Coming of age, court, Family dynamics, Fiction, Finding Your Self, Social Commentary

#332 Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

Midwives by Chris BohjalianSummary

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian is a book that has made it into the somewhat selective Oprah’s Book Club. Sometimes, I get rather confused as to what the criteria is that enables a book to join this particular club. This is the second time I have read this novel. I wouldn’t call it overly stimulating, but it definitely seems to be a one-of-a-kind cross between two different genres, well, maybe more.

Our narrator for this novel is a girl named Connie Danforth. She lives in Vermont in 1981 with her mother, a midwife, and her father, an architect. She is fourteen. The book is divided into three parts. The first part explains the life of Connie and her family. The second part explains the tragedy that affects not only Connie and her family, but an entire community. The third part of the book is about the ensuing court trial that Connie’s mother must endure.

Connie describes her hippie mother as being a hippie. She was all about peace and love. She loved nothing more than helping mothers bring their babies into the world. Sibyl Danforth is not medically trained in the slightest, well, officially anyway. She is what people like to refer to as a “lay midwife.” She uses her knowledge and experience to birth babies instead of state licensed medical training. She has delivered over five-hundred babies before a terrible event befalls her.

Connie recalls how family life was before and after this event. Connie was used to being left alone because her mother had to be away from home so much delivering babies. She was used to the Vermont mud in the spring. She had a boyfriend named Tom Corts. She had a best friend named Rollie. They rode a horse named Witchgrass. She aspired at being grown-up, but in reality was still a very young girl. She watches as her family life seemingly crumbles out from under her.

One of Sibyl’s patients is a woman transplanted from Alabama. Her named is Charlotte Fugett Bedford. Her husband is a hellfire and brimstone preacher in a little Vermont church. They live in a little house in the woods. Charlotte is a rather frail-looking thing, but was determined to deliver her baby at home. Connie often babysat the son of Charlotte, Foogie or Jared before the event happened. When Charlotte goes into labor nothing is out of the ordinary. The weatherman is calling for bad weather, but that’s no surprise to anybody who lives in Vermont. Sibyl and her assistant, Anne, find their way to Charlotte’s home. Charlotte is there in labor along with her husband, Asa, the preacher.

Labor is hard for Charlotte. The weather deteriorates rapidly. Sibyl tries everything in her chest of knowledge to progress the labor. After Charlotte has tried to deliver her baby for hours and hours, it becomes apparent that this birth would be much better suited to a hospital. The phone lines are dead from too much ice. The roads are too slippery. Even when Sibyl tries to make it out of the driveway, she just ends up spraining her ankle and putting her car into a snow bank. The only thing Sibyl can do now is try to progress the labor along while trying to get help. She waits for snow plows in vain, but continues to help Charlotte.

At one moment, Charlotte goes lifeless. It appears to Sibyl that she has had a stroke. She tries CPR, but it seems in vain. In a moment of desperation, Sibyl asks Asa if she should save the baby. Sibyl uses a kitchen knife to do an emergency caesarean section on Charlotte’s Bedford’s dead body. The baby, a boy named Veil, is alive, but Charlotte is quite dead.

In the hours after this birth, it seems nothing is out of the ordinary. It seems nothing terrible will happen as a result, but it’s only for a few short hours. Soon, very soon, it becomes apparent that criminal charges will be pressed against Sibyl Danforth. The question is whether to charge her with murder or manslaughter. Sibyl is blindsided, believing that she had done everything in her power to save Charlotte and her baby, Veil. Connie watches as her mother is attacked on all sides. She listens to an answering machine fill up with call after call from reporters and investigators. She watches her parents hire a big-city lawyer to take Sibyl’s case.

Connie is almost helpless as she watches the ensuing court preparations and eventual trial. She’s too young to help in any significant way and she feels the tension. There is a way in which she helps though, and it’s a way you might not expect.

What I liked

I always enjoy reading a book about a midwife. I have read several books in my life concerning midwives. It’s a very interesting practice, that’s shamefully not as practiced in the United States as it should be. It’s all really interesting. If you dive into some of the historical information about midwifery and the general opinions of it, you can see how it has changed with the introduction of Western medicine, but without any real reason to change.

