Thursday, April 21, 2011

Diane Chamberlain's The Midwife's Confession Is Excellent Women's Fiction

Repeat after me: I will not call it chick lit. I will not call it chick lit. I will not... You get the picture. For some reason, "chick lit" has gotten an extremely bad rap. To me, women's fiction is some of the best writing out there. But the term "chick lit" seems to carry with it the connotation that it is somehow less-than in terms of writing quality, that it is only about things women care about (i.e., handbags and make-up?), and that it is generally shallow rather than deep in terms of theme.

I suppose that Diane Chamberlain's new novel The Midwife's Confession could be termed "chick lit" by some. It is, after all, written by a woman. It is also (mainly) about female characters. It deals with "women's issues": pregnancy, motherhood, etc. However, it is also much more than that. The Midwife's Confession also explores themes of loss, relationships, depression, and guilt.

Noelle is a midwife; her mother was a midwife before her. When she takes her own life, friends Emerson and Tara are left to pick up the pieces. They are put in charge of her estate, of cleaning out her house, even of throwing one of her friends a birthday celebration that had been planned for some time. Em and Tara are shocked by their friend's suicide, but they are also surprised at the unfinished business she left behind. They soon learn that Noelle hid more than she shared, and her secrets will affect them all.

The Midwife's Confession contains a multi-layered plot that keeps the action moving at a frantic pace. While the midwife's story is the main plotline, Chamberlain weaves into that several other side plots. One involves the head of the Missing Children's Bureau, Anna Knightly, whose daughter Haley fights leukemia from a hospital bed in Washington, D.C. Another flashes back to the three friends' college days. Yet another reveals the death a few weeks prior to the novel's beginning of Tara's husband Sam, and follows the progression of her and her daughter Grace's grief.

Chamberlain expertly tells the story of all of these intertwined plots through a variety of narrative voices. She gives readers the opportunity to see the story from multiple perspectives; some tales are told by Noelle, others are narrated by Emerson or Tara, and still others are related by Anna or by the teenage Grace. Each voice reveals much about the narrating character and creates a landscape rich with dynamic characters.

Chamberlain was new to me as an author. She will be an excellent author to read at the beach, where I will be at the beginning of June! I look forward to reading her previous novels. (And, of course, she is a southern author, which doesn't hurt!)

1 comment:

  1. The Manic Mommies BOok Club will be reading this book, and discussing it with the author later this year. I'm SO excited to read that everyone is liking this book!



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