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The Midwife's Confession    by Diane Chamberlain order for
Midwife's Confession
by Diane Chamberlain
Order:  USA  Can
Mira, 2011 (2011)
Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Joan Burton

In Wilmington, North Carolina, Tara, Emerson and Noelle have been best friends since their college days. Noelle (who never married) worked as a midwife, even delivering Tara and Emerson's children. Now Noelle has retired as a midwife, and has been putting all her energy and focus into the Babies program she started. She even encouraged Tara and Emerson to participate with their teen daughters. Noelle loved life and embraced all living things with such passion. She was a free spirit, living life her way.

When Tara and Emerson learn that Noelle took her own life, they are in shock. They struggle to deal with the guilt they are feeling, thinking they must have overlooked signs that Noelle was depressed and in trouble. As they begin to sort through her home they discover an unfinished confession that leaves them reeling. They quickly realize there was so much they never knew about their good friend. Now they are deciding what they should do with the information they have uncovered.

Tara and Emerson embark on a journey to find out why Noelle took her own life. The information they uncover only leads to more questions. In their search they find a complete stranger who may or may not know the answers they are seeking. They search for the truth, which at times puts Tara and Emerson at odds with each other. They uncover secrets and lies in Noelle's complex life.

The Midwife's Confession is a layered story, told through flashbacks and in the voices of the main characters. It is a story of love between friends, mothers, and daughters. Tara, Emerson, and Noelle are all tangled in deceit. As I read this moving story I wanted to race to finish it, but did not want it to end. In my opinion this is Chamberlain's best yet.

2nd Review by Elizabeth Crowley:

The Day Noelle Downie kills herself, her best friends (Emerson and Tara) are torn between grief and confusion - they had known Noelle since their college days. Although considered eccentric by most people, Noelle loved life and lived each day to the fullest. The day of her suicide began just like any other, but as she turned on her computer, she knew it was time to say goodbye. She took one last look at the moon that night and whispered how much she loved life. After being unable to contact Noelle, her friends arrive at her house and discover their friend's dead body by a bottle of pills. They suspect foul play. There's simply no way the midwife who gloried in bringing life into the world would take her own. But the autopsy report is conclusive: Noelle died of an overdose.

Narrated by various characters throughout the novel, The Midwife's Confession slowly reveals why a woman, who dedicated her life to helping bring children into this world, would unexpectedly kill herself. Tara and Emerson think the clues to Noelle's suicide must be somewhere in her home, but their thorough search results in a dead end. They finally encounter their first clue when they meet a doctor who claims Noelle ceased being a midwife over twelve years ago. Yet, Tara and Emerson can clearly recall each time Noelle rushed off to a birth or to check on a mother. According to Noelle, she had given up her career as a midwife just a year before her death. As Emerson and Tara begin digging, they discover that their dearest friend had a secret life neither ever suspected.

More clues surface when Tara, who recently lost her attorney husband Sam in a car accident, discovers that he knew Noelle better than Tara realized. When Tara begins looking through Sam's files, she discovers that Noelle had Sam draw up her will. Not only did Noelle hire Sam as an attorney, but Tara also finds out that her husband and close friend had a mysterious meeting. Tara can hardly conceive that Noelle and Sam were romantically involved, since Sam considered Noelle somewhat of an oddball. Yet Tara holds the proof that Noelle and her dead husband shared a secret they took to their graves. Emerson and Tara's journey to uncover the reason for their beloved friend's suicide leads them to unimaginable secrets that reveal not only the shocking reason Noelle took her own life, but also how that secret is tied to both of her closest friends. When they discover that Noelle gave birth to a baby they never knew about, their mission to discover who Noelle Downie really was leads them to a shocking truth about her life and death they both wish they never uncovered.

The Midwife's Confession is a powerful novel that explores the bonds between the closest of friends and the secrets that are kept by the people we believe we know best. Few authors these days can successfully deliver a novel with genuine twists and a completely unexpected ending, but Diane Chamberlain inserted twists I would never have expected in a novel about a suicide. The Midwife's Confession is a book readers will not soon forget.

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