This book illustrates a fight that has been going on between two forms of healthcare for a long, long time. Midwives used to be revered, but as the profession of “doctor” came into being, midwives were often cast with suspicion. In witch trial prone areas, the midwife was usually the first person to be labeled as a witch, which is really quite sad. When doctors came into being, they argued that women should have their babies in a hospital, it would be safer. Midwives, knew it was perfectly safe for women to have babies at home since they had been doing it for thousands of years.

The United States is really the sad country with one of the lowest percentages of midwives practicing compared to most other countries. In other parts of the world, it’s really not that weird to have your baby at home. In the United States, people look at you like you’re freaking crazy if you say that. It seems to come down to a money issue in the states. It is true that some women are safer having their babies strictly in a hospital and the option should be there, that’s something both doctors, midwives, and most logically thinking people would agree on. It is not true that every woman should have her baby in a hospital, but some people, mainly doctors, think that’s the way it should be.

The nice thing about a hospital visit is that they might be able to save your life. The bad thing about that hospital visit is that you’re going to end up with a huge bill. This is a bill that will be more pricey than a bill for the same service in another country, almost without exception.  The standard price of having a baby in the hospital is about twenty-thousand dollars, forty-thousand if you have a C-section. If you have your baby at home, the standard price is about fifteen-hundred dollars. That’s quite the difference isn’t it? If all women suddenly decided to have their babies at home instead of in the hospital, all these OB-GYNs would go broke. The hospitals would suffer as well. Birth is a huge industry in the United States. Once western medicine got a hold of birth as a hospital service, it has never let go.

I explained all of that in order to put the argument in this book into perspective. This book illustrates something very real that could have happened and it illustrates the consequences, quite accurately, of that event. There is a lot of bad-blood depicted in this book between the midwifery community and the medical community. That’s very realistic. That’s how it actually is. In some areas of the country this argument is lessening, while other areas are experiencing a full-on attack on the practice of midwifery.

I really liked how Chris seemed to be able to capture this argument.

What I didn’t like

I am not a fan of court books. This is a court book, it’s not a pure court book. It’s more of a hybrid, but I still don’t like court cases. There are people who freaking love books about court cases, but I really do not. It’s too strict and it’s cruel. It’s mean. I don’t like the attacking nature of court cases. I know we need courts, but I would rather stay away from them for the most part.

I cannot really tell where Chris’ loyalties lie. Is he for home birth? Is he against it? Chris is a man by the way. I do find it a bit odd that a man is writing a book about midwifery, but whatever. If you can write about something convincingly, I guess it doesn’t matter what sex you are. In the end, I can’t really tell if Chris thinks midwives are swell or if he thinks they’re a bunch of hippies. I looked him up and didn’t see any children listed in his Google bio, maybe he has some, maybe he doesn’t, but it does kind of appear that he doesn’t. So I do wonder what the interest was in writing this novel.

I don’t like these instances in which the government tries to squash out traditional practices. That is what this book is about. The government and those lobbying to it, do not want midwifery to be continued to be practiced. To me, it’s just the same as trying to outlaw heirloom breeds of pigs or say that raw milk is bad for you. I may sound totally “out-there” when I say this, but it’s just the government trying to stick its foot in freaking everything. If you want to drink raw milk, go ahead. If you want to raise purple chickens, or whatever, go ahead. If you want to have your baby at home, as long as long you are not high risk, go ahead.

It all comes down to the fact that we as individual are autonomous. We can actually think for ourselves, contrary to what many government officials believe. We can make informed choices about our choices. We’re not stupid. We’re not sheep. We’re not lemmings. We’re people. got it?

Because I don’t like stories like that, this book did kind of grate against me.


