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A discussion of The Unnamed Midwife by Meg Ellison, beware of spoilers!
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Clark, Ella E. It breaks the idea behind the book. Someone along the way mentions that the broadcasts are a trap. There was very little plot. What there was can be summarised as: A woman wakes up in post-apocalyptic USA where she ambles north, meeting some people who have no bearing on plot or main character, before she finds sanctuary in a random fort.
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The end. The world would more or less carry on the same without her. Which brings me onto the main character herself. She has no redeeming features: no likeability, condescending, arrogant, selfish, she seems more interested in giving women birth control than saving them from their life of torture and submission. Her only personal development in the story happens very quickly at the start of the book where she turns from nurse to killer and stays like that until the end of the book. Men are pitifully portrayed. The people she meets along the way have no depth or impact.
She barely even cares what had happened to her boyfriend. Personally, I think the author focused on the wrong story. Either that, or subject the Midwife to some adversity in her ambling. Have her be kidnapped by some raiders. Make the Mormons mentally manipulate her into staying with them. So much wasted potential in this book. It could have been a good book with a powerful tale. But it fails to deliver in many ways and ultimately falls flat as a waste of money and time.
TL;DR — Interesting concept turned into a lacklustre book with little to no plot and weak characters. I just finished this up, and I largely agree with all of these points, except that I think - in the latter half of the book, at least - it's the diary entries that weaken the story. Many significant events are briefly summarized in the diary while minutia and what must have been a hundred pages of weird sexual tension is chronicled in detail. In addition, and partly due to that, the book really feels like it's significantly pulling its punches.
In a world of endless rape, savagery and a billion dead babies, every possible horror is kept at arm's length by the narrative style. What should have been the novel's 'crowning moment of awful', the birth of Jodi's child, is tucked away in just a couple lines of diary. Rape is brought up a lot, but it's always something that happens to somebody else and in the past except for the beginning, where the would-be rapist is notably flagged as being impotent in the moment, significantly reducing the feeling of threat.
By any measure, if this book was as powerful as it pretends to be I shouldn't have been able to read it curled up on the couch next to my 11 day old baby without having some sort of breakdown. I never felt the threat that the premise promised. I never feared for the Midwife and I never felt the trauma of other characters who were supposed to have suffered, even while the Midwife never actually did, because the book always pushed those traumas away.
Not my usual genre, but wow, so powerful and so very frightening. Even though this is a work of fiction, it's disturbing to think this could happen in our future. Something has wiped out most of the world's population and only a small fraction of the survivors are women.
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It's a story of strength and survival in a post apocalyptic world. Very dark and violent at times, especially to women. Between Ebola, Zika, super bugs or even biological warfare, are we that far off from something that would devastate our society? The thought is almost too scary to think about. Especially given the present state of our world today.
I was pulled into this book very quickly and sat wide-eyed late into the night not wanting to turn off the lights. This book will stay with me for a very long time. Totally agree.
This book crosses genres, I think. This isn't my usual genre either but I couldn't put it down. I also had to make sure to do something to clear my head before bed because it's so dark and feels so possible.
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The beginning really bothered me.
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