to disguise her gender and doing whatever else needed to be done.

    I enjoyed the way the story was presented with one exception. This tale was introduced as being the main character's diary, and a woman is having some young boys transcribe it decades later. As such, this is mostly a first person narrative; except that in a few spots the tale slipped into a third person narrative and that did not quite make sense to me, as there was no way our heroine could know these things. (Though I was happy to learn the facts related during those portions, to be sure.) That is the only gripe I had with the book.

    Post apocalyptic fiction doesn't capture my attention as much as it once did, but this book rose above the normal PA tale. I was engrossed and invested and I wanted our unnamed hero to win, though "winning" was hard to classify-other than just surviving.

    I should also mention that the narrator was most excellent and managed to believably deliver a number of different characters and accents. Kudos to Angela Dawe!

    To wrap up here, I highly recommend this book and/or the audiobook if that's your thing, most especially to fans of post apocalyptic fiction and strong female characters!

    *I bought this book & the audiobook with my hard earned money and this is my honest opinion.*
  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed all the parts from the Midwife's perspective but found the framing device of the future post-apocalyptic society kinda unnecessary. Props for a bisexual heroine who is also the birth control fairy.
  • (5/5)
    This book brings a stark reminder to how valuable we are and how bleak humanity can be without hope or true desire to keep going. This is a dystopian and end of the world novel about women who survive through hell and who come out as something else. Well worth the read. Well spoken narrator that voices the characters. She was so believable and hypnotizing, it made you feel as if you were there. I would say this tops most dystopian literature.
  • (5/5)
    In the days when the world had not yet fallen, the screaming of sirens was constant.
    Imagine a plague that grabs hold of humanity ruthlessly. A fever that wipes out millions of the Earth's inhabitants. A world where women and children are a rarity. That is the world that the midwife wakes up to.
    Went to sleep and the world was dying --- woke up and it was dead and gone.
    I was completely sucked into this post-apocalyptic novel. No women left after a fever has wreaked havoc on the world. The few women survivors are hunted like an endangered species trapped, sold, traded, and still dying in childbirth. I was absorbed in the novel early on and it took lead in my currently reading stack.

    There were  a lot of things that I absolutely loved about this one. I loved that we followed the plague through the eyes of a medical professional and a midwife in particular (shout out to all the amazing and wonderful midwives out there). It was a horrible and honest account of death and despair from the pages of her personal diary. She cussed and rambled, complained and theorized the way anyone does in their diary and it was entirely believable. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought it was truth.

    Another part I loved about this novel is that it was open about sexuality. We live in a world where men love men and women love women, and that was not forgotten when the world ended. The first people the midwife encounters are a gay couple doing what it takes to survive. Her next encounter makes her decide to change her appearance and behavior, because if she is going to survive, which she is, she must pose as a man to keep herself safe.

    But again, sexuality is fluid pre-plague and aside from the lack of women, sexuality remains fluid. There are women that capitalize on their rarity by forming what are called hives where one woman controls multiple men through sex. The midwife is open about her relationships with both men and women. The entire approach to LGBT is what I loved. It isn't stigmatized or something disgusting, it is just a matter of fact that people yearn, desire, and need to be with other people.
    It's not like that. I like people. They come with the bodies they come with.
    I also loved that the story comes from the midwife's diary. It's such a great concept to tell how the world is crumbling and what the midwife has to do to survive through her own words. It isn't the first post-apocalyptic novel to do so, but it does it very well. It was so realistic. Her journals are the beginning of society rewriting history.

    The only part I did not like about this novel was the font, and that is more of a personal preference than anything. On my kindle, the parts that were written in the diary were in a script that was hard for me to read. When I turned the publisher's font off, it was so large that only a few sentences filled up my screen, while everything else was the perfect size. It was annoying and, at times, distracting, but only a small fly in the ointment.

    The Book of Etta, the sequel, is next on my TBR list. I loved this book and Elison is a fantastic writer that had me staying up late to read what happened next.