If you don’t know anything about this argument between midwifery and western medicine, this might be a good, fictional, account for you to cut your teeth on. Then you could progress onto the non-fiction memoirs of actual midwives, those are pretty good. If you like court books, you might like this book as well.

books about fictional midwives, books about midwives, chris bohjalian, connie danforth, fictional midwives, midwives, midwives by chris bohjalian, midwives in vermont, rand danforth, rollie, sibyl danforth
Bohjalian-Chris, Coming of age, court, Family dynamics, Fiction, Finding Your Self, Social Commentary

Books Based off of other Books, Books Set in the South, court, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Pearl-Matthew, Romantic Fiction, Social Commentary

#223 The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl


Apparently the details surrounding Edgar Allan Poe’s death were a little strange. He died young and the accounts of his death are contradictory depending on the source. This book is about the events surrounding Poe’s death, but it is completely fictional. I mean the part about Poe is real, but the rest of it is made up.

Quintin Clark is an attorney residing in Baltimore. He really has a thing for Edgar Allan Poe. He has read all of Poe’s works and has even gone as far as to write Poe and suggest legal aid. One day Quintin spies something odd. He sees a small funeral procession and doesn’t think much of it. There are only four mourners at the funeral. Clark, I’m going to use Clark instead of Quintin, later learns that this pitiful funeral was for his adored Edgar Allan Poe.

Right away people start suggesting that Poe died as a drunk. I’ve heard that before too. Clark feels terrible about the defamation of character going on and decides to try to solve the mystery of Poe’s death. For a while Clark manages on his own, but soon he finds he needs more help in the matter. He assumes that Poe’s character C. Auguste Dupin is based on a real person from Paris. Clark takes off to Paris to find Dupin.

Meanwhile, Clark has let his legal business slacken. He has neglected his relationship with his fiance or something like his fiance. Clark becomes obsessed with finding more out about Poe. The American public has forgotten, but Clark drums up enough about Poe’s death in Paris that two men are soon searching for the truth about Poe’s death.

Those two men are Claude Dupin and Auguste Duponte. Claude is a lawyer. Auguste is a renowned detective in Paris. At one point both of these men are considered the real life inspiration for C. Auguste Dupin. Clark has a hard time figuring out which one exactly that it is supposed to be. Claude wants to solve the case for notoriety and Auguste has his own reasons.

Along the way, more and more people are drawn into the mess. A woman named Bonjour plays her part. There is also a freed slave who helps out in this whole situation.

Clark gets so wrapped up in the whole mystery that at one point he is suspected of murder.

What I liked: Although, this is a work of fiction, I do like that I learned more about Poe. The author did do a lot of research for his book. He actually has a very nice afterward explaining some of the research and facts associated with the whole event.

What I didn’t like: This whole book was very cloak and dagger. At one point I am pretty sure there was actually a cloak and a dagger. Sometimes I really like mysteries, but this one just seemed so slow. It took me so long to read this book. I have no idea why. The whole thing moved like molasses.

Matthew is a very educated man, I can tell. He uses large words with clarity. He knows what he is talking about, but I don’t think he knows how to animate what he is  talking about. The whole story was interesting, but seemed a little dry.

Near the end there is this explanation like all good mystery novels have. It’s the coming-to-Jesus-the-light-is-on-hallelujah-moment. All the things that were in the dark are made known. This is supposed to be the brilliant magnum opus of the entire story. It’s the cumulative event we were working towards. We’re supposed to enjoy it. We’re supposed to love it. We’re supposed to shout about it.

I didn’t do any shouting.

In fact, I just wanted it to be over. Don’t get me wrong the conclusion was brilliant, but the way in which it was delivered was both dry and very verbose.

This is kind of what I felt like this moment was:

There was a pickle it had bumps on it, this meant that the queen of Spain was having an affair with Prince William, they used a time machine. Because this happened, it rained baby frogs. The slime from the baby frogs caused a fire to start in the bunker. Because of the bunker fire, the beer froze and everybody quit washing their hair. There was popcorn for everybody. A mouse stole a hammer from a walrus. The Walrus put on a tutu and danced the tango with Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton then got a sex change. Monkeys were swinging in the rafters and Whitney Houston came back to life to play bingo. This is how the jar of pickles got opened.

