Everyone is raving about Kim Edwards’ book, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. The Library Journal said “first time novelist Edwards has written a heart-wrenching book, by turns light and dark, literary and suspenseful. A natural for book discussions groups; recommended.”
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter follows the lives of Dr. David Henry and his wife Norah at the beginning of their married lives. It is 1964 and Norah is pregnant. She delivers twins, a boy first and then a girl with Down syndrome. David makes the decision to keep the little girl a secret, handing her to his nurse, Caroline, with instructions to take her to an institution- not an uncommon thing for the time when babies born with Down weren’t expected to live long or healthy lives. This decision shapes all the characters in the book in unexpected and complicated ways.
I didn’t like the book- but I was in the minority when we discussed it at book club. The characters- all of them- are chilly people and it was very hard to find their emotional center. But not everyone agreed with me. Most of the women in my group felt enormously sorry for Norah- who didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to her daughter…and who suffered enormously because of the secret her husband kept from her. The guilt of his decision haunted and shaped David- who already had some serious issues. Their marriage was irreparably damaged; Norah’s relationship with her son, Paul, was tentative.
The book was easily 100 pages too long.
Still- many people will love this book. Just not me.