The Midwife of Venice

About The Book

Not since Anna Diamant’s The Red Tent or Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book has a novel transported readers so intimately into the complex lives of women centuries ago or so richly into a story of intrigue that transcends the boundaries of history. A “lavishly detailed” (Elle Canada) debut that masterfully captures sixteenth-century Venice against a dramatic and poetic tale of suspense.

Hannah Levi is renowned throughout Venice for her gift at coaxing reluctant babies from their mothers using her secret “birthing spoons.” When a count implores her to attend his dying wife and save their unborn son, she is torn. A Papal edict forbids Jews from rendering medical treatment to Christians, but his payment is enough to ransom her husband Isaac, who has been captured at sea. Can she refuse her duty to a woman who is suffering? Hannah’s choice entangles her in a treacherous family rivalry that endangers the child and threatens her voyage to Malta, where Isaac, believing her dead in the plague, is preparing to buy his passage to a new life. Told with exceptional skill, The Midwife of Venice brings to life a time and a place cloaked in fascination and mystery and introduces a captivating new talent in historical fiction.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Man on the Run includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction


 

Dr. Ezekiel Pipher, a Pastor at an evangelical church in Nebraska, examines the concept of men whose extreme passions and pursuits drive a wedge between them and their families. When men pursue their hobbies at the expense of their family lives, all family members can suffer extreme consequences.  Pipher examines how this happens and what men can to do turn their attention back to their families without giving up the activities they enjoy most.  Dr. Pipher helps men and women understand why men so doggedly chase these pursuits in the first place, and what they can do to keep their family lives intact.  Man on the Run seeks to motivate men to live their lives with happiness, enthusiasm, and balance.

 

Topics & Questions for Discussion

 
  1. Why did you choose to read or discuss this book with your small group? What initially drew you to this topic?

 
  1. Are you familiar with men who pursue their hobbies at the expense of their family lives, either within your own family or among your acquaintances? How have you witnessed these men’s behavior affecting their relationships?

 
  1. Pipher writes that “[t]he desire to belong to a brotherhood of friends is rooted very deep in the hearts of men.  When a man believes that excelling in an interest or career will enhance this sense of belonging, he’ll put tremendous effort into that endeavor.”  How is the way that women socialize different than this description of men’s form of socialization? How would you describe what is most important to women in terms of relationships with other women? Why might these differences account for some of the difficulties men face that Pipher examines in his book?

 
  1. Are there any hobbies not covered in this book that you think are particularly demanding of men’s time? Are there any specific hobbies or pursuits that have caused a problem in your family? Discuss.

 
  1. Pipher writes of his years in college and the dissatisfaction he felt with his life until he turned to God. He writes, “I wanted to do what was right. I wanted to be a good man. I just couldn’t find the power to transform myself. This flip-flopping between who I was and who I wanted to be was exhausting.” Later, he writes, “I was tired of being in control of my life. I’d journeyed to the end of myself and didn’t have the legs to go further.” Do you agree with or relate to his experience? Have you ever found that giving yourself over to certain religious beliefs or other ways of thinking has made your life easier? If not, why do you disagree with this way of thinking? How can letting go of old habits or changing your perspective be beneficial?

 
  1. Pipher lays his own life bare in this book, writing of incidents when he behaved less than admirably—from inconsiderate things he said to his friends to problems in his own marriage. By being candid about his own troubles and missteps, does he build a stronger case for others to follow his advice? 

 
  1. Do you think the phenomenon described in this book is limited to only men, or have you known women who neglect their families in order to chase their own pursuits? Why might this be more of an issue for men than for women?

 
  1. Pipher describes some of the activities that some men pursue as “addictions” and “obsessions.” These terms indicate that the men are “no longer in control.” Do you agree? What would you say are some of the essential characteristics that define addiction and obsession?

 
  1. “Much like having a boil scraped off or a tooth extracted, the transformation of our hearts is not fun.” Why do we often fear the pain of change, even when it might be a lesser pain than what we are currently living with? Why is it sometimes more “comfortable” to live with unhappiness than to take the steps to make a change? Can you think of a time where you especially resisted change? What was the outcome?

 

 
  1. Would you say the audience for this book is primarily men or women?  Can you think of anyone in particular to whom you would recommend this book?

 
  1. Do you have any of your own advice or techniques to help individuals in your life to better balance their passionate pursuits with their family life? What are they?

 
  1. What did you find most helpful about this book?  Were there particular elements or anecdotes that stood out to you?  Is there anything you think Pipher could have explored in more detail?  Did you come away feeling that you have helpful suggestions to apply to your own life?

 

Enhance Your Small Group

 
  1. If you liked Man on the Run, check out books on similar topics such as The Measure of a Man by Gene Getz, Wild at Heart by John Eldredge and Every Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker.  These titles explore the roles of men within their families, their communities, and their churches.

 
  1. In the spirit of Man on the Run, organize a calendar of events for your small group where you each pick one of your favorite activities to do with the group. Whether it’s sports, arts and crafts, cooking, or just having a picnic, you can spend time doing one thing that everyone enjoys—together!

 
  1. Listen to Dr. Pipher’s sermons here: http://heartlandefc.org/category/sermons/. Which sermon did you relate to or enjoy the most?

About The Author

Photograph by Guy Immega

Roberta Rich divides her time between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Colima, Mexico. The Midwife of Venice is her first novel.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery Books (February 14, 2012)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451657487

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Raves and Reviews

“Rich skillfully incorporates a wealth of historical detail into her riveting tale of a heroine who won't give up on her marriage.”—Chicago Tribune

"Riveting and compulsively readable,The Midwife of Venice combines fast- paced adventure with richly evocative historical writing." — Freshfiction.com

“A cliffhanger-strewn debut … breathless historical adventure.”—Kirkus Reviews

"Successfully captures the seedy side of 16-century Venice." — Publishers Weekly

"Rich’s fascinating historical details and her warm empathy for her protagonists will capture historical fiction fans and readers who enjoyed Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent." —Library Journal

“By definition, novels set in Venice must exude atmosphere, and this one positively drips with it. …Rich capably depicts the strength of women and the precariousness of their lives.” —The Globe and Mail (Canada)

The Midwife of Venice is one of the best novels to be written in the genre of historical fiction since The Girl with the Pearl Earring.” —Blogcritics.org

"An engrossing, well-written, and fast-paced story about a fascinating period in history. The descriptions of sixteenth century Venice were so vivid, they were almost tangible."

– Joy Fielding, New York Times bestselling author of Charley's Web

"A compelling and engaging novel, a well-researched high-stakes drama written with elegance and compassion: fascinating!"

– Sandra Gulland, author of The Josephine B. Trilogy and Mistress of the Sun

"A meticulously researched page-turner that evokes renaissance Venice with remarkable clarity, radiance, and vigour."

– William Deverell, author of Mind Games

"Not only did Roberta Rich transport me to sixteenth-century Venice, with its seductive tapestry of smells, sights, textures and beliefs, she involved me in a poignant story of seasoned love. I don't know which I admired more--the wonderfully realized setting or the suspenseful story of Hannah and Isaac."

– Katherine Ashenburg, author of The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History

"A beautifully conceived debut novel... A finely drawn plot with well-developed characters to
whom the reader feels a deep connection. Historical fact is well preserved in the fictional story, and it seems clear that Rich herself feels an abiding connection with that story and her characters. The pages fly by as we too connect deeply with Hannah and Isaac. A highly recommended novel."

– Historical Novel Society

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