Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
Penguin, 2005
Fiction; 401 pgs

Started: 03/04/2007
Completed: 03/10/2007
Rating: * (Very Good)

First Sentence: The snow started to fall several hours before her labor began.

Where Book Came From: My TBR collection (where it’s sat since 10/2006)

Reason for Reading: I have wanted to read this book for quite some time, but other books always seemed to take priority. The upcoming discussion at On the Porch Swing seemed like the perfect excuse to fit this fine novel in.

Comments: Kim Edwards has written a masterpiece. The author sweeps the reader into the story immediately as a blizzard rages outside and Norah Henry goes into labor. It is winter in 1964, and Dr. David Henry is forced to deliver his own baby. He could not be more proud to discover he has a healthy baby boy. He was not prepared for what came next: the birth of his daughter, who showed signs of having Downs Syndrome. David makes the momentous decision to turn his daughter over to his nurse, Caroline Gill, instructing her to take the baby to a nearby institution, where he believes she will receive the best care. Caroline follows David’s instructions only to decide at the last minute to keep the baby and raise her on her own. What follows is the story of these two families and how their lives are impacted by that one decision. It is a heart wrenching story, and yet also one of hope.

Each of the characters found a place in my heart. Their struggles became my own each time I lost myself in the pages of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. I could see the bad decisions before they were made, felt the disappointment and loss, and shared in the hope or improvement and change: Norah in her grief, Paul in his need for approval, Caroline in her struggle to do what is right, Phoebe for her innocence, and even David, with his guilt and heavy burden of maintaining a secret heavier than he could bear. To some degree, each character felt disconnected from each other and at times themselves. As much as I disapproved of David’s decision, Kim Edwards was still able to craft his character in such a way to make him sympathetic.

This novel reminded me of the value of open communication and honesty in a relationship. Dark secrets drive wedges between people, keeping them a part and slowly eroding the family. Although the biggest secret came with the birth of Paul and Phoebe, David’s character was always secretive, not wanting to share too much of a past he was ashamed of. His secrecy created a natural barrier between him and others, making it impossible for anyone to get too close to him.

The topic of developmental delay and retardation, specifically Downs Syndrome, was a major point in Kim Edward’s book. The author deftly wove the details into the story without being heavy handed. The prejudice and recommended care options of the time period being less than sympathetic. Institutionalization was perceived to be one of the best options for children and adults with these conditions. Education and career options were extremely limited. It took parent activism to spearhead the movement in correcting those harmful views. While things are better today than they were back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, they are not completely resolved.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter deserves the high praise it has received. Kim Edwards carefully spins her tale, dropping a stone in the pond and following the ripples to where ever they lead. The novel is beautifully written and the characters well developed. I liked the pace of the story, the breakdown and shifting of the time, which moved to story along and captured the feel and important details of the story. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is a thought-provoking novel that will stay with me for a long time to come.

Favorite Part: Two scenes most stand out in my mind: Norah’s tackling of the wasps’ nest, which was comical while at the same time a very telling and life-changing moment in the story; and the meeting with the Board of Education when Caroline stands up to the board, arguing why Phoebe deserves an education like every other child.

I liked the character of Al, the truck driver, who seemed a stable force throughout the book. He was not perfect, of course, but his loyalty and supportiveness touched me.

Note about the Author: Kim Edwards got the idea for this novel from her pastor. She dismissed the idea at first, but as the years passed found herself coming back to it. Thank goodness for that!

Upcoming novels: The author is working on her next novel called The Dream Master. I definitely will plan on checking it out when it is released.

Read what others had to say about The Memory Keeper's Daughter:
Puss Reboots
Melody's Reading Corner


  1. Wonderful review! I've been longing to read this book for sometime now. I picked up this book couple of months ago, but being pregnant I couldn't get through it as I found it very depressing to read a novel about a Down's baby at this time. But, I will definitely get back to it after giving birth! I can't wait to pick this one up again! Thanks for the review!

  2. Great review, Wendy! I'm glad you liked this one as much as I did. I thought Edwards got it just right...very moving story. I'm looking forward to reading more of her work.

  3. I really liked this book when I read it as well! Great review!

  4. I've got this on my TBR Challenge list, so I'll be getting to it within the year. :)

  5. This is on my TBR pile. Glad to hear you liked it.

  6. Thanks, Happy Reader! I can understand why you would want to wait on this one right now.

    Wendy - Thank you for the kind words. Edwards did a great job with it. I hope she hurries up and finishes her next masterpiece so I can enjoy it! Haha

    Kim - Thanks!

    Joy & Malady - I hope you both will like it as much as I did.

  7. As shallow as it's going to sound, I've been admiring the cover of this one for months.

    Your review has given me significantly more to admire, though! I'll see if I can get hold of this one.

  8. Andi - I like the cover too. Sometimes it's the covers that draw me to a book and give me an incentive to pick it up and take a look to see if it's worth reading. :-)

  9. I like the new look of your blog. Tres chic!

  10. Hi, great review you have here! And love the new look of your blog! :)

  11. Ooh...a new look! I like the blog makeover, Wendy!

    The scene with Norah and the wasp nest was my favorite part of the book; it really marked a turning point for Norah.

  12. I like the new look, Kitty. It will take some getting used to, though.

  13. I just finished listening to this on audiobook a few weeks ago! I enjoyed it very much. :)

  14. Oh, now I want to pick this up and read it!

    And the kitty wallpaper is so adorable.

  15. Great review Wendy!! For some reason, I haven't felt the desire to pick this one up. Maybe it's just a timing thing. Oh well....

    I like the new look by the way!!

  16. Nik - Thank you! I decided to try something with a lighter background, hoping it would be easier to read.

    Melody - Thanks on both counts!

    Nyssaneala - Thank you. :-) It was a very powerful scene. It made me laugh too as I knew her use of the vaccuum was not going to have the outcome she expected.

    Kookie - Thanks! I am still trying to get used to it, to be honest. My husband says the good thing about a template like this is that I can change the background every once in awhile.

    Zandria - It is a great book, isn't it? I'm glad you enjoyed it too!

    Carrie K - Thank you! If you do read it, I hope you'll enjoy it. :-)

    Stephanie - Thanks! I wasn't sure about this one for awhile, but it finally seemed like the time had arrived. It may be the moment never arrives for you or it could be tomorrow. Either way, there's plenty of books to read, right?

  17. Very nice review. I liked this book alot and thought it was so tragic that the couple didn't communicate. Glad to hear that Edwards has a new book out.

  18. Thank you, Booklogged. I agree. After finishing the book, I could appreciate even more the open communication between my husband and I.

  19. I am so pleased I didn't buy this book. A complete waste of time...probably the worst book I have ever read. Far worse than any soap opera on TV

  20. I agree that this novel deserves all the good reviews but so many people don't like it. I used to live in Lexington KY so I particularly enjoyed it.


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