Seriously, I felt a little confused. The logic was there it just felt jumbled. It was presented in this orderly manner, but it still had this over-whelming hoarder-ness to it. It felt like Matthew was trying to string together as many words and crazy ideas as possible.

I hate Clark. He sucks. He’s not terrible as a character, he’s terrible as a person. If this man were real, nobody could put up with him. Sane people don’t do the things Clark decided to do. Sane people remember their responsibilities. Sane people make sure they have a guaranteed income. Sane people make sure their fiance doesn’t get engaged to someone else because said person is being an idiot. It’s nice that you liked Edgar Allan Poe, but you never met him, weren’t related, and really held no responsibility to him whatsoever. Grow up Clark. Grow up.

Overall, this is a book for people who like both the historical novel and the mystery story. You really have to be more analytical than I am to enjoy this book.


court, Family dynamics, Fiction, Hamilton-Jane, Social Commentary

#213 A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton


This is an Oprah book club book so you just know it’s going to have some kind of dysfunction within its pages. This book doesn’t skimp on the dysfunction part.

From the very beginning, and I mean from page one or two, you get the feeling that something bad is going to happen. Something is going to happen that turns everything upside down. You know it’s going to happen. It’s like heading into a head on collision seeing it from half a mile away and knowing it’s going to hurt.

Something bad does happen. Alice and her husband, Howard, live on a dairy farm. They live there with their two daughters, Emma and Claire. The girls are friends with the girls of a woman Alice is friends with. Often, Theresa, the friend, leaves her daughters, Lizzy and Audrey with Alice for a while. They do things like go swimming in the pond. One day when no one suspects anything, Lizzy gets out of sight for just a few minutes. Alice finds her at the pond, dead. The little girl has drowned.

Alice soon finds herself spiraling into some pretty deep depression. She doesn’t do anything. She waits at the hospital the entire time. She waits for a miracle. She denies that things have gone wrong. When life support is finally ended a kind of hazy reality settles in on Alice. She blames herself.

I get why Alice blames herself. Anyone who had half a heart would feel the same way. Alice kind of takes it to extremes, but again, who wouldn’t in the same situation? Alice feels this untransferable guilt. She can’t point it at anything else. She walks through life like a zombie. She stays in bed. She neglects her girls. She runs out on the funeral. She can’t manage to face her friend Theresa. They meet one night in the orchard. Things are not terrible, but Alice still moves through life like a zombie.

Alice finds herself doing semblances of her former life. She is a school nurse. She is asked to sit in on a committee. Alice leaves the committee without notice. She can’t sit through something like that. While she is out of the room police officers question her. Alice really doesn’t know why and doesn’t really care. She simply says that she has hurt everybody. Those words will come back to haunt Alice.

If Alice hadn’t had enough to deal with, she soon finds herself arrested. A hateful little boy has accused her of terrible things. These are things Alice would never do. It’s not long before a few other little boys say the same thing. Alice feels as if the world is conspiring against her and she is helpless to do anything about it. Alice retreats into her own world and her own reasoning, in her head.

There is definitely this lynch mob attitude in the book. I don’t want to say what Alice is accused of. I don’t want to say how it turns out.

What I liked: I don’t know that I liked this book. It does kind of draw you in, but in this train wreck manner, not in the manner of interest. It seems like Jane just wanted to hit the reader with one blow after the other. It’s like she was trying to layer miseries to see how miserable she could make a character.

I do think I like the idea of Alice retreating into her own world. I don’t think the author uses that concept enough in the book. The book is called A Map of the World. This phrase does have special meaning to Alice, but it’s mentioned perhaps twice.

What I didn’t like: Sometimes life is filled with misery. That part of the book is accurate, although, most people generally don’t get as much misery as Alice gets. Alice is a miserable person. She’s also, I don’t know, flaky? It seems like she is weird and sticks to herself. When one person cries witch everyone else cries witch and no one is there to say otherwise. You know it was only the strange women who lived alone or could do things men were supposed to do that got called witches. Alice is something of a witch, not that she does spells, but that she doesn’t fit the standard of women in her area. She isn’t burned at the stake, but she comes awfully close.

