Saturday, September 23, 2006

[Book Review] THE MEMORY KEEPER'S DAUGHTER by Kim Edwards


Beth reviews THE MEMORY KEEPER’S DAUGHTER by Kim Edwards (Penguin, 2006):

Usually I have some tale to tell about why I chose a book—a doctor’s visit, the wait at the polls—but this book was one I simply found in my hands. I had not heard about it from anyone; I was a blank slate ready to read a hauntingly simple looking book. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, however, was anything but simple.

Norah Henry, wife of skilled orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Henry, went into labor during a heavy snowstorm in 1964. With only his nurse Caroline to aid him, Dr. Henry delivers their healthy baby boy, Paul. A short while later, Norah’s contractions begin again— twins! Norah, drugged during the labor, does not realize that the little girl, Phoebe, is born with Down syndrome. Recognizing the child’s condition and remembering his own mother's devastation at the death of his disabled sister, David orders Caroline to take Phoebe to an institution and softly tells Norah that the little girl was still-born. Caroline, overcome with love for the little girl, claims Phoebe as her own daughter and moves to Pittsburg. The next 25 years for each family are shown to us in brief chapters—Phoebe’s first communion, Paul’s interest in Juilliard, Caroline’s fight for Phoebe’s education. This secret destroys many relationships but will create new ones as well.

I hope this book makes as much of an impression on you as it has on me.

Beth, Highland Branch Library

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I read this book a few months ago. Thinking back, it seems that I was most drawn to the character of the father. He's certainly not sympathetic, having sent his daughter away to be raised in an institution. But, the author reminds us that Phoebe was born in 1964 when attitudes about Down Syndrome were different. Still, there was something intriguing about David Henry. In order to understand his motives, I wanted to know even more about his mother and sister and his West Virginia background. His photography was also intriguing. I kept 'screaming' at him to put down the camera and talk to his wife and son.

Thanks for your review.
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