After I finished The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, I immediately got the sequel, The Book of Etta. I knew going in that it was not a direct sequel: it doesn’t take place immediately after the end of Midwife, but instead picks up decades later, in a new burgeoning civilization after the apocalyptic events of the first book. So I wasn’t disappointed about that. However, this book was a rare experience for me: a piece of media that has an ending so weak, it makes what came before seem so much worse in retrospect.
Don’t read further if you don’t want non-detailed plot spoilers about The Book of Etta, and one about The Book of the Unnamed Midwife.
Years and years after Alex, the Unnamed Midwife, settled in a place that ended up being called Nowhere, a society exists where women have survived and even successfully live through childbirths, though very rarely. Women also only focus on the business of children and childbirth, which of course means that in its own way this new society is just as limiting for women as the old one was. Except for Etta, who acts as a raider, going away from town to find supplies and girls to rescue to bring back to Nowhere. When Etta goes out, she goes as Eddy, a man, in order to keep safe. But issues of gender identity arise in Etta/Eddy as they go out and discover new areas, and new horrors of the world they live in.
All of this sounds good, and it mostly is, if a little unfocused. But the book takes a huge misstep in its final third. Suddenly the realistic world we’ve been reading about the entire time adds in magic and mysticism and…magical Mormons? I don’t even know. I don’t know why this addition and swerve was necessary, and it breaks the series to have that be a part of the reality. I almost stopped reading entirely at that point but slogged through the rest, frustrated the entire time. Also, note to everyone writing this kind of book: the trope of villains having lions and/or tigers is as pets is so played out.
Anyway, I still recommend the first book in this series highly. But don’t bother with this one. It isn’t worth it.