Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Hannah, Delivered," A Novel About Birth (Book Review)

There are few things better than opening the mail to find a thick book awaiting you.  Brand new, perfect, unblemished, full of potential.  I just love it.  Kind of like getting a new baby.  Well....

The day before "Hannah, Delivered" by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew showed up in my mail I had started a new Jo Nesbo mystery.  If you have ever read Nesbo and you understand my deep love of murder mysteries from countries where the sun never actually comes out, then you would not even need to read the rest of this review.  I opened up "Hannah, Delivered" and PUT DOWN MY JO NESBO book ("Cockroaches") and started reading "Hannah" instead.

That really says it all.  "Hannah, Delivered" was that good.  I couldn't stop reading it.  It sucked me in and kept me glued to it for the next two days until I had devoured the whole thing.

So what is "Hannah, Delivered" about?

Simply put, it is about birth.

Oh, but ladies, we know that birth is so much deeper than just birth, don't we?!  And so is this book.

Quick run down:

Hannah is the main character.  A Midwestern preacher's daughter who is living a pretty ordinary life as a desk jockey in a hospital when her mother dies.  You know, I think that death is sometimes harder when we have unresolved issues with the person who passes than if we love them perfectly, and I felt like this was the case with Hannah.  She loved her mother, but didn't understand her motivations, her passions, or her behaviors.

One busy night in the hospital Hannah gets dragged into a birth with the midwife on duty and witness a primal, natural birth.  And she is hooked.  She heads off to midwifery school in New Mexico to change her life.  She is exposed to things she never experienced before, finishes school and moves home to practice in a state where home birth midwifery is illegal.

The story culminates on two fronts- as Hannah discovers the mysteries and deep impact of her own birth and prepares to assist a mother at home expecting a breech baby.

"Hannah, Delivered" explores so many things.  The deep importance of birth on the baby, the mother, the father and on their entire life together as a family.  Birth is truly a momentous event.  It is said over and over in the book that "The way we are born matters" and when you get down to it, that is what "Hannah, Delivered" is about.  The way we are born matters.  It matters to Hannah and it matters to every woman.

The story also follows Hannah's decision to assist (or not assist) a mother with a previous traumatic birth who is dead set on delivering at home but who is expecting a breech baby.  "Hannah" explores not just the emotional and spiritual impact of how we are born, but the complex and often ugly politics surrounding the choices women have (and don't have) when it comes to birth.

I loved the book.  I hope it does work as a novel that advocates for birth can never really do when we tell people things using statistics and studies and intellectual understanding. Birth is so much more than can be put in a study. You can't quantify the impact of a birth on a woman and her children and her very psyche.  It can't be counted and placed neatly in a double blind study. Those who think so don't really understand it.

"Hannah" tells a fictional but very real story about the depth, the breadth, and the politics that surround how we are all born.  It matters how we come into this world.  It always has and it always will.  Hannah teaches us that our own births and the births of our children, and even the births of those women and mothers around us touch us far more than we will ever know.

Check it out.  You won't regret it.  (Your kids might because you will be busy for a few days, but that is another story.)


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