Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

The Memory Keeper's Daughter is a very good book - and a pretty fast read. I didn't have much time this past weekend to read with cleaning and cooking to get ready for the family coming in to town for Kile's 1st birthday party, but I somehow managed to squeeze in enough time to finish it last night!

This book has an interesting and different premise from most books. It starts in 1964 with a rare snow storm in Lexington, Kentucky at the same time as Norah Henry, the young wife of a bone doctor, David Henry goes into labor. David gets Norah to the doctor's office in time, but the doctor is unable to show up. A nurse, Caroline Gill, is able to make it to help David deliver his own child. Much to David's surprise, Norah not only delivers a healthy son (Paul), but a second child, a daughter (Phoebe) with Down's Syndrome. David panics seeing that his daugher has Down's Syndrome and sends her with Caroline to put her in an institution. He then tells Norah (who had been sedated during birth) that there daughter was stillborn. Caroline finds herself unable to put Phoebe in the institution and flees with the baby to Pittsburg and raises her as her own child.

After this riveting first chapter, the novel then tells the story of how Phoebe's absence affects that Henry family and how she enriches Caroline's life. The novel skips periods of five years or so at a time to advance the plot and ends in 1989. There were times when the novel seemed to be a bit slow and when I felt like I wanted to smack some of the main characters . . . and that is why I think of it as very good, but not great. But I figure any novel that makes me feel enough to want to smack a character, is pretty darn good.

I guess reasons why I got angry were why, why, why did David Henry not tell his wife about their baby? Why could he never open up about his past and let his family know the rough details of his childhood and other secrets so that he could also really let them know how much he loved them? I know Norah was sad about having a stillborn baby, but why did she feel the need to become an alcoholic or to have affairs? Caroline is supposed to be a good character for taking the baby, but I kept thinking, was it really good to take someone else's baby and not tell them? Why didn't she ever tell Norah? If she wouldn't have left with the baby, would David have changed his mind?

Although I think I liked David and Caroline's story lines the best, I did like Norah's evolution as a woman. In 1964 she just wanted to be taken care of, but by the 1970's, she was out trying to find a job and having a very successful career. I thought it was very interesting seeing how ideas and standards of living change over time.

This would be a great book club book with so many interesting things to discuss. If you've read this novel - let me know what you think!! What about it made you angry or did you especially like?

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