books and reading · reviews

Book Review: The Midwife’s Confession by Diane Chamberlain

Tara, Emerson, and Noelle have been friends since college. W hen Noelle commits suicide, the two remaining friends are left in shock, with few clues to help them understand Noelle’s tragic decision to end her life.  When they discover a half-written letter, they realize that they have barely scratched the surface of Noelle’s secrets.  The further they delve into Noelle’s past, the more they uncover, and the results are life-changing.

Not part of my usual reading fare, Diane Chamberlain’s The Midwife’s Confession was read as part of the book group I recently joined.  I went in hoping to immerse myself in some fun, well-written drama, and the book delivered on half of that.  This book has drama oozing out of its pages.  The problem is that none of it is particularly compelling or interesting, and the mess of characters, narrators, and unnecessary plot complications make this one both a mess and a miss.

Chamberlain’s central idea is an interesting one, and there’s certainly potential here for a great story, but the execution is off from the beginning.  Chamberlain’s story is narrated by all three women plus one of their daughters, and the result is a jumbled mess.  While Noelle’s chapters are told in third person, all of the rest of the chapters are told in first-person.  It’s nearly impossible to distinguish between the differing voices, and having to constantly return to the beginning of the chapter to see who is narrating is distracting at best.

There’s also the fact that none of the characters are particularly well-developed.  It’s hard to care about characters you hardly know and have trouble keeping track of (this reader had to create a flow-chart just to keep everyone straight).  Moreover, Chamberlain’s Noelle is so downright unlikable that it’s hard to feel her friends’ grief over the loss of her.  My reading notes echo a central theme: “These people are the worst.”

A bizarrely complicated plot features so many hot-button issues it reads like a Lifetime movie-of-the-week.  Switched babies, secret pregnancies, an affair, a painkiller addiction, and illegitimate children are all present and accounted for in this mess of a plot.  All of it is supposed to be shocking, but very little of it is.

Some readers will enjoy this just because it’s sudsy and silly, but I couldn’t get past Chamberlain’s often-clunky syntax.  It’s not a story that will stay with its readers long, and too often it feels like it’s trying to be a Jodi Picoult novel.

This one tries too hard and leaves a bitter aftertaste.  Skip it.

The Midwife’s Confession by Diane Chamberlain.  Mira Books: 2011. Library copy.

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