A fever has spread across the Earth, killing a large amount of the population in its wake. Almost all women and children have died, and child-birth is at a 100% mortality rate. After succumbing to the fever, the midwife awakens to a desolate land where women almost cease to exist and being one poses a great danger. As she alters her identity, she must make her way through the wasteland that remains. Her only constant companion is a journal. Will civilization ever be rebuilt or is humanity lost forever?
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife can easily be a challenging read at times. Being a dystopian tale full of sickness and death, it goes without saying that this story is grim and dark. That is okay. I am a huge fan of the genre, so I am accustomed to how it goes. There is something about the despair and struggle that quickly draws me in. Maybe it is the desire to read about individuals overcoming obstacles and re-establishing life. Let’s face it, for all of the darkness, there is always a strong protagonist and solid platform of hope that is normally built with these stories. It is appealing.
The world building in this title is substantial. I will not call it rich, it isn’t mean to be. The aftermath of the plague has left the land desolate. It is depressing and the author has done a wonderful job of conveying this emotion and impression on the reader.
The narration chosen for this book is fascinating. We are taken on a journey adeptly accomplished through a third person perspective alternating with journal excerpts. The journal entries are intriguing, but unfortunately the font was a but painful to read at times. It really slowed the experience down, while I had felt like the alternating narration should have actually increased the pace. Maybe this is something that will be tweaked before the final release. It was a real shame.
Before we are introduced to our main protagonist, the story begins with several young boys sitting down to transcribe what is known as The Book of the Dying (a collection of the journal entries that will compose the midwife’s story). This added a touch of depth to the narrative that can be greatly appreciated.
“The Book of the Dying is very hard to read, and terrible things happen in it. Some of you might cry or feel sick. That’s ok. I felt sick, too, when I came to read it.”
–Meg Elison, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife
The unnamed midwife hits with a strong impact. She is everything you can expect from a woman left alone to survive in a dangerous and nearly barren land. She is incredibly viable and full of raw honesty. There is no sugar-coating. She is real, she is human. And this is what makes her so empowered and beautiful as a character. We feel her fear, her sense of despair, and her anger.
I teetered between 3 and 4 stars with this title. There are not many scenes of true action and the pace is pretty slow and steady. But then I realized that the author was simply remaining true to the world she has created. If you allow yourself to be submerged, it becomes truly terrifying.
Please note that this book is graphic. It touches on every aspect of humanity after a catastrophic event. If you struggle to read material that is sexually explicit or violent at times, this is probably not the best choice for you. But if you are seeking a sincerely brutal view of humanity in the raw and most open form, I highly recommend The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. Recommended for all fans of dystopia.
*I received a copy of this title courtesy of the publisher & Netgalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. I would like to thank them for allowing me to review this title.
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