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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.
AMI McKAY is the author of three internationally bestselling novels--The Birth House, The Virgin Cure and The Witches of New York and the recent yuletide novella, Half Spent Was the Night. She began her writing career as a freelance radio journalist, and in 2001 wrote and produced a radio documentary, also called Daughter of Family G, that traced her decision to undergo genetic testing. It won a Silver Medallion at the Atlantic Journalism Awards, was nominated for a Gabriel Award, and aired on both The Sunday Edition on CBC Radio and on National Public Radio in the US. Her non-fiction work has also appeared in Elle Canada, The Independent, Canadian Living and Chatelaine. Born and raised in Indiana, McKay now lives in Nova Scotia.
"The Birth House is a poignant, compassionate, bittersweet and nostalgic look at early 20th-century Nova Scotia…. Reading McKay’s novel is like dipping into a saner, more intimate, past; a past that’s long gone…. McKay is not only a new author to note, but one to look forward to with anticipation."
"From the beginning of Ami McKay’s debut novel, The Birth House, we know we’re in for a bit of magic…. The Birth House is compelling and lively, beautifully conjuring a close-knit community and reminding us, as Dora notes, that the miracle happens not in birth but in the love that follows."
—The Globe and Mail
"The Birth House is filled with charming detail.… McKay has a quiet and lyrical style that suits her subject.… [It is] a story of individual human tenderness and endurance…. McKay is clearly a talented writer with a subtle sense of story, one that readers will look forward to hearing from, again and again."
—The Gazette (Montreal)
"She’s dug deep into Maritime history to tell a story that rips right along…. You can tell that McKay’s got the goods."
"The Birth House is bound to be one of the most read novels of 2006…. Authentic, gripping and totally compassionate … The Birth House will be there next fall when they hand out the literary nominations."
—The Sun Times (Owen Sound)
"An altogether remarkable work from an impressive new talent."
"An astonishing debut, a book that will break your heart and take your breath away."
"Fresh as a loaf of homemade bread just out of the oven, The Birth House, a tale of sex, birth, love and pain will more than satisfy the hungry reader."
—Joan Clark, author of An Audience of Chairs
"The moon over Nova Scotia must have extra magic in it to have fostered a writer of Ami McKay’s lyrical sway and grace. She retrieves our social history and lays it out before us in a collage of vivid, compelling detail. In McKay’s depiction of Dora Rare, an early twentieth century midwife, attention is paid to the day-to-day moments of love and tending that enable humans to endure. And we the readers get to witness the emergence of a powerful new voice in Canadian writing."
—Marjorie Anderson, co-editor of Dropped Threads I and II
"Ami McKay is a marvellous storyteller who writes with a haunting and evocative voice. The novel offers a world of mystery and wisdom, a world where tradition collides with science, where life and death meet under the moon. With a startling sense of time and place The Birth House travels through a landscape that is at once deeply tender and exquisitely harsh. McKay is possessed with a brilliant narrative gift."
—Christy Ann Conlin, author of Heave
"Reading Ami McKay’s first novel is like rummaging through a sea-chest found in a Nova Scotian attic. Steeped in lore and landscape, peppered with journal entries, newspaper clippings and advertisements, this marvellous ‘literary scrapbook’ captures the harsh realities of the seacoast community of Scots Bay, Nova Scotia during WWI. With meticulous detail and visceral description, McKay weaves a compelling story of a woman who fights to preserve the art of midwifery, reminding us of the need, in changing times, for acts of bravery, kindness, and clear-sightedness."
—Beth Powning, author of The Hatbox Letters