Saturday, March 17, 2007

Review: The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

Of all the goals I've made for 2007, reading a book a month for the TBR Challenge seems to by the one I've been most successful at pursuing so far. I finished On Writing, by William Zinsser, the first week in February. Then I devoured The Guy Not Taken, a collection of short stories by Jennifer Weiner, over the next several days. I don't have much time to read, so finishing each book before midnight on the last night of the month has been a pleasant surprise. Luckily, each book I've chosen has held my interest and been worth the hours I've put into them.

My March read was The Memory Keeper's Daughter, a story about a doctor whose wife unexpectedly gives birth to twins--a healthy boy and a girl with Down's sydrome--and the fateful choice the doctor makes to send the infant girl to an institution and tell his wife she died. The story started out a bit slow for me, but as soon as the secret of Dr. David Henry's daughter was introduced, I knew I'd love this book. I loved each of the characters, so deeply affected by a single event, by one decision made by a man trying to protect the woman he loved from a deep pain.

Before I started this book, I'd heard from several readers that it wasn't very good. I was afraid I'd be trudging through a bad story. But like everything else in this world, different people have different opinions about books, and I'm so glad I didn't let the bad reviews keep me from picking this story up and delving in. I liked everything about it (except the excessive details in the first few chapters). I loved the alternating points of view. I liked the characters, even when they weren't acting very likeable. I enjoyed the mistakes and imperfections of each of them, and I particularly enjoyed the pursuit of redemption, each character attempting to reconcile their choices and perspectives based on what they know and don't know is the truth.

I read a comment from another reader who said she had a hard time believing that someone would react the way Dr. Henry reacted in the story. But I know personally that in the time that Memory was set, raising a child with Down's syndrome wasn't easy, and doctors regularly encouraged families to put the child in an institution and forget about him or her. Keeping such a child at home just wasn't something you did in those days. Thankfully, there were parents who challenged this status quo and fought for the progress that so many benefit from today. Kim Edwards' story reminds me that there was a time when people with mental disabilities had little hope of living a productive and fulfilling life within our society and makes me thankful for those people (like my grandmothers) who refused to follow the pack and pushed for the rights their children deserved. It also reminded me of how far we have yet to go, of mothers who continue to fight for their childrens' rights to an education, to opportunities, to experiences, that so many of us take for granted.

If you haven't already read this book, I'd recommend it. You may or may not like it, but I think it's worth a try. And if you have read it, I'd love to know what you thought, good or bad.


Wendy said...

I also loved this can read my review by following the link above. I'm not sure why several people in my book groups didn't like this story; I thought it was wonderful!

bookinhand said...


I agree with many of your comments. I especially liked the different points of character views as well. I have since passed my book on and it has been happily read by several other people.

patresa hartman said...

cool! you're reading a book a month. oh, i like that goal.

and speaking of sadly, i did NOT meet my 5 hr/week writing goal last week. DAMN! this week i am on spring break, so i have absolutely NO EXCUSE to not meet it.

as for the memory keeper's daughter. i'm glad you liked it. honestly, i didn't. i made it through half and then put it away. i thought the story itself was really interesting. i wasn't bored by it or anything like that. i just got really fed up w/ the characters, particularly the doctor's wife. i don't remember her name. i didn't feel like the characters were changing at all, and it bugged me. and i felt like the doctor's wife was just too pitiful. i had a hard time sympathizing with her. so i put it away.

BUT in all fairness, i had JUST finished reading a friend's ms -- an ms that she has been having a really hard time getting an agent to accept. and i felt like edwards' writing was inferior to my friend's writing. and yet edwards was all over barnes & noble with display cases and such. so i think i read it in sort of a bitter state of mind. :)

at any rate...

have you read anita shreve's Light on Snow? i thought that was a really good book. really clean story telling. i thought it made a gerat lesson in straight-forward narrative.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Ami. I'm always on the lookout for a good read, and this sounds like one I'd like. :)

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