2017’s The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, by Meg Elison, is a stunning debut that was met with critical acclaim – including that year’s Philip K. Dick award. This book is chock-full of material ripe for analysis and discussion. Whether your book club is preparing to discuss it, or you’ve read it on your own and are looking for more, I hope the questions below will help guide your discussion.
Note: If you haven’t read The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, you can read my review of it here.
Please let me know if you use these questions, find them helpful, or think I missed something. And of course I would love to see your answers to any (or all) of these questions in the comments. Happy discussing!
Of course, MAJOR SPOILER WARNINGS below:
The woman’s journals inspired the people of Nowhere to “continue her tradition” by keeping their own journals, and treated hers with remarkable reverence. This continues generations into the future, with settlers keeping their own journals and revering the woman’s. Do you feel this is the beginning of a new religion for these people?
How did you feel about the story “wrapping up” the lives of characters for the reader once they left the woman’s life? What did this add to the story for you?
Which character’s ending stood out to you the most?
Was there anything about the woman’s journey or choices you found particularly frustrating? Is there anywhere she left which you wanted her to stay?
Why do you think she continued to journal? How did you feel about the way she tried to track the date in them?
How good of an impression of the state of the world did you get as you read? Do you feel you got enough? Did having little awareness of the state of the world at large help you understand the viewpoint of the woman, limited as it was to her immediate surroundings?
What did you think of the types of communities and settlements the woman encountered? Beyond gangs, we saw hives, the LDS outside of Eden, and the settlement of Nowhere. Did you catch impressions of any other settlements? Did any surprise you?
How did the woman’s insistence on remaining anonymous impact the story for you? Did you see any relationship between the people she met and the name she chose to use with them?
There are a lot of post-apocalyptic narratives being told right now. How did this book compare for you? Are there any books, movies, or tv shows you were reminded of while reading this book?
Meg Elison has said that in a movie adaptation of this book she’d like the woman to be played by Kristen Stewart or Jena Malone. Who would you cast?
Do you think this book would make a good movie?