Sunday, August 5, 2007

Bonnie's review of The Memory Keeper's Daughter

1. Title, author, and date of book?
The Memory Keeper's Daughter, by Kim Edwards, 2005

2. Genre: fiction

3. What made you want to read it? Did it live up to your expectations?
Because several people had recommended it, I put it on the lists for two of my challenges: Something About Me and Saturday Review of Books. Yes, it was as good as I had expected.

4. Summarize the book without giving away the ending.
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; his daughter 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 infant to an institution and never to reveal the secret, then tells his wife their daughter was stillborn. Caroline, the nurse, cannot leave the baby at the institution and disappears into another city to raise the child herself. What happens when secrets are revealed? (Hmmm, I just realized that's TWO books about children with Down's I have reviewed here ... two out of two.)

5. What did you think of the main characters?
This book has three main characters. I cannot imagine lying to a spouse as David did. I do understand Norah's being more upset by her child's death than her husband had expected and Caroline's desire to raise the baby rather than consign her to a life in an institution.

6. Which character could you relate to best, and why?
Caroline, who raised the little girl and fought for her right to an education, even if she did have Down's.

7. Were there any other especially interesting characters?
I liked Albert (Al) Simpson, who helped Caroline when her car battery died during that night's blizzard, and Dorothy (Doro) March, who later became Caroline's friend. The twins were also interesting: Paul, who was smart and handsome, and Phoebe, who thrived in a loving household.

8. Did you think the characters and their problems were believable?
Most of the time, yes, but Dr. Henry's problems were self-inflicted and could have been solved if he had had the gumption to tell the truth. Of course, we wouldn't have had a story then, would we?

9. Share a quote from the book:
"He had tried to protect his son from the things he himself had suffered as a child: poverty and worry and grief. Yet his very efforts had created losses David had never anticipated" (p. 258).

10. Share a favorite scene from the book:
Paul, the son, sees himself as a "caretaker of the past" (p. 378). "His to choose, what to keep and what to discard. ... his deep sense of responsibility, how what he kept from this house of his childhood would become, in turn, what he passed down to his own children someday -- all they would ever know, in a tangible way, of what had shaped him" (p. 378).

11. What about the ending?
I could think of better ways for it to end, or at least as I would have wanted it to end. But the story works with the ending the author gave it.

12. What do you think will be your lasting impression of this book?
How secrets can tear a family apart or harm them in unexpected ways. Not everyone in my own family agrees with me, but I do believe in telling the truth and getting secrets out in the open so they don't poison relationships. I kept turning those pages, wanting to know what would happen, whether the wife would ever learn what really happened to her daughter.

13. How would you rate the book?
Rated 9/10, excellent!

14. How does this book tell me something about 3M, who selected it?
When 3M chose this book for one of her five, she wrote: "The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards has several 'something about me' qualities. It is set in Lexington, Ky, and I live less than an hour from there. The author is a UK professor and mentions the school and the Wildcats, and my husband got his undergraduate degree there and is a UK fanatic. Like Paul (the boy twin), when I was an adult I found out I had a sister that I never knew about. Like David (the husband and father), I felt like an 'imposter' in my (brief) professional life. He is a doctor in the story; I was an engineer. This was probably due to his poorer family background, which I can also relate to. Like Norah, I suffered from postpartum depression."

So I learned something about the area where 3M now lives, though she says (in choosing another book) that she is originally from Nebraska; I learned that she has a sister she knew nothing about until they were adults, that she wasn't entirely comfortable being an engineer, that she was a teacher (from her introduction of another book), that she relates to the fictional character's poorer family background, and that she has experienced postpartum depression. I think I know you a little better, 3M, but I would really like to hear what it felt like to learn you had a sister.


alisonwonderland said...

i read The Memory Keeper's Daughter earlier this summer - before this challenge. it had been recommended by a good friend. i liked it.

you've done a nice review here, Bonnie!

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Thanks, Alison!

Dewey said...

Loved this book! I think it's one of the first books I ever blogged about. :)