The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison
Reviewed by Ben
We all have books we love. There are plenty books that get love and lots of it, from the latest hot bestseller to that timeless classic. With those types, nine times out of ten, even if someone doesn’t love it, they’ve heard of it. Then, there is the other type of book you love. The defensive, deep, and wild love. The love for a book that perhaps not everyone has heard about yet, and you’ve made a personal mission to proselytize for. To scream from the lonely corner of 6th and Lamar on top of soapbox with a sandwich board stuck to your torso and a megaphone in your hand…
Full disclosure: This is that book for me right now.
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (available on our shelves at BookPeople) was published by Sybaritic Press last June. Because of the size of the press, the book entered BookPeople through the consignment program at my rapid request and because Michael, our Consignment Buyer, is really a stand-up guy. It’s a book I’ve come across through friendship and that might have never come up on my radar otherwise. But that’s not the important part. What I’m here to tell you is that I’m not the only one who read this book, in all of its feminist, gripping, post-apocalyptic, graphic, page-turning, goodness, and said, hey, this is a hell of a good book.
Shortlisted for the 2014 Philip K. Dick Award, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is a book that I, and the good folks of the Philadelphia SF Society, think you need to take a look at. Twisting on the post-apocalyptic genre, this is a tale that takes a hard look at the systems and constructs we prefer not to talk about. This isn’t a polite book. It would make for potentially uncomfortable dinner conversation with strangers. Gender, sexuality, and the nature of power that plays between those roles are front and center as we follow the midwife through a world with one woman left to every ten men. The resulting story is a stark and disturbing (serious trigger warnings folks, rape, human trafficking, FGM, mature audiences only) of a world dominated by men without societal restraint and the woman who is still trying to pull the ripping fabric of society back together. The resulting story is an earnest and blistering search for humanity and sanity in an asymmetrical world.
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife builds upon the foundation laid by its influences. Radical and insistent, this is a book that subverts our expectations, taking us from the Bay Area to Utah to the even more distant future. It’s a book that treats both harsh and tender moments with a keen eye and heart, pulling back layers past the truth we fear to reveal something even deeper. A phenomenal debut well deserving of its nomination, check out The Book of the Unnamed Midwife on our shelves here at BookPeople.
Afterwards, you can find me and we can talk about it. I’ll be that guy shouting about this book he loves at 6th and Lamar.