I don’t like that Alice gets accused of things she doesn’t do. It happens .It’s terrible. It’s awful. There are people who actually do spend life in prison or get executed because they were accused of something they didn’t do. It’s so sad. Truth is a very important thing. Justice is a very important thing. Sometimes they don’t match up like they’re supposed to.

I feel sorry for Alice, but then I don’t. She isn’t one of those characters you can rally around. She had a very condensed life. You couldn’t say that she touched many people. You couldn’t say that she left any impressions.

There is a lot of misfortune in this book. I mean, A LOT. One thing happens right after the other. Life isn’t all misery, sometimes it seems that way, but it’s not.

Here is another problem I have with this story. I hate it when kids are abused. I hate it when people physically, mentally, or sexually abuse children and get away with it. You cannot screw up a person like that. It’s so wrong. I think Casey Anthony is guilty. I think it’s wrong to drown your kids in the lake or in the bath tub. I think it was a terrible thing for Elizabeth Smart to be held captive the way she was. With all this said, there are kids that are brats. The kid is not always right. There are brats that lie solely for the purpose of lying or trying to get someone in trouble. I have known kids like this. They don’t care about the consequences. They may very well understand the fact that jail time, a prison sentence, or social stigma may follow the person they accuse of whatever, but they don’t care. They don’t care about anything but themselves. There are people who say their children are little angels, with some children that is true, with most children it isn’t, and with a few, it’s the complete opposite. It is possible from a child to have a mental disorder, even if they’re very young. It’s possible for a very young child to learn terrible things from a very young age. It happens. I don’t want anyone to argue that it doesn’t.

I am the kind of a person who wants to give a little kid the benefit of a doubt. I want to believe this kid isn’t the spawn of the devil, but sometimes that is how it turns out. Maybe ‘spawn of the devil’ is a little strong, but it gets my point across. All children are not these innocent little creatures that don’t know if they’re hurting the people they’re hurting. Sometimes you just run across a bad egg. It happens and it might not even be a fault of the parents. Kids who wrongly accuse other people of terrible things give a lot of other kids bad reputations. It’s because of this that it’s unwise to be alone with any kid that isn’t related to you for a period longer than five or ten minutes. You can’t tell from the outside if the kid is a sociopath.

Even though this book isn’t my cup of cocoa, I do think the author does a very good job of explaining this ‘demon child’ scenario.

Overall, interesting book, but definitely not pleasant.


Books set in Europe, Coming of age, court, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Schlink-Bernard, Social Commentary, WWII

#209 The Reader by Bernard Schlink


Life after WWII in Germany was really tough. The country was ripped in half. Buildings were hardly standing if they were standing at all. People were poor. Inflation and deflation both caused problems with the people who were left. Some of those people were Jews who survived. Some of those people were Germans who helped Jews survive. Some of those people were Germans who aided the Nazis in various ways. This book addresses something of what happened to the Germans who aided the Nazis.

Our main character, Michael, is fifteen when we meet him. He has had a bought of hepatitis. My grandmother also had hepatitis around this time. It takes Michael a long time to recover. He is in bed for months on end. While he is in bed he reads. He never really thinks that one moment, the moment he realizes he is sick, will change how he looks upon the rest of his life.

Before Michael is bedridden he is walking home from school one day. He throws up all over someone’s doorstep. He is a little confused because he has never really been sick before. A woman comes out and cleans him up. She tells him to go home. Michael relayed this scenario to his parents. His mother insists that when he is better he will thank this woman.

Michael does get better. He sees this woman not quite as he remembered her. There is something appealing to this woman. Michael goes back again and things advance at an alarming rate. Before Michael knows he is having an affair with an older woman. She’s only thirty-six, so she’s not that old, but still, gross.

Let me just insert something here, I think dating younger men is gross. I have three younger brothers I don’t want to date a guy younger than me. Guys take so much longer to mature. I know some women date younger guys and things work out fine, but as for me, I could never bring myself to date a younger man. So this part of the story kind of weirds me out.

