The Midwife’s Apprentice

By Karen Cushman

I haven’t read any young adult stuff in a long while but this one had caught my eye more than once, so I finally grabbed it. I liked it! The middle ages were not a good time for anyone, but the hints of darkness in her abandoned, vagrant childhood were just awful. Awful. But presented without victimness and without sentimentality. I think the author really captured the spirit of the girl. I think the author also did an excellent job with the character of Jane Sharp, who isn’t nurturing and isn’t necessarily a gifted midwife and is definitely of shady intentions. But her fears about being usurped are definitely well founded.

I appreciated, too, how much of circumstance driving a life was presented. Jane and Alyce are alone and they have to do SOMETHING to get by. Their options aren’t numerous. They also don’t particularly like each other but can be allies anyway. I’m not sure the very, very ending wasn’t a bit much… the knock three times/perseverance/reward turned a very meaningful, realistic tale into this odd fable. It is a cheerful way to end the book but it doesn’t match the style of the rest of it. And it doesn’t fit Jane Sharp. She went all the way to that inn to let Alyce know she was welcome back without actually having to let Alyce know she was welcome back. I think a more plausible scene would have been a tart scolding about being ungrateful to which Alyce defended herself tartly and they realign their relationship as a real professional/apprentice situation. Happily, the business with Will was left open-ended and addressed with the right touch.

But that’s just me. I would recommend this book to just about anyone.

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