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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart: A Midwife's Saga, Carol Leonard

This 'Midwife's Saga' was more interestingly written than 'Into These Hands.' Ms. Leonard is a great storyteller. Some of her stories made me laugh, and some made me cry (a rare feat for a book).

She uses a fair amount of salty language, so reader beware. She also frequently describes herself as praying to the Goddess.

This book would appeal to those who enjoy reading about birth, and who can handle salty language and pagan spiritualism.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, Ina May Gaskin

This is now my favorite guide to childbirth. I loved it. I've already begun recommending it to expectant mothers of my acquaintance. Ina May states that she set out to write a book which would affirm for women that, by and large, they are capable of giving birth naturally. She succeeded at her goal admirably.

Reading it felt like having a cozy chat with a loving, wise, and educated grandmother. I much preferred this book to Ina May's 'Spiritual Midwifery,' perhaps because she doesn't come across as quite so hippy in this newer book. She sticks to generally used anatomical words (if you've read 'Spiritual Midwifery,' you know what I have in mind by contrast). I appreciated her reasons why a woman would want to give birth without pain medications.

I would like to have several copies of this book on hand in order to loan/give to my friends. I think this book would be a wonderful read for anyone wanting a solid guide to childbirth, a refreshing view of childbirth, a well-articulated rationale for natural childbirth, or reassurance that natural childbirth is not the freaky choice that the modern medical establishment would lead you to believe. Five stars.

The Still Point, Amy Sackville

This novel, which tells the stories of two couples, one modern-day and the other from an earlier era, is beautifully written, with a tight formal control (for instance, the story of the modern couple takes place over 24 hours, fulfilling the ideal of the unity of time of the ancient Greeks). Each sentence is hauntingly beautiful. The novel as a whole is incredibly well-structured.

Nevertheless, I was halfway through the book before I cared about any of the characters, and even at that point I only began to care for one. By the end of the book I was involved and caring and hoping for a happy ending. I did not find the book very engaging.

In spite of the novel's obvious strengths, I would be surprised if many readers actually liked this book. I would expect it to win awards for the skill the author brought to bear in crafting it, but I would not expect the normal, every-day, run-of-the-mill reader to care a great deal for reading it.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

ALONE: Orphaned on the Ocean, Richard D. Logan and Tere Duperrault Fassbender

I first heard about this book on another book blogger's blog. The idea intrigued me. When Tere Duperrault was eleven years old she went on a dream sailing vacation with her parents, older brother, and younger sister. After a week of sailing the captain of the ship was drawn from the waters, apparently the sole survivor of a tragic accident. A few days later, while the captain was giving his testimony about the accident to the Coast Guard investigators, someone rushed in with the news that Tere had just been rescued.

Tere had nearly died, after three nights and four days in the burning sun and frigid nights, without food or water. She spent several days in a coma after being rescued. When she did revive, the story she told differed significantly from the story the captain had told.

This is a true tale of survival against seemingly insurmountable odds. This is a true tale of the difference between appearances and reality. It was a quick read; I consumed it in 24 hours. I think this book would appeal to those who are interested in survival and true crime.

Into These Hands: Wisdom from Midwives, edited by Geradine Simkins

I read this book because I am quickly approaching the due date for my sixth child and realized that I had not yet done any 'birth' reading this time around. This book collects the autobiographies of 25 modern day midwives. These 25 women share some characteristics in common (most, if not all, seemed to have been influenced to become midwives by the revolution of the late 60's and early 70's), but they also followed different paths to becoming midwives. Some are certified nurse midwives (CNMs), some are licensed midwives or certified professional midwives (CPMs), some are lay midwives. Some have worked in hospitals, some both in the hospitals and homes, and others only at home.

Because the book was written by 25 different authors, many different views in many different voices are presented. The women represent the gamut of world religions (Jewish, Islamic, Christian, Hindu, Goddess worshippers, agnostic). Some wrote much better prose than the others wrote.

I have to say that I would only expect this book to be of interest to those who are already intensely interested in midwifery and alternatives to the 'normal' birth choices of modern-day America. I would not recommend this book for those who would like a first introduction to midwifery.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dead Aid, Dambisa Moyo

In this book Ms. Moyo first documents the fact that aid has not alleviated the poverty of Africa, has in fact worsened the situation in Africa, and why that is so. In the second part of the book she talks about alternatives to aid which have been tested and proven in other countries, and how they might work in Africa.

I found this book much  more compelling than Ms. Moyo's other book, How the West Was Lost. I found a lot less to disagree with.

The statistics she marshals to demonstrate that aid has not worked, despite 60 years of trying and billions of dollars and various emphases for the aid, are truly startling and dismaying. "But has more than US$1 trillion in development assistance over the last several decades made African people better off? No. In fact, across the globe the recipients of this aid are worse off; much worse off. Aid has helped make the poor poorer, and growth slower." p. xix.

"Even the most cursory look at data suggests that as aid has increased over time, Africa's growth has decreased with an accompanying higher incidence of poverty. Over the past thirty years, the most aid-dependent countries have exhibited growth rates averaging minus 0.2 percent per annum." p. 46.

"And between 1970 and 1998, when aid flows to Africa were at their peak, poverty in Africa rose from 11 per cent to a staggering 66 per cent. That is roughly 600 million of Africa's billion people trapped in a quagmire of poverty--a truly shocking figure." p. 47.

Ms. Moyo offers many reasons why aid does not work, such as corruption in government (which is spurred on by aid), and many alternatives which could turn the tide for Africa, such as micro-financing. She recommends that those nations and institutions which give aid to Africa should decide to gradually decrease aid over five years, and then turn off the taps permanently.

One can only hope that this book finds its way into the hands of influential people, who act on its message. Aid has failed, but there is a better way.

Glorious Freedom, Richard Sibbes

I cannot highly enough recommend this book to the attention of my fellow Christians. I have read it a few times now, and it has not failed to move me powerfully each time, to grow me in grace, to enrich my understanding, to strengthen my faith.

If you have a tender conscience, if you struggle with guilt, if you desire to better understand your position in Christ, if you desire to better understand the work and role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer, if you like to contemplate the glories of heaven or the marvelous free grace of the Savior, if you seek assurance of salvation or long to know more about the certainty of God's work in His people, this is the book for you.

The work is a pastoral exposition of 2 Corinthians 3:17-18. Every word is full of grace and truth and life. My copy is more underlined than not.