Monday, January 14, 2008

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

While visiting my family over Christmas, I noticed my aunt was reading The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. The book looked familiar, but I couldn't place it. She said the book was good. When I returned home, I needed to pick out a new book to read. Imagine my surprise when I found The Memory Keeper's Daughter on one of my bookshelves. No wonder it looked familiar. I considered it a sign, and read the book.

The book was amazing, the story original, and heartbreaking. In 1964, a doctor is forced by a blizzard to deliver his own baby. Only, it was two babies. The first baby was a perfect baby boy. The second, a girl, with Downs syndrome. Due to factors in his past, the doctor, David, believes it is in his wife's best interest to immediately take the girl, Phoebe, to an institution. He asks the only other person there, the nurse, Caroline, to do this for him. Only, when she gets to the institution, she realizes she can't leave the girl there. Upon her return to town, she discovers that David has told his wife, Norah, that Phoebe was stillborn. Caroline leaves the area and raises Phoebe on her own, eventually marrying. David's decision haunts all their lives, and his son's, Paul.

The book is written from the perspective of the main characters, David, Norah and Caroline, and once he is older, Paul. This is what makes the book so wonderful. From the description of the book, as a woman, all I could think is, "how could he?" but after hearing his story, in his words, you understand why David did what he did, and you hurt for him. He wants to do the right thing. He thought he was doing the right thing. But this, this he did wrong, and he spends the rest of his life trying to find a way to fix it. Norah quickly falls into a depression after the birth. While you feel for her, I think Norah is probably the weakest character in the book. I never understood where she was coming from, in regards to her personality before the babies, and when she finally reaches for "independence" it felt forced. Caroline grew the most as a person. Her life moves in unexpected directions because of Phoebe, and I liked her more than Norah. Paul was drawn so well that I just wanted to hug him.

The book is wonderful and readable and sad and happy and hopeful and hopeless. My main complaint is a rather strange one. Every single main character's parents died while they were all young. Now, I know people lose their parents at a young age: my husband was 24 when his mom died. However, what are the chances that three people, who meet by chance, would all have lost their parents at a young age. I know this was important to the plot, to a certain extent, since they were all formed by these early deaths, but still, there are other plot devices that could have achieved the same end without all the drama.

I would highly recommend this book. Believe it or not, but it actually had a happy ending. Well, at least the happiest ending possible. Go get it today, or just check your bookshelves.

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