Valuable quotes

"No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow." ~~



"The minute you start talking about what you're going to do if you lose, you've already lost." ~~



Cree Prophecy - "When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money." ~~


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards



Kim Edwards' propitious debut novel, The Memory Keeper's Daughter, is by no means an easy read. The overall sadness, a result of an impulsive and painful decision made by Doctor David Henry during an immobilizing snow storm on a cold winter’s night in 1964, creates such sweeping consequences that they reach into the next two decades and beyond. This one unfortunate choice made by a man who felt there could be no other choice for him, irrevocably changes the lives of many people.

Doctor Henry, an orthopedic surgeon, delivers his wife Norah's babies. Along with his
nurse colleague Caroline Gill, they witness the birth of fraternal twins, son Paul, and a little girl, Phoebe. But they don't tell his wife that Phoebe is born with Down Syndrome.

It is Kentucky 1964, and at that time not uncommon for babies with the syndrome to be sent away to special homes at birth. But what David decides to do is not entirely legal; in fact, it is close to being a crime.

He asks nurse Caroline to take the baby away to a place that looks after children such as Phoebe, and he tells Norah that their daughter has been born dead, rationalizing it as a need to protect his wife from grief.

This split-second decision becomes a pivotal turning point in the lives of Norah, their son Paul, as well as Caroline, who decides to flee with the child and raise her as her own. After seeing the home she was told to deliver Phoebe to, she realizes that she cannot leave the baby there. In the back of her mind she knows she can give Phoebe a much better life than what she'll receive at the institution.

As the years pass, David and Norah's lives continue to erode, with the lie creating an invisible wall around David, and he and Norah drift further and further apart. Where once their marriage had been happy, the "death" of Phoebe destroys it. And the boy, Paul, sensing the unhappiness between his parents, is also affected by the death of his twin, and becomes a rebellious and petulant teenager, easily seen heading to a life of delinquency and crime.

The jarring irony in all this is that David based his decision on his own childhood. He grew up watching his own parents live in the fear of losing his sister, who also had Down Syndrome. She was chronically ill, born with heart defects and had no chance of surviving into adulthood. It was David's need to protect Norah from the sorrows of raising a child such as his sister that forced him to give Phoebe away, never understanding how the death of a child would impact his wife, or any mother. At the same time, David acting as if the baby was never born, causes Norah to turn from him as he continues to frustrate and anger her more as years pass.

Both David and Norah eventually find interests away from each other, creating a wider chasm in their relationship. There are other people brought into this book, all with much to add to the story, including Norah's free-spirited sister Bree, caught up in the turbulent '60s; and Al, a truck driver who helps Caroline and the baby the night they flee, becoming an integral part of their lives. You follow the children and see how they thrive in their own ways and follow the years as one family thrives and the other one deteriorates.

This book shouldn't be mistaken for a romance, nor should it be thought of as a soap opera laid out on paper; it is neither. It is simply a wonderfully crafted tale of two sets of people tied together by the lie of one man. What is most fascinating though — comprising the power behind the novel -- lies in the paths of each of the twins as they grow up in separate environments.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter isn't the kind of book I'm accustomed to reading, but it was recommended to me by a friend. I am now making a recommendation to others to give it a read. While not perfect, it gives us a view of the past and much to think about.

reviewed February 24, 2007


4 comments:

Katie McNeill said...

I read this one too because a friend gave it to me to read. I wasn't sure at first, the writing is wonderful but the story isn't my thing. But the more I read the more I loved it. I agree with you!

Anonymous said...

OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOGM I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH! ITS THE BEST BOOK IN THE WORLD OF BOOKS!!!!!!!!!!!!! ITS AMAZING AND I HOPE IT GETS MADE INTO A MOVIE. IM ONLY 13 BUT I LOVE IT ANYWAYS!!! PLEASE MAKE THIS WONDERFULL BOOK INTO A MOVIE!!!!!

Anonymous said...

hah i think that person likes the book ^ :|

wowza said...

decent read, byatch

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