The Birth House swept this reader away in the first few pages with its promise of witchy things-to-be, beautifully crafted writing of earthly essences, and the allure of a small village in Nova Scotia at the brink of World War I.
The book walks through the eyes of Dora, assistant to Ms. Babineau, a midwife who is thought to be a witch due to her use of herbs, tonics, and prayers to heal the ailments of the women of Scots Bay. When a new doctor arrives in the small town, armed with "science and proof" that he believes modern medicine can offer women in childbirth, the town is divided. Whereas the men trust the new doctor to place the care of their wives in his hands, the women find more comfort and trust in that of Ms. Babineau. As we walk through Dora’s struggles with the doctor when Ms. Babineau disappears, McKay takes us through what it means to be a free woman: to partake (or not) in marriage, to stand up to men when you are part of the minority (even among other women), and to find oneself in a world of too many people and voices.
Scattered with newspaper clippings, old ads, letters, and even Ms. Babineau’s herb book, McKay’s debut is entertaining and whimsical throughout. Though not leaving much mystery, existential crises, or moral dilemmas to contemplate upon when the book is finished, the story can be said to be a simple, quick, and cozy read.