If you haven’t read my debut novel, The Doula, here is a recent testimonial (May 2015).
“Thank you so much for your wonderful novel. I grabbed it Saturday morning and never put it down for the entire Memorial Day weekend. Just me on the front porch in my favorite rocker and the Doula. What a recipe for a perfect holiday treat. But nothing compares with your ability to take us into the psyche, heart and soul of Caro from her pre-teens to her young adulthood. Her silky blankie beneath her pillow – WOW. At one point my sisters told me that I absolutely had to put down the Doula and come to dinner. “Oh not now, I cried. I can’t leave Caro in her current perilous predicament!” Congratulations, Bridget…that is the ultimate compliment for a storyteller to achieve in my world … I would rather stay with the story than eat – now that’s a fine tale.”
– Mary Duggan
Don’t miss Bridget Boland’s debut novel The Doula, published by Simon & Schuster September, 2012. Get your copy now on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. Click here for The Doula website.
from The Dallas Morning News: Bridget Boland’s debut novel, ‘The Doula,’ is compelling, ambitious By KATHRYN LANG Special Contributor Published: 07 September 2012 DALLAS MORNING NEWS Bridget Boland’s compelling debut novel is an ambitious work, brimful of the tumult and uncertainty of human life, from its messy beginnings at birth to its inevitable ending in death. Boland, a former lawyer, is a yoga teacher and “energetic healer.” She’s also a practicing doula, one who witnesses and helps at births, providing emotional and physical support to laboring women and their families. Boland’s specialized legal knowledge, her shamanic wisdom and her sense of the awe and beauty of birth, all lend authenticity to the novel. Told from the point of view of Caro Connors, the narrative begins the summer she’s 12, when her mother miscarries and her brother drowns in Lake Michigan. In her early 30s, she moves from her parents’ home in Chicago to Milwaukee, hoping for a fresh start after she quits nursing school. She becomes a doula, has relationships with two very different men and is caught up in the tragedy surrounding the birth of her best friend’s daughter. Caro’s life pivots on the mirror images of birth and death — her father is an undertaker; she ushers new life into the world. Her tangled relationship with her mother, a leitmotif throughout the novel, has caused much of the dissonance in her life. She’s the “Big Girl” her mother summons while she’s miscarrying, and she becomes her siblings’ caretaker when her mother abdicates her responsibilities. But Caro is stalled in a protracted adolescence, unable to grow up. She seeks out strong women who remind her of her free-spirited great aunt, Ruby, and her best friend’s mother, Marilyn, who had counseled her to follow her convictions. In Milwaukee she finds mentors: Pixie, the hippie midwife commune leader, who exonerates her from feelings of guilt; Deidre, the midwife-owner of a family birthing center; and Annabelle, the malpractice lawyer whose strength and commitment allow Caro to reveal her painful secrets. Boland’s novel teems with issues — family dynamics and dysfunction, low self-esteem, mother-daughter conflict and autonomy, the premature loss of innocence, the corrosive power of keeping secrets, medical establishment procedures vs. natural childbirth, loyalty and infidelity, the liberating power of telling the truth. It’s a testament to her authorial skills that she brings all these into a coherent and satisfying whole. This novel isn’t for the squeamish: amniotic fluid and blood gush forth; babies have umbilical cords in the wrong place; laboring women gasp and grunt. It’s full of birth-related lore — like the fact that squatting allows pressure from the baby’s head to dilate the cervix more quickly. Sometimes Boland is didactic, pushing a little too hard her view that hospitals are for sick people and birth should be a celebration rather than a medical event. Finding fulfillment in helping women through the “fiercest rite of passage,” Caro (like Boland) wants to empower women, giving them choices about where and how to bring their children into the world. Readers who savored the psychological acuity and courtroom drama in Chris Bohjalian’s Midwives, a 1997 New York Times best-seller and Oprah pick, will appreciate the similarities Boland’s novel delivers (pun intended). I confess to some frustration at the book’s end: Several loose ends are left untied. I’m hoping for a sequel.
Kathryn Lang, a former senior editor at SMU Press, is a freelance book reviewer and editor.