Kim Edwards – The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
94. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards (2005)
Length: 401 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Started: 02 September 2007
Finished: 09 September 2007
Summary: Dr. David Henry is forced to deliver his own twins in the middle of a blizzard. The first, a boy, is healthy, but he immediately recognizes that the girl has Down’s Syndrome. In a split-second decision, he asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the girl to an institution, and tells his wife Norah that their daughter died at birth. Caroline, however, cannot abandon the girl to the institution, and instead leaves town and raises Phoebe as her own. This book tells the story of their parallel lives and how that one secret decision defined and shaped them all.
Review: I thought this was a very moving book, especially considering the fact that I didn’t really like any of the characters (except maybe Paul). That seems to be an embodiment of a lot of this book’s contradictions: it had a definite sense of empathy and sense of connection to the characters, who were very real in their actions and reactions, but at the same time, a lot of the details about the characters (David’s family history, the metaphor of his photography, Norah’s dichotomy with her own sister) felt inorganic, like they were added in as pure literary device. Likewise, the writing was lush and usually gave an immediate sense of place and texture, but at times the metaphors and descriptions seemed so over-worked that they became cold and impersonal again. I think as a whole, my main issue with this book was that it never forgot (and never let you forget) that it was a Serious Book about a Serious Subject; that it never just gave in and let the story carry it. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Better than most of the Oprah-esque books about family and loss and secrets and grief that I’ve read, but it just lacks some essential spark that would make it great.