Review: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

Books, Novel, Review


:: author: Kim Edwards :: published: 2005 :: my rating: 3/5 :: genre: novel :: goodreads

Hello my lovely friends! This is a book I picked up on a whim from the library (mainly due to the promise of a story about twins). Though interesting, I can’t say that this was necessarily a page turner, nor did I fall in love with the characters. Although the beginning was exciting and suspenseful, I’d have to say that the following chapters left something to be desired.

Synopsis from goodreads:

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

My Review (contains spoilers!):

This novel revolves around a secret that brings one family together, while tearing another apart. Beginning in 1964, Norah Henry gives birth to a pair of twins on a cold winter night. Her husband, David Henry, delivers the babies all while experiencing flashbacks of the day he first met Norah. It is evident that he was completely infatuated by her beauty and even followed her into a lingerie shop in order to get her contact. Norah gives birth to a beautiful baby boy, Paul, and an equally beautiful sister, Phoebe. Phoebe, however, is born with down syndrome. David fears distressing Norah, and in hopes of protecting her, sends Phoebe away with Caroline to a hospital that cares for children with mental disabilities. On her way, Caroline decides to take Phoebe, and begin her life anew. David lies to his wife, saying how Phoebe died during birth, and thus the story begins.

If you’re already confused by the plot presented in the first chapter, have no worries, this book is written in a straightforward, simple manner which serves to accentuate the plot. Each character disappointingly tends to remains quite static, but Edwards attempts to develop each of them by  divulging their thoughts.

The characters seemed to follow archetypal patterns that made it difficult to find the book interesting.  Each plot twist could be easily predicted, which caused the spotlight to be focused on each character. While the male characters tended to remain static throughout the novel, the greatest transformation were with the two female protagonists. However, none of the characters were likable as each had faults that were expounded upon. This inevitably made them unpleasant and hard to relate to. Furthermore, each small details that were emitted caused the entire novel to be unsatisfying. Plot holes such as, how David was able to sign a death certificate for a live baby, left the book incomplete. Although intriguing, the way each character’s actions and thoughts were excused/explained by the secret David created, is also unrealistic and is a pathetic attempt to justify much of the plot. This book touched not only on grief, but on music, redemption, love, mental illness and revival.

Favorite quotes:

“You missed a lot of heartache, sure. But David, you missed a lot of joy.”

The entire premise of this book revolves around David’s secret of giving away his girl. This, he believed, was the right thing to do in order to protect the wife he loved. Instead of expressing his feelings and thoughts, David chooses to do what he believes is best and inconsequentially, brings about a series of unfortunate events.

“He’d kept this silence because his own secrets were darker, more hidden, and because he believed that his secrets had created hers.”

Even as David learns of his wife’s infidelity, he chooses to remain silent because he believes it to be his own fault. Of course the pattern of excusing each others misdemeanors on this secret, soon breaks the entire family apart and forces a distance between David and his family.

A simple read, I would recommend to housewives or those who have time on their hands and needs a late night book.


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