One of the pastimes of the strange couple is reading. Michael reads to her, Hanna. He reads all kinds of books to her. Almost every day he reads to her. One day she disappears. Michael is told she has moved.

Michael spends a few years trying to make sense of what has transpired. The image of Hanna always sticks in his mind. He tries to measure new girlfriends up to Hanna. He thinks about Hanna in many places.

He finally does see her again, but not in a place you would expect. Hanna had a past that she never told Michael. She also has a secret she is willing to suffer many things to keep. Michael, at one point, figures this secret out, but doesn’t do anything about it. This is the part where we think about what happened to the Germans who aided the Nazis.

Michael continues to do things for Hanna, but I won’t tell you what because that would defeat the purpose of trying to get you to read the book.

What I liked: I’ve read this book two or three times before now. It’s a very adult book. I’m not saying it’s full of sex and drugs, but I am saying there are some very adult concepts contained within its pages. Michael grows up faster than he should have because he meets Hanna. Hanna changes his life forever. There is always this place that Michael holds within himself for Hanna. I kind of like how Bernard is able to explain this concept. Sometimes there is a person that holds a place in your life. They irrevocably changed your life and the memory of that person is always going to be there. This concept is kind of like The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

For some reason, I’ve read a lot of WWII/Holocaust books. I’ve gotten a lot of history out of each of these books. I’ve learned a lot about what happened back then. It’s not good that these things happened, but it is good that people remember them. We don’t ever want to repeat something like that again.

What I didn’t like: The book is very well written, but sometimes it was hard for me to get over this ‘why’ factor I kept having. Why would you have an affair with a fifteen year old boy? I know women do that. There have been a few very prominent court cases about women teachers who had affairs with male students who were like fifteen. Gross, girls! Seriously, men take so much longer to mature why have an affair with a younger one? Not that I’m saying you should have an affair at all, but if you do, don’t do it with a teenager.

I don’t particularly like Michael. He spends his entire life fixating on this one person. This one person rules his life. It doesn’t matter what he does, he can never really get over her. Get a life Michael. It’s nice to have people we admire, but it’s not nice to ruin everything else in your life by an obsession.

Even though I don’t particularly feel for Hanna, I do kind of feel bad for how she ended up. Part of me wants to be sorry for her, but part of me doesn’t want to do that because of the things in her past. We have to remember that we’re supposed to be good to people no matter what they have done in their past, but it’s kind of hard when that person was a Nazi. There isn’t really a word more nefarious than Nazi in our modern vocabulary. We all laughed at the soup Nazi on Seinfeld, but secretly, we were just a little appalled that the word Nazi was being thrown around on a sit-com.

There is a movie of this book. I have tried to watch it a few times. I’m not sure I ever got all the way through it. It’s really a slow-moving film. I might try it again to do a comparison, but if it’s anything like the movie of The Golden Compass, don’t hold your breath.

Overall, this is an interesting book to ponder. It’s the kind of book that makes you ask questions about things in life.


Coming of age, court, Family dynamics, Fiction, Finding Your Self, Fitch-Janet, Social Commentary

#178 White Oleander by Janet Fitch


This is the second time I am writing this post. I wrote it the first time and WordPress screwed up and I lost everything except the name. Thanks WordPress. Thank you very much. Apparently there is some magical delete everything I wrote command on WordPress, that I apparently know nothing about.

Anyways, let me get on with it.

This is an Oprah book club book. I have read quite a few Oprah Book club books. I am not sure if she has someone else pick these out or she reads them herself. If she reads them herself, Oprah has some really strange tastes in books.  Some of the books are better and some are just plain strange. This is actually an ok Oprah book club book.

Astrid is twelve years old and has led the life of a nomad. She has lived in Europe. She has lived in Mexico. She has lived in several places in the United States. This is, of course, not because of Astrid’s own decisions, but her mother’s. Ingrid is a beautiful woman. She has a string of boyfriends that is seemingly never-ending.

