Canada Reads·Canadian

The Birth House

Ami McKay's novel follows a midwife's assistant in a small Nova Scotia town.

Ami McKay

The Birth House is the story of Dora Rare, the first daughter to be born in five generations of Rares. As a child in an isolated village in Nova Scotia, she is drawn to Miss Babineau, an outspoken Acadian midwife with a gift for healing. Dora becomes Miss B.'s apprentice, and together they help the women of Scots Bay through infertility, difficult labours, breech births, unwanted pregnancies and even unfulfilling sex lives. Filled with details as compelling as they are surprising, The Birth House is an unforgettable tale of the struggles women have faced to have control of their own bodies and to keep the best parts of tradition alive in the modern world of medicine. (From Knopf Canada)

The Birth House was championed by Debbie Travis during Canada Reads 2011.

Read an excerpt | Author interviews | More about this book

From the book

Strength and a sense of knowing, that's what you have to have to live in the Bay. Each morning you set your sights on the tasks ahead and hope that when the day is done you're farther along than when you started. Our little village, perched on the crook of God's finger, has always been ruled by storm and season. The men did whatever they had to do to get by. They joked with one another in fire-warmed kitchens after sunset, smoking their pipes, someone bringing out a fiddle... laughing as they chorused, no matter how rough, we can take it. The seasons were reflected in their faces, and in the movement of their bodies. When it was time for the shad, herring and cod to come in, they were fishermen, dark with tiresome wet from the sea. When the deer began to huddle on the back of the mountain, they became hunters and woodsmen. When spring came, they worked the green-scented earth, planting crops that would keep, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, turnips.


From The Birth House by Ami McKay ©2006. Published by Vintage Canada.

Author interviews 

CBC Radio 2's Shift talks music and more with the Canada Reads authors. 10:18
Dave White, host of Yukon's Airplay, interviews the Canada Reads authors. 7:39

More about this book

Ami Mckay, author of The Birth House, talking writing and Canada Reads. 2:27
Canada Reads author Ami McKay reads from her novel, The Birth House. 7:47
Canada Reads author Ami McKay summarizes the story of her Canada Reads book, The Birth House. 1:16
Musician Lily Frost on Ami McKay's novel about midwifery and the struggles women have faced to have control of their own bodies 2:01