The Birth House is the story of Dora Rare, the first daughter to be born in five generations of Rares. As a child in an isolated village in Nova Scotia, she is drawn to Miss Babineau, an outspoken Acadian midwife with a gift for healing. Dora becomes Miss B.’s apprentice, and together they help the women of Scots Bay through infertility, difficult labours, breech births, unwanted pregnancies and even unfulfilling sex lives. Filled with details as compelling as they are surprising, The Birth House is an unforgettable tale of the struggles women have faced to have control of their own bodies and to keep the best parts of tradition alive in the world of modern medicine.
From the Hardcover edition.
WINNER 2007 - Evergreen Award
"From the beginning of Ami McKay's debut novel, The Birth House, we know we're in for a bit of magic. . . . The Birth House is compelling and lively, beautifully conjuring a close-knit community and reminding us, as Dora notes, that the miracle happens not in birth but in the love that follows."
-The Globe and Mail
"The Birth House is filled with charming detail . . . McKay has a quiet and lyrical style that suits her subject. . . [It is] a story of individual human tenderness and endurance. . . . McKay is clearly a talented writer with a subtle sense of story, one that readers will look forward to hearing from, again and again."
-The Gazette (Montreal)
“Fresh as a loaf of homemade bread just out of the oven, The Birth House, a tale of sex, birth, love and pain will more than satisfy the hungry reader.”
-Joan Clark, author of An Audience of Chairs
“The moon over Nova Scotia must have extra magic in it to have fostered a writer of Ami McKay’s lyrical sway and grace. She retrieves our social history and lays it out before us in a collage of vivid, compelling detail. In McKay’s depiction of Dora Rare, an early twentieth century midwife, attention is paid to the day-to-day moments of love and tending that enable humans to endure. And we the readers get to witness the emergence of a powerful new voice in Canadian writing.”
-Marjorie Anderson, co-editor of Dropped Threads I and II
“Ami McKay is a marvellous storyteller who writes with a haunting and evocative voice. The novel offers a world of mystery and wisdom, a world where tradition collides with science, where life and death meet under the moon. With a startling sense of time and place The Birth House travels through a landscape that is at once deeply tender and exquisitely harsh. McKay is possessed with a brilliant narrative gift."
-Christy Ann Conlin, author of Heave
“Reading Ami McKay’s first novel is like rummaging through a sea-chest found in a Nova Scotian attic. Steeped in lore and landscape, peppered with journal entries, newspaper clippings and advertisements, this marvellous ‘literary scrapbook’ captures the harsh realities of the seacoast community of Scots Bay, Nova Scotia during WWI. With meticulous detail and visceral description, McKay weaves a compelling story of a woman who fights to preserve the art of midwifery, reminding us of the need, in changing times, for acts of bravery, kindness, and clear-sightedness.”
-Beth Powning, author of The Hatbox Letters
From the Hardcover edition.
"I am a midwifery student in Toronto -I have just finished reading The Birth House – and it is one of those books that will sit on my shelf beside The Diviners and The Red Tent and be read over and over again through the years. Thank you so much for the beautiful story you birthed - it seems unfair that I read it all in just 2 days after so many years of dedicated work! It makes it all the sweeter to come back to and read again!"
–C. in Toronto
"How true the message and experience of pregnancy still rings true today! How very inspiring to become more of an activist outside the tea circle! At the very end to the novel, there was such a heaviness on my chest and I just wanted to cry, you hit every nail on the head for me."
–B. in Nova Scotia
"I am a doula working in Ottawa… Thank you for writing about midwives, women and our struggle to have our births our way."
–C. in Ottawa
"I feel a real connection with this book and the characters and I myself am a Birth Doula…This novel really touched something in me - making me feel that I have been there as well. Thank you so much for this, it is a beautiful story…
One of your greatest fans, In the Birthing Spirit!"
–J. in Canada
"I picked up The Birth House last Saturday a.m. at Pearson airport. All the way to Kelowna, BC, I read your book. I laughed, I cried, I breathed deep, I rejoiced, I got angry...most of all I could not put the book down until I finished it. I loved the book, just loved it. Thank you so much for writing such a wonderful story about women and birth and the importance of birthing women to be with women and the importance of honouring our birth history."
–N. in Toronto
"Rural women are a strong breed, maybe not educated in the traditional way but certainly educated on how to survive through networking and supporting each other. Even though our society has evolved we still deal with the same issues just at a different level. You are teaching today's youth they can make a difference by standing up for what they believe in. Please don't stop writing. I will brag about your talents and wish for many more books written by Ami McKay."
–A. in Nova Scotia
"It has been a while since I laughed and cried while reading a book. A writer who has the power to knead in the reader, slowly, carefully as to be a fly on the wall, is a skilled craft. You have the wonderful ability to paint your reader in to the scene, you should be very proud."
–C. in Canada
"I want to thank you so much for your wonderful story of The Birth House. The names, the homes, the scenery-even the food-all so familiar with "life on the Mountain". It's like you grew up there and know the way everything is. I usually rush through books I am enjoying, however, I have hung onto and savoured every word in The Birth House. My mother, grandmother and great grandmother all grew up on the North Mountain, not far from Scots Bay. My great grandmother was a midwife and "healer" in the early 1900's and my great grandfather was the local Veterinarian (among other things). Your book has so closely mirrored what life was like on the Mountain-and surprisingly how little some things have changed. In my humble opinion I think Oprah would LOVE this book and you SHOULD be # 1 on the bestsellers list in no time!"
–P. in Canada
"I am a registered Ultrsound Technologist, so I deal frequently with pregnancies, wanted or unwanted, contraception and other women's health problems. I was completely taken with how things were back in those days and how much things have changed.... and a little sad that midwives are not as easy to find in this province as they should be. This book has certainly opened my mind even more regarding this topic. I really wanted to say a simple "thanks" for having written this book......most certainly one of the best books that I have read in a long time. Even before I was done I had already recommended it to many people!"
–Sincerely, J. from Nova Scotia
"I just finished reading The Birth House, and what a wonderful work. As soon as I closed the pages, I wrote a wish on a bay-leaf and burned it in the hope that a little of Miss B.'s wisdom might bring me luck. I will quickly pass it along to my grandmother, who I know will truly appreciate it. She and all her siblings were delivered in their home
in P.E.I., I know she will be touched to read it."
–A. in Canada
"Hello Ami, I started your book yesterday and finished it this morning. (I was quite pleased to be the first at the library to take it out, although l definitely want to purchase a copy for my own library!) What can I say that you haven't heard so far? You created such a heart-warming story that at times it truly brought me to tears. I absolutely could not wait to share it as one of my book club selections but wanted to dive into it as soon as possible. I knew immediately that this was a story filled with everything I look for in modern literature. Congratulations to you and all the very best to you in your future."
– L. in Southern Ontario
"Wow!! I just finished reading The Birth House and what an exceptional novel it was. I didn't want the book to end, I could have kept reading and reading and reading....this was a novel I couldn't put down. Kept me up until 4:00 this morning when I finally caved, went to bed for 3 hours, got back up and read til the end. THANK YOU for giving us such an amazing read! I hope you are currently in the process of penning another novel??"
–L. in Omemee, Ontario
From the Hardcover edition.
About this Author
Ami McKay's work has aired on CBC radio's Maritime Magazine, This Morning, OutFront, and The Sunday Edition. Her documentary, Daughter of Family G, won an Excellence in Journalism Meallion at the 2003 Atlantic Journalism Awarsd. When she moved with her family to Scots Bay, Nova Scotia, she learned that their new home was once known as the birth house.
From the Hardcover edition.
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