November 9, 2011

Power of Remembrance • The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: May 30, 2006
Source/Format: Bought || Paperback

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.

It's hard for me to describe how I felt about The Memory Keeper's Daughter. Astonishing. Astounding. Amazing. Awesome. (Does anybody notice a pattern here?)

This is a book about secrets. It's about loss, and the grief you deal with when it happens to you. But what I came away with after reading it was this: it is also a book about love, of lovers, of family, of friends, of strangers. The impression it left on me was one of love, hope and forgiveness, which, when you consider the plot, probably makes a whole lot more sense.

It's also a study of contrasts - we see how one man falls because of a choice he made, while one woman rises because of the choice she made. Everything changes for David Henry and for Caroline Gill on the night that Norah Henry gives birth to twins. The book traces the effects of the David's decision to give up his daughter Phoebe, who was born with Down's Syndrome, and Caroline's decision to keep her. We see how there's growth and pain, how there's a space that could never be filled, or a love unexpectedly found. 

This, however, I would say, is probably one of the more difficult books I've read. There's a lot of lengthy passages, and I had to stop a lot to absorb what was happening and make sense of it in the context of what had already happened. I honestly felt like I was slogging through it, but, at the same time, I felt like the struggle was worth it.

Kim Edwards paints a lovely, descriptive story for the reader - and it's one that deserves to be read.


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  4. I have this one on my shelf. I have also read lots of bloggers who share your feeling of the slogging through it , but it being worth it. When I have more time I hope to love it as well :)

  5. I never actually finished reading this. My Mom bought it for me years ago, right after it first came out. I was like a bucket full of angry tears from the get go and ended up putting it down because I didn't think I could put my heart through such a story! I might try to read it again someday! Wonderful review! :)

    Liza @ Book Crook Liza

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  7. Glad you liked it, even if it was a struggle! I have this one sitting on my shelf and actually gave it to my sister-in-law for her birthday about a month ago :) Thanks for the review!

  8. Absolutely agree with your review. I read this book years ago, so some parts are a bit blurry in my mind, but there's one in particular with David and Paul (and I think there were photos all over the floor) that I remember moving me a lot when I was reading it. Beautiful book.


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