Secrets of Midwives (Hepworth) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
1. Grace’s response to Neva’s refusal to reveal the identity of her baby’s father is complex: "Despite my shock and frustration, a pleasant surge of adrenaline rushed through me…Neva was rebelling. And despite my desperation to know the parentage of my grandchild-­‐to-­‐be, I was excited." What does Grace mean by this? Why does she feel this why? How do we see the relationship between Grace and Neva change as the story progresses?

2) As Floss tells the story that she has been hiding bit by bit throughout the novel did you have any guesses as to what the secret would ultimately be? How did your predictions change as the story was revealed? Did the truth surprise you, or were you able to figure it out?

3) Did you have any guesses as to who the father of Neva’s baby was? Were you surprised when he was finally revealed?

4) Reflect on the structure of the novel. How does having all three women’s viewpoints give us a complex, richer picture of the women’s individual stories? How do Floss’s flashbacks to her past give us insight into their present situation?

5. We are able to observe as Grace weighs her options for how to proceed during the homebirth that results in her suspension. Do you think she did the right thing during the birth? What would you have done in her position? Did your opinion of what she did remain the same or change after the conversation she has with the investigator from the Board of Nursing?

6) What did you think of Grace’s decision to continue to deliver babies secretly during her suspension? What was your response to Robert’s reaction when he found out?

7) Grace expresses strong views on the differences between delivering a baby in a hospital versus in a birthing center versus at home. What are the differences? What are her arguments for homebirth? Do you agree or disagree with her?

8) Did you learn anything new about midwifery, birthing, or pregnancy in general while reading this novel? What surprised you most about the birthing scenes?

9) When Neva watches Grace hold Mietta as they are about to leave the hospital she observes that, "They were connected by so much more than a gaze. I would have said it was a biological pull, but now, thinking of Gran, I wasn’t so sure." In your opinion, what is it that defines a family? What creates a familial bond?

10) Throughout the novel we see characters forced to confront unexpected situations and grapple with how to handle and react to them, knowing that their reactions will not only greatly affect themselves but the other people involved. Put yourself in the position of different characters such as Mark, Imogen, Patrick, Sean, Floss, and Neva. How would you react if you were faced with their situations? Were there certain characters that you felt especially sympathetic towards? Were there others with whom you disagreed?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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