I had one rule in 2020. No dystopian novels. After reading The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, I had to add a second rule. Never read a book about a deadly plague during a world wide pandemic.
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife has the makings of an incredible dystopian tale. It has an awesome title. It has a plague that wipes out 95% of men, 99% of women and 100% of babies and children. It has a cross-dressing midwife, an interesting and unusual choice for main character. And the story opens with a creepy strange cult that has somehow been inspired by the journals of said cross-dressing midwife. Going in, there was no way this book could be terrible.
The story follows the “unnamed midwife” as she navigates across the U.S. looking for her lost partner and a safe space to survive post apocalyptic plague. As she travels, she journals her encounters with the world around her. Most of the entries detail the empty towns, long lonely highways, and endless nothingness left by the plague. The monotony is broken up with the occasional murderous gang of male rapists and their female slaves, religious fanatics who hide their women, women who refuse to join and follow the unnamed midwife, and “hives”, groups of men led by a single female.
Despite all of the four and five star reviews on Amazon praising this book for its innovation and strong feminist leanings, it had a messy plot that meandered, never actually going anywhere, with huge plot gaps and very poorly developed characters. Because you can’t write an entire book on nothingness broken only by the occasional bad guy encounter, the author threw in lots and lots of sex as filler. This is a clever ploy on the author’s part as the sex tends to take your attention away from the fact that this book is going nowhere.
In my opinion, the book fails majorly in a few ways.
First off, the main character sucks. There isn’t anything redeeming or remotely interesting about the unnamed midwife, except for the fact that she has survived and is now walking across the country. Her personality sucks. She’s kind of a jerk to everyone she encounters and is incredibly condescending. Most of the book dwells on her love life, which isn’t as interesting or as controversial as the author makes it out to be.
The cult religion angle never gets fleshed out and leaves so many unanswered questions. Why and how did a religion form? Where and how did the journals come into play? What is going on here?!?!
Every man is either a complete idiot or a murdering rapist. Every female, except the unnamed midwife, is incapable or incompetent. Why is the unnamed midwife the only competent character? This lack of depth in characters just feels too ridiculous to me.
The traveling and scavenging portions of the book left more questions on logistics and practicality than it solved the problems of hunger.
Sex. There’s just so much sex in the book that there isn’t much room left for anything else. I finally decided that I prefer young adult dystopian books because the kids in those books have to actually solve problems and figure things out.
I kept reading The Book of the Unnamed Midwife waiting for the action to start or for the loose ends to start being tied up nicely. Instead, the book ended quickly and without answering any questions.
Overall, I hated this book. Would not recommend.
That’s all for today, cheers friends and happy reading!