Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

I actually finished this book quite a while ago, but with the holidays and such I hadn't gotten around to blogging about it. So if this feels quite brief, that's why.

In March of 1964 Norah and David Henry are about to be proud parents. Due to a snowstorm, David, an orthopedist, has to deliver his own child, or children. Norah gives birth to twins. The boy, Paul, is a beautiful, healthy child, but when David delivers the girl, Phoebe, he quickly realizes that she has down syndrome. Trying to spare his wife the pain of an ill child, he makes the hasty decision to send her to an institution. David hands Phoebe off to the assisting nurse, Caroline, and instructs her to institutionalize the child; he then tells Norah that the girl was still born.

After seeing the institution, Caroline cannot bear to leave Phoebe there. Instead she decides to leave Kentucky and moves to Pittsburgh to raise the infant as her own. Each character struggles with his or her own demons: the death of a child, a horrendous secret, the struggles of a mentally challenged child and the feelings of inadequacy.

I don't want to say too much more as this is a very character driven novel and each character's storyline is very interesting, full of the twists and turns of real life. I loved all the back story that made David Henry's reactions understandable. I loved Norah's inability to let go of her 'dead' daughter, and I loved the way Paul grows up knowing that there is something unspoken in his family, but not quite being able to understand it. The Memory Keeper's Daughter was really good. The writing was beautiful and I liked the format of alternating between the two children's lives. The concept is very interesting and raises many questions as you read. It definitely made me think. If I had one complaint it would be that it felt a little sluggish at times, but overall it was definitely worth the time. I'm often hesitant of books that are proclaimed "must reads" by various sources, but this book lived up to all the hype.

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