July 09, 2007
"The Memory Keeper's Daughter" by Kim Edwards
Two or three times a week for the course of more than two months, I would pick up and then put down “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” by Kim Edwards. I had heard good things about this book from several friends, but the thought of reading a book about someone who gave away his imperfect child was just so distasteful to me, I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit a day or two to reading the story. Obviously, I finally took the plunge, and found it worthwhile.
The story starts in 1964 when Dr. David Henry’s wife Norah goes into labor during a snowstorm. Their obstetrician is unable to make it through the storm, so David and his nurse, Caroline handle the delivery. Paul is born and he is unexpectedly followed by Phoebe, who has Down’s syndrome. Ostensibly to save his wife the pain of likely losing this child soon to heart problems, David asks Caroline to take Phoebe to an institution for children with Down’s syndrome. David tells his wife, who was sedated during the delivery, that their daughter died at birth. Caroline, after seeing the institution and being appalled by it, decides to keep Phoebe and raise her as her own. The story then moves forward through time, with glimpses into the lives of these characters every few years for the next 25 years. We see David and Norah’s marriage fall apart as Norah continues to mourn the “death” of the daughter she never got to see and as David lives with his guilt over lying to his wife and his unresolved pain over this sister’s early death due to a lingering illness. Paul struggles to live up to his father’s expectations and Caroline struggles to get Phoebe medical care and educational services. There is resolution in the end, but without an unreasonably pat happy ending.
Posted by jnardine at July 9, 2007 09:11 AM