Midwife in Behruz is the fictional story of Layla, a midwife whose distant relationship to the Sheikh of Behruz, a fictional country on the eastern side of the Gulf of Arabia, sees her visiting Behruz for a month to attend her relative's wedding. Once in the country of her birth, though, she meets a charismatic doctor and discovers that perhaps her true calling lies in helping the women of this conservative country.
Judy Meadows has lived and travelled extensively in the Middle East, and is also a doula and childbirth educator. This knowledge shines through in the story, in Layla's sympathetic attitude and her skills, and in the wonderful portrayal of the fascinating and colourful lives of everyday people in a part of the world so many write off as backward desert nations.
Layla's growth as a person into figuring out what she really wants was fantastic, superbly written and realistic. I empathized with her all the way, and I absolutely adored Majid, who was a fantastic hero. He wasn't the stereotypical sheikh, but he was educated, passionate and compassionate, and I think any woman in his orbit would fall in love with him too!
While this is well written and edited - I didn't find a single spelling mistake, and only a couple of very minor punctuation ones - I did have a couple of issues with the story. I don't think it's realistic to write a story set in the Middle East these days which doesn't mention religious extremism, or even religion, in more than passing. We didn't even have Majid rolling out a prayer rug - there could have been an amusing mid-labour scene where the baby's father broke off his attention to pray, for example. In the back of my mind there was a constant niggle - Layla walking unaccompanied through the streets without her chador on set alarm bells about zealots accosting her ringing for me, and honestly I was surprised neither the Sheikh nor Majid seemed to have any concerns for her safety.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed the book, these little niggles kept me from really loving it. It's definitely four solid stars, though, and I'd happily read more of the author's work in future.
Midwife in Behruz is available now.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.