    And, if the world ever starts to end, I'm keeping a diary.
  • (4/5)
    I would like to thank 47North & NetGalley for an e-ARC of this book to review. Though I received this e-book for free, that has no impact upon the honesty of my review. Goodreads Teaser: "The apocalypse will be asymmetrical. In the aftermath of a plague that has decimated the world population, the unnamed midwife confronts a new reality in which there may be no place for her. Indeed, there may be no place for any woman except at the end of a chain. A radical rearrangement is underway. With one woman left for every ten men, the landscape that the midwife travels is fraught with danger. She must reach safety— but is it safer to go it alone or take a chance on humanity? The friends she makes along the way will force her to choose what’s more important. Civilization stirs from the ruins, taking new and experimental forms. The midwife must help a new world come into being, but birth is always dangerous… and what comes of it is beyond anyone’s control."I went into this book with very few expectations as I'd forgotten the premise, and thus was blind beyond what the title could tell me. And I'll admit I'm somewhat glad that I didn't know what to expect, as it gave me more freedom to enjoy the story as it unfolded. And unfold it does. This story is told from the past and present simultaneously, and done with a deft hand. Every now and again we get jolted out of our protagonist's story and into the present, as defined by Mother Ina, another midwife. Through Ina and her charges we get a sense of the current world, and how the unnamed midwife's world created what is their now. Jane, the unnamed midwife, is an interesting person. She witnesses the death of her world and still she manages to survive. Jane remains somewhat aloof and detached from the events of her life, but still manages to imbue her words with the horror of her world. She uses her scientific training and natural inclinations to stick to the basics required for survival, and yet allows glimmers of her soft side to shine through every now and again. Those glimmers are what keeps her from becoming so cold and clinical that her story loses all impact, and instead keep us invested in it as events unfold around her. While this is clearly a dystopian tale, it is still refreshing in its creative approach. This story is unlike almost any other dystopian story I've read - both in the characters and the entire delivery. And that distinction is important, making this book a very worthwhile and engaging, entertaining read.
  • (4/5)
    In some not-too-distant future, a plague has wiped out most of humanity but it has been especially devastating to women. Not only have they died in hugely disproportionate numbers to men but the few who survive and become pregnant mostly die in childbirth. And even in the rare occasions when the mother survives, every single pregnancy ends in miscarriage, stillbirth, or death of the baby at or very shortly after birth. Because of their scarcity, women quickly become hardly more than commodities to be sexually and physically abused often by groups of men as well as traded for other things. But all men are not evil and all women are not victims. Some men try to protect the women they meet often at great risk to themselves. There are also groups called ‘hives’ that form around a single woman who is in charge and sets the rules and where often the men are only marginally treated better than women who have been enslaved. The Unnamed Midwife by author Meg Elison is an often grim and almost unrelentingly dark novel about the devastating effects of disasters especially on women. It begins, in a more distant future, as an older woman instructs a group of young men to copy the journals of one woman, the unnamed midwife of the title. She had been a nurse before the plague and, afterwards, travelled the country disguised as a man seeking a safe haven. Having seen the dangers for women in childbirth, she has gathered all of the contraceptives she can find and distributes them whenever possible to any women she meets. In her journeys, she encounters women who have been captured and chained as slaves and a Mormon haven that seems at first a safe place for the women there but harbours some dark secrets. Eventually and by accident, she encounters a couple who convince her to accompany them to a place called Fort Nowhere. Although it is led by a man, a fact that at first makes her uncertain about staying, she soon learns that it is a caring and accepting community, one that welcomes her and respects her for her skills and where people can freely explore different gender roles without judgment or censure.The novel won the Philip K. Dick Award for 2014 and it is easy to see why. The unnamed midwife who goes by various names throughout (but never her real one) is a strong and interesting character who can be caring and kind but capable of doing whatever it takes to survive. The story is told from different sources including her journal in which, along with her own story, she has transcribed the journals of others that she met on her journey. But it is also departs from the journals to describe events that she is unaware of including the fate of many of the people she met on the way as well as people she knew before the plague. It is, as I said, almost unrelentingly dark but it does hint at a brighter future some time long after the unnamed midwife’s own story has ended. This is a beautifully written and engrossing novel and I would recommend it highly to anyone who enjoys dystopian tales especially novels like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
  • (4/5)
    This is the story of a P.A. (Physician’s Assistant) in San Francisco who wakes up one day to discover that the city, the country, perhaps the world have been wiped out by “the Women’s Plague.” The virus causes babies to be stillborn, the mothers to die in a raging fever during delivery, and 98% of the males to succumb as well. As the eponymous character moves though the post-apocalyptic landscape, she does what she needs to do in order to survive and search for meaning in this life.The novel is heavy with import; but it suffers from a surfeit of story, in particular the passages regarding another character’s journey; and some underdeveloped ideas, like hives (a single-female-led colony of male acolytes.) The author also includes a couple of “off-camera” scenes – passages which describe action that could not be known to the main character or others, which can be immediately gratifying to the reader/listener, but breaks the integrity of the narrative.Angela Dawe takes a while to hit her stride, and her male characterizations are not strong. Her near-neutral delivery mutes the intensity of the scenes of rape, murder, and death; and she flirts dangerously close to melodrama at times when she is clearly more invested in the story. On the whole, however, Angela Dawe keeps her performance within credible range, i.e. listeners will believe that the narrator is “the unnamed midwife.”
  • (4/5)
    Meg Elison's THE BOOK OF THE UNNAMED MIDWIFE won the 2015 Philip K. Dick award for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form. This award always interests me because so much science fiction has originally appeared in this form over the years, and also because PKD was such a strange and interesting man himself. I won’t go into detail on him here except to say that he lived most of his life in poverty only to have many of his works made into movies and TV shows after his death, the revenues of which total more than a billion dollars so far. A few examples of these are Total Recall, Blade Runner, Minority Report, The Adjustment Bureau and on and on and on. So when this award comes around every year, I can’t help but notice the winner.

