IN THE ENCLAVE, YOUR SCARS SET YOU APART, and the newly born will change the future.Sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone and her mother faithfully deliver their quota of three infants every month. But when Gaia's mother is brutally taken away by the very people she serves, Gaia must question whether the Enclave deserves such loyalty. A stunning adventure brought to life by a memorable heroine, this dystopian debut will have readers racing all the way to the dramatic finish.
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Roaring Brook Press
March 01, 2010
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Excerpt from Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien
Chapter One: The Baby Quota
In the dim hovel, the mother clenched her body into one final, straining push, and the baby slithered out into Gaia's ready hands.
"Good job," Gaia said. "Wonderful. It's a girl."
The baby cried indignantly, and Gaia breathed a sigh of relief as she checked for toes and fingers and a perfect back. It was a good baby, healthy and well formed, if small. Gaia wrapped the child in a blanket, then held the bundle toward the flickering firelight for the exhausted mother to see.
Gaia wished her own mother were there to help, especially with managing the afterbirth and the baby. She knew, nor mally, she wasn't supposed to give the baby to the mother to hold, not even for an instant, but now the mother was reaching and Gaia didn't have enough hands.
"Please," the young woman whispered. Her fingers becko ned tenderly.
The baby's cries subsided, and Gaia passed her over. She tried not to listen to the mother's gentle, cooing noises as she cleaned up between her legs, moving gently and efficiently as her mother had taught her. She was excited and a little proud. This was her first delivery, and it was an unassisted delivery, too. She had helped her mother many times, and she'd known for years that she would be a midwife, but now it was finally real.
Almost finished. Turning to her satchel, she drew out the small teakettle and two cups that her mother had given her for her sixteenth birthday, only a month ago. By the light of the coals, she poured water from a bottle into the kettle. She stoked up the fire, seeing the burst of yellow light gleam over the mother with her small, quiet bundle.
"You did well," Gaia said. "How many is this for you again? Did you say four?"
"She's my first," the woman said, her voice warm with awed pleasure.
The woman's eyes gleamed briefly as she looked toward Gaia, and she smiled. In a shy, self- conscious gesture, she smoothed a sweat-damped curl back around her ear. "I didn't tell you before. I was afraid you wouldn't stay."
Gaia sat down slowly beside the fire, set the kettle on the metal rod, and swiveled it over the fire to warm.
First labors were hardest, the most risky, and although this one had progressed smoothly, Gaia knew they'd been lucky. Only an experienced midwife should have tended this woman, not only for the sake of the mother and the child, but for what would come next.
"I would have stayed," Gaia said softly, "but only because there's nobody else to come. My mother was already gone to another birth."
The mother hardly seemed to hear. "Isn't she beautiful?" she murmured. "And she's mine. I get to keep her."
Oh, no, Gaia thought. Her pleasure and pride evaporated, and she wished now, more than ever, that her mother were there. Or even Old Meg. Or anybody, for that matter.
Gaia opened her satchel and took out a new needle and a little bottle of brown ink. She shook the tin of tea over the kettle to drop in some flakes. The faint aroma slowly infused the room with a redolent fragrance, and the mother smiled again in a weary, relaxed way.
"I know we've never talked," the mother said. "But I've seen you and your mother coming and going at the quadran gle, and up to the wall. Everyone says you'll be as great a mid wife as your mother, and now I can say it's true."
"Do you have a husband? A mother?" Gaia asked.
"No. Not living."
"Who was the boy you sent for me? A brother?"
"No. A kid who was passing in the street."
"So you have no one?"
"Not any more. Now I have my baby, my Priscilla."
It's a bad name, Gaia thought. And what was worse, it wouldn't matter because it wouldn't last.