November 7, 2010

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
2005 Penguin Books
Finished 10/18/10
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

This stunning novel begins on a winter night in 1964, when a blizzard forces Dr. David Henry to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy, but the doctor immediately recognizes that his daughter has Down syndrome. For motives he tells himself are good, he makes a split-second decision that will haunt all their lives forever. He asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the baby away to an institution. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child as her own. Compulsively readable and deeply moving, The Memory Keeper's Daughter is a brilliantly crafted story of parallel lives, familial secrets, and the redemptive power of love.

Most of us have experienced grief at some point in our lives, and I can honestly say that losing a child is the worst. So why didn't this book resonate more strongly with me? To be lied to about the death of one's child has got to be one of the most cruel acts a person can inflict on another human being. That it was Norah's very own husband who deceived her about their daughter's death is despicable. I can't begin to imagine what it would be like to later discover that the child was alive and well, not to mention being raised by another woman.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter is a compelling read, holding my interest from beginning to end, and yet it still somehow managed to miss the mark: It was a good book, but not a great one. The characters, held at arm's length (reminiscent of Frank and April Wheeler in Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road), are unsympathetic and tedious, and the plot is predictable and contrived. Still, I'm sorry my book club wasn't able to meet in October, because The Memory Keeper's Daughter was thought-provoking and rich with discussion material, in spite of its flaws.


  1. Sorry this didn't work for you. I read it in my pre-blog days and remember being touched by it.

  2. Anonymous10:31 AM

    I remember reading this one several years ago. At the time, I liked it. Looking back, it has lost it's grip on me. Therefore, it seems that it didn't touch me as much as I thought. I think the author has a new book coming out in the spring. Curious how that one will be.

  3. I really enjoyed this one. I'll have to be on the lookout for her new one.
    I didn't care for the movie version.

  4. I'm not exactly sure why, now, that I didn't finish this book. At first, it started out terrifically for me. Then, it sort of fizzled out. Perhaps the subject's too painful? I can't remember, as it was several years ago, but it's one of the few I abandoned. (Much like the poor child, I guess.)

  5. Anonymous12:50 PM

    I completely agree with your review. Once again, you put into words what I couldn't manage to do.


  6. Interesting - I've had this one on my TBR list for what seems like ages. I avoided it for a while because it seemed like everyone was reading it and I wanted to wait for the buzz to die down. Since then, it never had jumped back up to the top of my TBR radar. Maybe I'll let it languish on the list a bit longer. . . .

  7. Kathy - I was also touched by it, but it didn't wow me. I think I expected more since it was so popular a few years ago.

    Kay - I liked it, too. Just didn't love it. I wonder what her new book will be like. I think I'll wait to read some reviews...

    Staci - I glanced at the movie (on IMDB or somewhere) and decided to take a pass. I'm not a big fan of those Hallmark productions.

    Bellezza - It did have a great beginning, didn't it? Then it sort of fizzled out. Then it picked up again. I wonder what I would've done if it weren't a book club selection. Hmmmm.

    BTW, the child is abandoned by her father, but winds up in a very loving home. Probably for the better!

    Jen - It's too bad we couldn't all get together to discuss it!

    SuziQ - I wish I could tell you to pick it up and read it right now, but I honestly don't think you'd be missing anything if you never got around to reading it.

    There are far too many GREAT books out there that I would say you should read. Like Room and Left Neglected and Stiltsville, to name just a few. Let this one languish a bit longer. :)


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