The Birth House - Canadian Trade Paperback

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.

I have included some extras for readers on this site. A Recipe for Groaning Cake is a big favourite, but you may also be interested in taking a test to see just how Hysterical you are or learn a bit more about the history of the vibrator. Links to these and more may be found in the menu at the top of the righthand sidebar.

My new novel, The Virgin Cure, is on Canadian, US and UK shelves.

  • #1 Canadian Bestseller
  • CBC Canada Read’s Finalist
  • Evergreen Award. Presented by the Ontario Librarian’s Assoc.
  • Fiction Book of the Year – CBA Libris Award 
  • Author of the Year - CBA Libris Award
  • Book Design of the Year (Kelly Hill) – CBA Libris Award
  • Booksellers’ Choice Award – AIBA
  • Long listed -International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

9 Responses to The Birth House

  1. [...] The website was really cool, as it gave a lot of history of midwifery in the 1900′s. The website has undergone changes since the author, Ami McKay is releasing a new novel at the end of October [...]

  2. [...] Groaning Cake:  I am so, so excited to bake this.  I only hope that I actually have enough focus and enough time to get it done during the big day (though, I doubt I’ll complain if my labor is so quick that this gets overlooked).  I learned about Groaning Cake when reading The Birth House by Ami McKay, a lovely novel and a must-read for any birth junkie.  According to McKay, “the tradition of the groaning cake, or kimbly, at (or following) a birth is an ancient one.  Wives’ tales say that the scent of a groaning cake being baked in the birth house helps to ease the mother’s pain. Some say if a mother breaks the eggs while she’s aching, her labour won’t last as long.” (source and recipe: http://bit.ly/nkk0TT)  I love baking — and eating — and I’m all about easing pain and shortening my labor, so what have I got to lose?  Plus, I’m rather enamored with the idea of carrying on an ancient tradition since we are, in a way, having a bit of an old-fashioned birth. [...]

  3. [...] McKay has done it again. After reading McKay’s debut novel, The Birth House, a few years ago, I couldn’t resist picking up her second novel. I’m not a huge fan of [...]

  4. [...] finally, in the past three weeks, I’ve read The Birth House by Ami McKay.  Dora Rare is a beautifully written character.  I was once again, so taken by the setting, Nova [...]

  5. [...] more based on my understanding (admitedly all from Ami McKay’s The Birth House/) that forms the guts of my opinion, so please excuse my ignorance and correct me if I’m [...]

  6. [...] The Birth House by Ami McKay [...]

  7. [...] The Birth House is author Ami McKay’s first novel and it reads well with a strong, interesting sense of place and storyline. Very pregnant with my third child, I found the subject matter – the story of a midwife living in rural Nova Scotia during the first years of World War I – personal and relevant. The novel proved an interesting travel through the clash of midwifery and science, and the choices women were/are not allowed to make when it comes to their own bodies. The medicalization of the female form and the increased pressure on women to conform to scientific standards when other forms of natural healing, and a belief in the power of the human body, might serve better is an overarching theme touched on time and again as Dora discovers and builds her talent as a born healer. I found myself completely swallowed up in Dora’s world, here in this novel it is not the writing (though it is powerful), nor the storyline (though there is one and it is intriguing) but the world of Dora that was the most engaging. I ponder feminist issues including patriarchal control of the female body (literally in medicalizing reproductive processes) and hope to explore these further in a Doctoral programme. This novel set my mind racing on possible angles and left me feeling a bit breathless at the end. Admittedly, I read this novel quickly and without coming up many times for air and when it was done I had the sinking feeling of almost sadness; I wanted to live longer in that world. I wanted to situate myself in Dora’s space and witness and ponder life at a time when the power of natural healing was better, and yet not better, regarded. This novel connected nicely for me to other issues I have read about; those timeless issues that never seem to evaporate or come to adequate resolution; issues that relate to freedom of choice and giving women, mothers, the power to decide what is best for themselves and for their families. New Yorkers are concerned about a new regulation that situates formula as a substance that must be tracked and recorded if offered in a hospital after delivery, with the nurse who offers access to it necessarily also offering a “breast is best” chat with the new mom. Other timely news includes “are you mom enough” to breastfeed your child for an extended length of time and again and again the whole debate about working women vs women who stay at home. Have confidence in your own choices and leave the bullying behind as you situate yourself forward-looking ignoring the tiny voices of others, they are tiny listen closely, as they aren’t what matters. What really matters, what will always matter, are those tiny little faces, those small little mouths and everything they need (not what you need, not what society needs) to grow strong, healthy and confident. I have a daughter, and she is smart and gorgeous, and if I can say one thing I hope to teach her in life is to have faith in her own strength and the strength of her own personal convictions. With that, and a strong sense of what is right, she will go many places. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]

  8. [...] that I get to actually take time to read a book. But a stack awaits — will it be Ami McKay’s The Birth House?  Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down? We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver? Choices, [...]

  9. [...] McKay is the author of the number one Canadian bestseller The Birth House and has received numerous awards and nominations for her work. She is active with UNICEF and other [...]

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