Book review

02 May 2017
Volume 25 · Issue 5

Alice Allan's Open my Eyes, that I may see marvellous things is a compelling and original debut novel. Influenced by her experiences as a lactation consultant in Addis Ababa, the story draws on Allan's clinical knowledge and experiences in Africa. The narrators change throughout the book, but the story stars Mariam, an adopted midwife who has returned to her birthplace in Ethiopia to undertake voluntary service.

When Mariam witnesses a homeless woman abandon her premature baby after birth, her own feelings of loss and desertion resurface. So begins her crusade to save the life of this baby, whose beginnings mirror her own. Mariam's colleagues consider this a futile exercise for an unwanted baby destined for the state orphanage. In a hospital with limited neonatal intensive care facilities but a strong belief in modern medicine, Mariam introduces the concepts of donor breast milk and kangaroo care for premature babies to the NICU. Enlisting her friend Rahel, a neonatal nurse, and Dr John Spencer, an English paediatrician, Mariam risks her professional reputation to be sole advocate for a baby that may otherwise die.

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