At one point Ingrid starts dating a rich man named Barry. Barry is adoring and takes them to the horse races. He takes them to art galleries, but he soon tires of Ingrid. Ingrid is not a woman who should be crossed. She soon makes plans. She stalks Barry. She knows where and when he is going to appear. She breaks into his house and leaves him omens. Finally she starts mixing up a poisonous concoction to get rid of the man who had rejected her. Ingrid is not used to rejection. Ingrid doesn’t think past getting rid of Barry. She is soon in prison and Astrid soon finds herself in foster care.

Astrid’s first foster-mother is white trash, her name is Starr.Starr has a silver trailer. She is looking over several other foster children. She also lets her boyfriend Ray live in the trailer. Ray gives Astrid the fatherly attention she has never had. This soon develops into something more than a fatherly daughterly relationship. Starr is a jealous foster-mother. Astrid soon finds herself in another foster home.

The second foster-mother Astrid has is named Marvel. Marvel lives in a turquoise house swimming in a sea of asphalt. She takes on Astrid to be maid, babysitter, and beautician. A professional prostitute lives next door. Astrid is fascinated by the manner in which this woman, Olivia, carries herself. Olivia shows Astrid a world she has never seen. Astrid attaches onto Olivia as the mother figure she isn’t getting at her foster home.

This situation also ends. Astrid finds herself in yet another foster home. In this home she feels at home. A woman named, Claire, indulges Astrid. She encourages her in artwork. She encourages her to take honors classes. She buys her presents. Astrid is finally feeling like she has a family. Ingrid sees right through Claire and attaches onto her weaknesses. This foster home also ends for Astrid.

There are several other places that Astrid lives. She learns to watch her back every second of the day in one home. She learns to eat out of a trashcan in another home because she rarely gets any food at the house. In another home she learns how to ask for her price.

Astrid spends six years in foster care.

What I liked: I liked this story. It pulls you in. Once you start you really can’t stop. It’s a very interesting story. It’s still very strange, but not nearly as strange as some of the other Oprah book club books I have read.

I liked that I was able to learn about the foster care system in the United States. This is something we usually ignore in our day-to-day lives. I do know people who foster children because they love children, but many more people foster children because of the stipend that it brings. Children end up in some terrible situations. Usually once a child gets into foster care they don’t get adopted. Many older children are floating around the foster care system. Most people want infants not older children. This means the tale of Astrid is closer to reality than one would think.

Astrid does develop along the way, which is good. It would be a sad thing if she let the life she had led because of her mother bring her down. She rose above it in ways, but in others she didn’t.

What I didn’t like: Ingrid is a terrible person. She is manipulative and doesn’t care about anybody but herself. She uses Astrid to her advantage from time to time. Ingrid has no remorse for killing a man. She has no remorse for driving someone to suicide. She is one of those people who can convince you she isn’t the devil, but she really is.

I hate that Ingrid appears to be cultured. She reads poetry and she writes poetry. She is actually quite good. People admire her work. She goes to art galleries and watches artsy movies. She is very smart, but she is also evil. She is a very dark force. I feel kind of bad that someone like Ingrid would even have a child at all. A child who could never get out from under the shadow of a parent doesn’t end up with a very good life.

Through all the things that Ingrid does, in the end, Astrid still thinks of her as a mother, although, not a very good mother. I would think that Ingrid would lose the title of mother. Most people wouldn’t give their parents much credit had their parents done the things Ingrid has done.

Overall, it’s a very interesting book and it will definitely draw you in. I wish I had my original post. I felt it was much better than this one.


court, Family dynamics, Fiction, Finding Your Self, PIcoult-Jodi, Romantic Fiction

#161 The Pact by Jodi Picoult


I really thought I was really going to like this book. My Sister’s Keeper was a really good book. I thought I was going to run into something really good here as well. It’s still good; it just didn’t meet my expectations.

Two families have lived next to each other for about eighteen years. Both the wives are very good friends. The husbands are both doctors, one for humans and one for animals. The children grew up in each other’s pockets. The boy is named Chris and the girl is named Emily. The two families are shaken at their usual chinese dinner one night. It’s something none of them ever suspected.