    Meg Elison’s novel is set in the aftermath of a largely unexplained plague that has decimated the world population, especially women, who number only ten percent of the survivors. Childbirth appears impossible through most of the narrative, though we know this will change since the narrative structure has most of the text as the diary of the unnamed midwife as preserved by a future civilization. The unnamed midwife takes on various false names throughout the text, so I’ll simply refer to her as UM. And speaking of narrative structure, Ms. Elison uses symbols like “=” in the diary entries to stand in for words and presumably give the feel of a real handwritten diary. Maybe I’m just old, but I found this narrative gimmick annoying and it kept grabbing my attention and pulling me out of the text. Perhaps young readers are more used to this kind of thing from text messaging and don’t find it so annoying.

    UMs story begins in the immediate aftermath and is quite engaging. As you can imagine, there is the immediate need to survive and find a way to get along in a rapidly devolving society. There is the expected violence, and with the sexual imbalance it is particularly harrowing for women. These parts are particularly ugly and ring all too true. UM was a labor and delivery nurse before the world fell apart, so she is particularly devastated by the inability of babies to survive birth in the aftermath of the plague.

    UM travels widely through this post-apocalyptic world both physically and emotionally. Ms. Elison does a particularly good job of carrying the readers’ emotions along with those of UM. At first, I thought UM was going to evolve the attitude of the atheist mocking religious enclaves that survived. At another point, I thought she was going to take the opposite course and evolve into a religious true-believer. She never quite does either, and it is a very interesting journey the reader takes along with her. All in all, I think this novel is a worthy winner of the PDK award.
  • (4/5)
    This is a novel take on the theme of plague apocalypse. I’m not sure if George R. Stewart was the first to use this idea in “Earth Abides”, but that was certainly the first such book that I read – many years ago. The plot of that book is not highly memorable beyond its basic message, which is that while humankind may survive a devastating plague, as a species, civilization will not if the surviving people are too few, too scattered, and too random in their knowledge and skill sets. We see this again in “The Book of the Unnamed Midwife.” The twist Meg Elison adds is that her plague kills far more women than men, and also kills fetuses and newborns, often taking the mother with them. Her story is essentially a sociological study of what happens when this situation is superimposed upon the collapse of civilization. It isn’t pretty. This is not a book to read if you are looking for positive male characters. There aren’t a lot. I’m not sure I’m convinced that there wouldn’t be more good men left, but one has to take into account that the female protagonist is in such a precarious position that she generally can’t risk waiting to find out.The events of the story are compellingly told, using an odd mix of first person journal entries and omniscient third person narration. The language is very raw. Events and visual descriptions are often horrific. This is a hard-hitting book. Plot-wise, though, I thought it was a little weak in that the protagonist – the midwife – has no goal beyond survival. She more or less wanders through the world witnessing the state that humanity has descended into. The book is nominally science fiction because it is set in the future and the plague is a “natural” disease rather than something magical or supernatural, but the science is social science, not biology. We never learn the origin of the plague, nor are given any explanation of how it does what it does to people. When in the end it finally relents, we are given no explanation for that, either. Elison takes a swipe at conservative Christianity (LDS, specifically) for having an unjustified “God will save us because we are righteous” attitude, but her plague might as well be an act of God for all the scientific explanation she provides. To be clear, Elison’s emphasis is plainly on human adaptation, not microbiology, and the book is best read with that perspective.
  • (4/5)

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    As The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison falls totally in my wheelhouse, it’s no surprise that I really loved this story. An apocalypse that is caused by an unknown illness is claiming many victims, particularly children, babies and women. Our main character falls victim to the disease but she was one of the very few women that recovered. The world she came back to was a totally different one and her first priority was finding somewhere safe. Women were being taken against their will and had become a valuable commodity to the gangs of men who were wandering around.Disguising herself as a man, she takes to the road and the book unfolds as if we were reading the pages of her journal as well as entries from others she meets on the road. Over the course of a number of years she wanders, leaving behind her past life in San Francisco and her career as a nurse/midwife, but her medical skills become an important aid to her survival. The virus appears to still live in the survivors and is a huge danger to both the unborn fetus and the pregnant woman.The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is both gripping and grim, yet I felt it never went too far over the top to become unbelievable. I am simply glad that I only get to read about this type of disaster as I wouldn't survive more than a day or two if it actually real. Although this woman’s story is pretty much wrapped up by the end of the book, there are still many avenues left to explore regarding the status of women in this post-apocalyptic world and I am glad that there is sequel that will hopefully expand on this issue.

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