Friday, January 29, 2010

Book Review: Lady Hands, Lion's Heart

I cannot believe that I have never posted my review of this book--it was published in CfM News, but I never re-posted here. For shame, since it is one of my all-time favorite midwifery memoirs!

The author has a new book too called The Beauty Girls. I'll bet it is a treat as well!

Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart ~ A Midwife's Saga
by Carol Leonard, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-615-19550-6
Bad Beaver Publishing, $15.00, 363 pages, soft cover

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE,

This new book by experienced New Hampshire midwife, Carol Leonard, is a wonderful read. It is funny, compelling, exciting, and sad. I think it is the best midwife’s memoir I’ve ever read.

Spanning 13 years (1975-1987), the book represents not just her personal experiences and birth stories, but also chronicles the development of independent midwifery in New Hampshire and the birth of MANA and its emergence as an international presence.

Leonard is an engaging writer with a flair for the dramatic. The style of the book is present tense, so you get a sense of actually “being there” and the book reads with the pace of a novel.

The many birth stories in the book are riveting. She has her share of close calls and complications, as well as tons of strong, inspirational births. Her love of the work and of the women she serves shines throughout and I got a strong sense of the author as a deeply passionate and committed woman.

The book opens with her own birth story in a hospital in 1975, her only child, and chronicles her development into a midwife (a fascinating sub-story in the book is of the changes her local hospital goes through to make their maternity unit more mother-friendly). Be prepared for a sad ending.

The birth stories shared each represent an event or lesson learned. Leonard is a busy midwife (you get a sense in the book that she doesn’t have much time to take care of herself!) and she attends many births in her years of service. The births detailed here are carefully chosen for impact and purpose. (Side note: as an LLL Leader, I was saddened that her one experience with LLL [in the book] is a bad one).

More than a collection of birth stories or midwifery musings, Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart, is a personal journey, as well as a spirited account of a larger journey occurring in the midwifery profession.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes.

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