Wednesday, March 16, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison

The apocalypse will be asymmetrical. In the aftermath of a plague that has decimated the world population, the unnamed midwife confronts a new reality in which there may be no place for her. Indeed, there may be no place for any woman except at the end of a chain. A radical rearrangement is underway. With one woman left for every ten men, the landscape that the midwife travels is fraught with danger. She must reach safety— but is it safer to go it alone or take a chance on humanity? The friends she makes along the way will force her to choose what’s more important. Civilization stirs from the ruins, taking new and experimental forms. The midwife must help a new world come into being, but birth is always dangerous… and what comes of it is beyond anyone’s control. 

I am still trying to wrap my head around this book because it was so different and so much more . . . everything than the usual dystopian books I read. I know that sounds vague, but it's kind of hard to say just how much I loved this book.

First of all, we never, ever know the name of the narrator of this book. We know it's a woman who is a midwife and who survived the mysterious plague that wiped out most of the female population. Oh, and she's bisexual. That's it. I know that the woman is a total bad ass and I want her on my side if there is an apocalypse . . . especially if there is an apocalypse where most of the women are killed. This woman shaves her head and dresses like a man so that it's safer. A world without women means that when men do meet a woman, they turn into these animals and rapists and it's just awful. This book kind of ping ponged between first and third person POV, which was distracting to a certain extent but it was also kind of perfect. This women meets all these people along the way, some safe and some not so safe and she gives a different name every single time. See, this woman forgot her name after being sick from whatever illness this is. The narrator of the book would just call herself whatever name she gave to her friends. So you got a different name almost every chapter. The world is an awful place in this time and women are treated like property. They are kidnapped and raped and used for procreation, except EVERY BABY DIES (yes, even the ones born to healthy mothers). It's so twisted.

This book does read like a history book, mostly because it is. The unnamed midwife keeps a diary so that others will know what she went through. The book starts with a group of male students studying these books and taking such exquisite care of them so that they aren't destroyed. So yeah, sometimes I felt a bit of a disconnect because of the history book angle, but I still could not put this book down. The world building was amazing and I freaking loved the main character. I loved that she was bisexual and I loved that she stole a huge supply of birth control when she could. I have mentioned how much I love birth control in books before and it's even better in dystopian novels. When every baby is dying, you really want to take all the precautions you can, you know? I loved that this woman gave birth control to some of the women she met along the way. I love the fact that she didn't trust anyone and yet, she still gave some people a chance. This book was gritty and depressing, as most dystopian books SHOULD be. There is no romance or perfect hair or evil government that needs to be overthrown. This book will make you angry and uncomfortable and traumatized and yet there is so much empowerment here too. This book makes me realize how much I take simple things like books written by women and birth control for granted. And also, I LOVED that she was such a voracious reader. There was one scene where she got a gift of a box of books. The special thing about these books is that they were all written by women and she cried. She cried because these women were most likely dead and she cried because it might be generations before there are new books written by women. God, I loved that scene.

This book came out a few years ago, but apparently Elison is working on a sequel. I am so excited to see what else she has in store for us.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one!!


  1. This is giving off a Handmaid's Tale vibe, but without the totalitarian theocracy. Definitely adding!

    1. Joy, oh yes there are so many Handmaid's Tale similarities. And I swear this author is as good with her world building as Margaret Atwood. I think you will love it for sure.

  2. Okay, I am ashamed to say that I'm pretty sure I received this book for review and it fell off my radar and I never reviewed it. I think I got it back when I was a relatively new blogger and I just didn't have good ways of keeping track - I literally forgot about it completely until I saw this. I will now go hunt this book down and read it.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. Oh shame for shame Nicole. I can't believe you never read this one! You really need to track it down and read it. It was so incredibly good. You will love it.