The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
By: Kim Edwards
Paige’s Rating: (3.5) of 5 Stars
Recommended for: Fiction Readers
In 1964, when a blizzard forces Dr. David Henry to deliver his own twins, he immediately recognizes that one of them has Down Syndrome and makes a split-second decision that will haunt all their lives forever. He asks his nurse to take the baby away to an institution and to keep her birth a secret. Instead, the nurse disappears into another city to raise the child as her own.
I had heard wonderful things about this book, and since it was a #1 New York Times bestseller, I had high expectations. I wish I would quit doing this to myself. It seems that the more awards something wins, the more I expect it to rock my socks off. Instead, I was left feeling good but unsatisfied.
The topic of a child born with Down’s syndrome in the mid 1960’s is interesting to me, since I completed my Master’s in Special Education. Therefore, I feel the plot of the story is very attractive and creative as it is actually divided into two. The first is of Dr. David Henry and his family: his wife, Norah and his healthy son, Paul. Yet, it also details how he deals with the secret of his daughter’s existence and how his wife deals with the lie of her daughter’s death. The plot of David and his wife is depressing and flat, with not much development. I kept waiting for some sort of climax, surely he must finally tell his wife the truth of their daughter? His lie completely deteriorates his marriage and to read that is tedious. The second is of Caroline, the nurse, who took the discarded daughter and decided to raise her on her own. This was much more enjoyable to read, and alone it would have sufficed as a wonderful story of a woman trying to raise a disabled child in the 70’s and 80’s.
The characters were interesting. The author was able to clearly give us insight into Norah’s depression over the loss of her daughter, even years after the “death.” In addition, the character of Caroline was well developed, as we witness her as a young, scared nurse to a confident and strong-willed mother, fighting for the basic rights her daughter deserves. The author was able to paint the female characters well, but I felt that the main male character, David, was static. He seemed nearly heartless although many situations in the novel point otherwise.
The ending seems a little disconnected from the feeling of the book as a whole, as if the author was unsure how to bring the two stories to the same end. This is what left me the most discontent. I also found the ending to be a little disappointing for reasons I won’t say, since it would spoil the plot.
Overall, a good book to curl up with this winter, as it will more than likely leave you with warm fuzzies. However, don’t expect this to shatter your New Year.