The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards was inspired by a story about a Down syndrome baby being put into an institution by his father, his mother being told he had died. The child spent his entire life in the institution.
The start of the novel is compelling, telling the story of a young married couple, Norah and David, ?set in 1964. He is a medical doctor and ends up delivering his own babies on a snowy night helped by a midwife. A healthy boy is born, followed unexpectedly by a daughter with down syndrome. As David lost a sister when he was aged about ten, a sister who always suffered from ill health and as his mother never recovered from her death, he made the sudden and dramatic decision to send the baby to an instituation via the midwife and tell his wife that their baby girl, Phoebe, had died.
The midwife, Caroline, takes the baby to the institution and finds she can’t leave her there, she returns to her flat and decides to leave the town with the baby, stopping at the baby’s memorial service just before she drives out of town.
I enjoyed the ‘Caroline’ parts of the novel, I admired her spirit in deciding to leave with the baby, her fights to gain ‘normal’ rights for Phoebe and her anxieties about her daughter’s future. ?I actually found the book to be a real page turner for the first half of the novel and then my interest really waned,?Edwards was telling us too much, inane comments about Norah being depressed as if we couldn’t work it out! Telling us that David’s decision was borne from his grief about his sister, again and again. We are reminded that this is how things were done in the 1960s and 70s, that Down syndrome children were put into institutions or special schools. ?Although I initially felt very sorry for the character Norah, imagining her pain at not having held her baby daughter and being lied to for so many years, in the end she irritated me so much that my sympathy disappeared completely!
Paul (the son) got my sympathy, denied a sibling as David didn’t want any more children in case they risked another Downs child, living with a self-obsessed father and a depressed mother. His father’s love was revealed to him after his death, when he and Norah found boxes of photographs taken of Paul through the years.
A good novel but it had flaws which lowered the standard in my opinion. There was just too much of the author stating the obvious – whatever happened to giving the reader a chance to interpret 🙂
Paul was eventually reunited with his sister towards the end of the novel when the truth is revealed after David’s death.
To read other reviewers of this book in our bloggers book club, head over to ?Jenny?and?Lily?who new blogs and the others are?,Marie,??Val,?,?Catherine,?Jenny,?SusanC,?Winifred,?Ann,?Paysan,?Susan?and?Dee. If you would like to join our book club, do get in touch. ?Our next book is The Pink Cage by Derbhile Dromey and will be reviewed the last Sunday in November.