Book Review: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

Title: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
Author: Kim Edwards
Pages: 401
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 0143037145

On a winter night in 1964, Dr. David Henry is forced by a blizzard to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy. Yet when his daughter is born, he sees immediately that she has Down’s Syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split-second decision that will alter all of their lives forever. He asks his nurse to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret. But Caroline, the nurse, cannot leave the infant. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself. So begins this story that unfolds over a quarter of a century – in which these two families, ignorant of each other, are yet bound by the fateful decision made that long-ago winter night. Norah Henry, who knows only that her daughter died at birth, remains inconsolable; her grief weighs heavily on their marriage. And Paul, their son, raises himself as best he can, in a house grown cold with mourning. Meanwhile, Phoebe, the lost daughter, grows from a sunny child to a vibrant young woman whose mother loves her as fiercely as if she were her own.

REVIEW

If you’re in a situation to either keep a secret that will destroy your love one’s lives or to deal with a scenario that can possibly give pain and regrets, what will you choose? The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, a story about a fathers journey through grief and sadness as he gave away her daughter believing that it’s the right thing to do. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter – great plot, written awesomely yet there’s something lacking in the story. Okay so let’s discuss The Memory Keeper’s Daughter starting with the story line.

Dr. Henry faces difficult decisions and faces unsurmountable consequences through his life after delivering his wife’s twins and came to a decision to give away his baby girl who was born with Down’s Synndrome. No one can really know what to do in this situation and no one can really blame what the doctor faced that night. I mean people can point fingers and throw moral obligations but at the end – whatever actions one does, we’ll suffer the consequences of everything in the future. We can speculate that it’ll be different if he decided otherwise but if you really think about it, no one knows how it’ll be until you are really there. That’s where the dilemma started – believing what is right from wrong. It’s really hard to debate on what’s right and wrong since everybody will have a different perspective and decision but that’s how Dr. Henry wanted it and that’s the start of his troubles.

His marriage was never the same after that night, Norah was just not moving on. Not even trying but rather made stupid decisions that she decided were justifiable from the hurt that she was facing. Everything with her was one sided – What about me? My feeling? My loss? Well, what about your husband’s and your son? It was just painful. Paul, well there’s really no development there as well as Bree who is Norah’s sister. Edward gave us a glimpse of here and there but character development with these two was lacking. What I didn’t get was why Phoebe’s character didn’t get the exposure or “voice” that was supposed to be the driving force behind the whole story.

Next is the pacing. When you think that you are close to the climax, it mellows down then after a few chapter it seems to be reaching the climax again but it mellows down one more time and that went on and on a few times. That was frustrating – that was what bothered me as well. The story went on and on and resolution was written in the last few chapters of the book. It was like Edwards wrote a big chunk of sulkiness and problems, 3/4 of the book then wrote out the ending just to resolve the whole thing. The ending was missing something that I couldn’t really point out too. I would really loved to have read the why’s of Dr. Henry. Why he decided to give his baby away, I would have appreciated if he was given a few chapter to defend himself and make us realize on the why’s but rather Edward killed that character. Heart attack while running. Hmmmm. Really? Very convenient.

What I did love about the book was its ability to give me the emotions needed to follow the story and finish the book – it was an emotional roller coaster  to say the least and that isn’t a bad point in this review either. There are a few books that can do that and Edwards has that talent of keeping a reader focused, intrigued and curious up to the resolution of the story. In addition, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter was a very difficult topic to tackle, so a point goes to Edward for giving us a story that one can remember. How you remember this book depends on the readers but for me, it’s a love and hate relationship that I would love to revisit in the future.

What I also love are the tons of philosophy in the story.

You can’t stop time. You can’t capture light. You can only turn your face up and let it rain down.

Here’s another one

Photography is all about secrets. The secrets we all have and will never tell.

and last but not the least –

Either things grow and change or they die.

I’d love to share this scene as well for you guys to remember:

“How?” he asked softly. “How could he never tell us?”

She turned to him, serious. “I don’t know. I’ll never understand it. But think how his life must have been, Paul. Carrying this secret with him all those years.”

……

“Our lives could have been so much different.”

“Yes. That’s true. But they weren’t different, Paul. They happened just like this.”

“You’re defending him,” he said slowly.

“No. I’m forgiving him. I’m trying to, anyway. There’s a difference.”

“He doesn’t deserve forgiveness.” Paul said, surprised at his bitterness, still.

“Maybe not,” his mother said. “But you and I and Phoebe, we have a choice. To be bitter and angry, or to try and move on. It’s the hardest thing for me, letting go of all that righteous anger. I’m still struggling. But that’s what I want to do.”

That’s probably the most beautiful thing I read in the book.

At the end of the day, it’s really a matter of perspective and approach with this book. I didn’t love it, I am not the only one. There are a number of people who loved this book  so it really depends on how you’ll take everything in. Would I recommend it, sure why not. As I said, there are people who hate it but there are tons who adore it so I want everybody to give this book a chance.

SIDE NOTE: Since I admit that I am a reader who do judge a book by it’s cover – the cover is awesome. Very eye catching there’s no doubt about it and the title gives that mysterious vibe to it that will make you insanely curious and interested in the novel.

ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: I just noticed that I am always most of the time disappointed in a book with US No.1 Bestseller selling point, note to self  in the future- be hesitant in the future unless proven otherwise.

 

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