Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Title: The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Author: Kim Edwards
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 401
Edition: Hardcover

1964. Lexington, KY. Pregnant Norah Asher goes into labor during the middle of a raging snowstorm. The relentless weather forces Norah and her husband Dr. David Henry, an orthopedic surgeon, to stop by his clinic for the delivery. Aided by nurse Caroline Gill, David delivers his son Paul, a healthy baby. But, David was totally unprepared for what was about to come next. A baby girl, Phoebe born with Down Syndrome -- "unmistakable features, the eyes turned up as if with laughter, the epicanthal fold across their lids, the flattened nose, the gap between her big toes and the others, Brushfield spots, as tiny and distinct as flecks of snow in the irises". David wants to spare Norah a lifetime of grief and hence makes an impulsive decision. He instructs Caroline to take Phoebe to an institution and tells Norah that Phoebe died at birth - an action he would repent forever. Caroline was too kind-hearted to leave Phoebe at the institution and she decides to raise Phoebe as her own. Caroline loves Phoebe ferociously and endures hardship to give her the education she deserves. While Phoebe grows up feeling happy and secured, Paul ends up being neglected and unloved. Norah longs to mourn for her lost child, but David refuses to acknowledge it. Their lives continue to drift apart. Grappled with grief, Norah turns her attention to a demanding career and meaningless affairs. And David is so guilt-ridden he distances himself from his own family. He seeks solace in photography. Even though his behavior is despicable, the author makes you empathize with him all along. I kept wondering if he would ever divulge the secret to Norah and the fact that he never did was unfathomable to me. Melancholy seeps through every page of this book. The characters are real, interesting and well developed. I was impressed with the way this novel explored the fragility of marriage and how love, pain and grief could shatter the basic intimacy between even the strongest bonds of relationsips. A Fascinating Read!
My Rating: 4.7/5

Other Notable Works By the Author: 'The Secrets of a Fire King' - Shortlisted for the PEN/Hemingway Award.


Literary Feline said...

Wonderful review! I liked this book as well. Kim Edwards proved herself as a very good story teller.

Lotus Reads said...

Great review Chitts and this truly does sound like a fascinating story! Guilt can be a terrible thing and it certainly affects one's relationships, as in David's case. Where the author seems to score is in making the reader empathize with his behavior instead of disliking him outright.

Happy Reader said...

@literary feline - Thank you! I am looking fwd to read her short story collection 'Secrets of a Fire King'.
@lotus - Yeah. It's heartbreaking to see how love and guilt can drive wedges between even the closest relationships.

Ranjini said...

hi, i got to your blog through other blogger friends of mine. am currently reading the memory keeper's daughter and it is such a fascinating read. it is ironical that his daugher turns out to lead a more fulfilled and happy life than this son.