Chris is in the hospital and Emily is pronounced dead. Stories of an armed robbery, car jacking, and even car accident cross the parents’ minds, but none of them are true. Emily’s cause of death was most definitely a bullet to the head.

Upon questioning, Chris reveals that Emily and Chris had entered into a suicide pact. Chris said they were both going to kill themselves, but he fainted before he got a chance to do it.

Emily’s parents are devastated. They have lost their only child. The state isn’t going to let this case go as a suicide. The state has reason to believe that Chris killed his girlfriend Emily. On Chris’ eighteenth birthday a police officer shows up to take Chris to jail.

Chris has a hard time coping with being in jail. He was supposed to be finishing up his last year of high school. He was supposed to be putting college applications in. He was supposed to be competing on the swim team, but none of that is happening now. Upon Chris’ arrival in jail he is placed in a cell with a man who was charged with shaking his baby to death. Chris forms a strange bond with hell cell mate.

The evidence against Chris mounts up. Emily was eleven weeks pregnant at the time of her death. There were bruises on her wrists. Her fingerprints are not on the trigger of the gun. The state is making a strong case and Emily’s mother, Melanie is going right along with it.

Melanie has known Chris since he was born, but as soon as she loses her daughter she feels she doesn’t know the young man who lives next door anymore.

Chris’ parents hire a lawyer named Jordan McAfee. Jordan has a great record. Jordan also has problems with his own teenage son.

Chris and his parents drift further apart as things progress. Melanie and her husband, Michael, drift farther apart as Michael agrees to testify in Chris’ defense during the trial.

Soon we learn more about the relationship between Chris and Emily. They were like two pieces of the same whole. They completed each other. When one felt pain, the other one felt pain as well. Chris soon confesses something that no one would suspect. What will happen to everyone.

Along the way we learn a little of what Emily was going through. Emily seems to have had the perfect life, but we soon find that she was hiding things. I think there could be more to the story, but Jodi didn’t write it.

What I liked: The story read fairly fast. Jodi writes a long book, but she manages to make it fairly easy to read. I was engrossed from the beginning, but I don’t really feel like it stands up to the other book of Jodi’s that I have read.

Jodi does a fairly good job of portraying teenage angst. Being a teenager sucks. It’s hard to be a teenager. I think Jodi really thought through the process of being teenager through.

What I didn’t like: I feel like this book was not as good as My Sister’s Keeper. Jodi clearly put in a lot of thought and research on this book, but it didn’t roll as well.

I like the court thing every once in a while, but not all the time. I have only read two of Jodi’s books and both of them have major court trials. It’s almost like Jodi is using a template to write her books and just inserts names and places like a mad lib.

______________(name) does ______________(something) and has to go to court. ____________(same name) hires a lawyer named__________(another name). Parents named__________(female name) and ______________(male name) are upset about the whole situation and feel like they don’t really know___________(first name). The trial happens and a judge named ____________(another name) presides. The trial is a unique trial because it involves______________(insert situation here).

This is how I am starting to feel that Jodi Picoult novels work. I did really like My Sister’s Keeper. It was very thoughtful and the characters all had their own trials. I wanted this novel to be like that.

I’m not saying that Jodi didn’t put a lot of work into her characters because she did. It’s not easy to create characters as complex as the ones in this book or create the relationships between them with all their complications.

I really felt like I never really knew Emily. Of course, at the beginning of the book Emily is dead. The reader doesn’t really get to meet her alive, but we do learn some more about Emily. We learn that she felt broken. She felt used. She felt unsure, but the situation is never thoroughly described. I think there should have been more description and explanation as to what brought Emily to where she was.

I don’t like how, apparently, every Picoult novel is placed in New Hampshire. I know that Jodi lives there, but she could write a novel placed in New York or Vermont. It doesn’t have to be New Hampshire. There are more places in the world Jodi. New Hampshire is only so big. There is only so much you can do there.

It’s still a good book. It’s an easy read and it does pull at your emotions. Jodi is good at that.