Monday, 16 September 2013

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien

If I had been asked to think up a title for this book I would have gone with “The Amazing Misadventures of a Post-Apocalyptic Teenage Midwife!” and the exclamation mark would have been non-negotiable. But that’s probably one of the reasons I’m not a successful author and Caragh M. O’Brien is (other reasons include a severe procrastination and a fear of post-it notes)

In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the walled Enclave and those, like sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone, who live outside. Following in her mother's footsteps Gaia has become a midwife, delivering babies in the world outside the wall and handing a quota over to be "advanced" into the privileged society of the Enclave. Gaia has always believed this is her duty, until the night her mother and father are arrested by the very people they so loyally serve. Now Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught, but her choice is simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying.(Courtesy of Goodreads)


I do love my Post-Apocalyptic stories but a lot of the time you tend to get stuck with the same beautiful rebellious people who enter stage left ready to fight for Truth, Justice and Freedom for all! The actual logistics of maintaining Truth, Justice and Freedom for all in the aftermath is usually someone else’s problem, what do you expect? We blew up the bad guy, job done, applause accepted.


Gaia Stone is not beautiful, in a society that strives for perfection in everything (even genetics) her scarred face and position outside the wall in the shanty town of Wharfton mark her as not only unremarkable but a target for disgust and ridicule. She’s not even burning inside over the injustice of these babies being taken away from their mothers and handed over to the privileged few inside the walls; who have riddled their own children with genetic deformities thanks to their own decades of snobbery and generations of inbreeding. She doesn’t like it but she believes they’ll be better off where there are schools and plentiful food and water.


No, if the Enclave’s Protectorate hadn’t bothered to arrest her parents and threaten to execute them for no apparent reason, then Gaia Stone would have dwindled out all her days in Wharfton, delivering babies, advancing the unlucky few to the Enclave and being generally ignored or teased about her face. But her parents are taken and her decision to go find them forces Gaia to become someone incredible.


She makes plenty of mistakes, has tendency to barrel into situations when she thinks she can help and is not above falling prey to hopelessness and despair. And yet it’s these qualities and more that encourages so many people to help her along her way, she has a gift for inspiring the best in people. And none more so than the Protectorate’s advanced and disowned son Leon Grey, Captain of the Guard and all round mysterious hot loner dude.


It would have been so easy to just make Leon a nicer, funny, more likeable boy but Ms O’Brien doesn’t do easy, she does tough, like Grandma’s roast beef tough. He can be cold, secretive and refuses to sugar coat anything even when faced with the sight of a young shackled girl begging him for help. But there’s a crack of compassion in him that only Gaia manages to worm inside and pry open and when she does it’s almost magical. That boy is responsible for one of the most romantic fruit based gestures I have ever read (admittedly the competition is limited).


I’m now well on the way to finishing the third and final book and I cannot describe how exciting the Amazing Misadventures of a Post-Apocalyptic Teenage Midwife! can be. Also turns out I’m learning quite a bit about midwifery, weirdly it’s given me a new respect for midwives everywhere, although I doubt the ladies on One Born Every Minute ever had to deliver a baby while on the run and being chased by Enclave guards. Much respect if you have though.


John Michael Cummings said... [Reply to comment]

Dear Holly,

Will you please consider reviewing my new novel DON’T FORGET ME, BRO, to be published later this year by Stephen F. Austin State University Press (Texas Book Consortium)?

DON’T FORGET ME, BRO deals with themes of childhood abuse, mental illness, and alienated families. (See synopsis below.)

My award-winning debut novel THE NIGHT I FREED JOHN BROWN (Philomel Books, Penguin Group, 2009) won The Paterson Prize for Books for Young Readers (Grades 7-12) and was one of ten books recommended by USA TODAY. For more info:

In addition I've published a collection of short stories, UGLY TO START WITH (West Virginia University Press) Here’s a link to some information about my collection:

My short stories have appeared in more than seventy-five literary journals, including The Iowa Review, North American Review, The Kenyon Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and The Chattahoochee Review. Twice I have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. My short story "The Scratchboard Project" received an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2007.

I look forward to hearing back from you.

Thank you very much.


John Michael Cummings

P.S. Could you kindly give me a reply back to let me know you received this email?

Synopsis of DON’T FORGET ME, BRO

DON’T FORGET ME, BRO deals with themes of childhood abuse, mental illness, and alienated families. The book opens with the main character, forty-two-year-old Mark Barr, who has returned home from New York to West Virginia after eleven years for his older brother Steve’s funeral. Steve, having died of a heart attack at forty-five, was mentally ill most of his adult life, though Mark has always questioned what was "mentally ill" and what was the result of their father’s verbal and physical abuse during their childhood.

The book unfolds into an odyssey for Mark to discover love for his brother posthumously in a loveless family.

DON’T FORGET ME, BRO is a portrait of an oldest brother’s supposed mental illness and unfulfilled life, as well as a redeeming tale of a youngest brother’s alienation from his family and his guilt for abandoning them.

- end -

Deirdra said... [Reply to comment]

Hi I'm looking for your contact info for a book review/post?
Can you email me at EdenLiterary at gmail dot com