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.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Window of Opportunity

I'm supposed to be working on this week's article for Feed the Soul and clocking a few of those 5 hours per week of writing that I committed to.

But the banging downstairs won't stop. I should have known better. I went to work today bright and cheery, with the knowledge that I'd be leaving early and heading home for a rare afternoon of writing time. It never occurred to me that focus and concentration would be out of the question while the men downstairs installed my new triple-pane Preservation windows in the living room. I can work through just about anything, but it sounds like they're ripping out the entire wall, and all I can think about is the horror stories I've heard of construction and contracting gone wrong.

I'm trying to quell the anxiety by visualizing my beautiful, energy efficient new windows, but then I start picturing bits of duct tape holding the frames in place and nails sticking out of the wall. I'm actually afraid to go downstairs and see what's going on. What if they're making a mess that I'll have to clean up later? What if the measurements were wrong and the windows don't fit? What if I made a mistake?

Ah, paranoia...why do you keep coming around? I guess I'll go start a load of laundry. At least something productive will get done.

And I can catch a glimpse of whatever is going on downstairs on my way through...

UPDATE: Turns out I was worrying for nothing (of course). Soon after I posted this, the banging subsided and I got some serious writing done. Plus, the windows look fantastic! If only I'd had the $9000 to do all the windows in the house at once. Two down, six (plus the four basement windows) to go. I really am going to spend all of my spare cash on this house now, aren't I?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Disciplinary Action

So it turns out that to be a writer--to actually believe that you are one and to make other people believe it, too--you have to write something. I'm working on this part of begin a writer. I've go the "call-yourself-a-writer-and-you're-a-writer" thing down. And I've been sporatically publishing here and there. But it's the actual discipline of writing I'm having a bit of difficulty with. While I write regularly for Feed the Soul, and I just published the final article in my online series on home buying for Radiant Magazine, I'm not getting very far with my essay collection and that novel I keep thinking (and, to my dismay, telling people) about. I think I actually believe that if I keep talking about these things they'll materialize without any effort on my part. Clearly, I'm absolutely nuts.

The only good that can come out of this telling is that the pressure that it puts on me to perform, to not let all of these people down, is pushing me to get my arse in gear and write something. I know I keep saying this, but maybe if I keep talking about it I'll actually do it. In fact, I'm always the first person to point the finger at "talkers." You know people like this: they always have big plans, but never seem to see them through. They drive me crazy. And here I am, acting like a talker myself.

I don't want to be a talker. I want to be a doer. But how do I get from the talking to the doing?

I guess I just do.

Patresa recently posted about her realization that people treated her writing like a hobby because she treated it like a hobby, and that hit me as being true of myself, as well. So I'm going to start treating it like the job that it should be. Here's the plan. (Yes, I've made a plan, because "a goal without a plan is only a wish," and wishing never got me anywhere.) I'm committing to write at least 5 hours a week: 2 hours on either Tuesday or Thursday night, and three hours on Sundays. And this blogging thing, while I love it, does not count as my writing time. That means you may see less of me around here until I get into the grove of my new routine. I love you all, but I'll hate myself if I never really pursue this dream with all that I have.

I spent Sunday doing more market research and I'm sending my first essay out to more journals this week. The last five submissions were rejected, so it's on to the next group on my list. And I finished a second essay on Sunday, which I'm going to start submitting, too. I also started character sketches for my main characters for that novel I've been talking about. I'm going to be seeing an old friend in two weeks, and when I mentioned my goal to get a first draft finished this year, she told me she'd hold me to having at least a title page printed by the time we meet up. I want to have those character's fleshed out by then, instead. And I'm working through the Freelance Writer's Bible in the hopes that it will live up to it's promise and help me to develop a consistent writing practice and a lucrative freelance career.

Here's to living our dreams and making them happen!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ahhh...No More Viruses

I can't believe how much of a difference a clean slate makes. My computer has been restored to its original state and is happily flying from website to website. Programs are opening in seconds instead of minutes, and I'm getting stuff done in record time. I'll be around to visit and I'll be back to writing regularly. Big thanks go out to my new favorite co-worker for taking care of my computer, a machine I've realized I'm very dependent on.

Now if I'd only thought to back up my music folder...I have to reload all my music on iTunes. Small price to pay for no more viruses, I suppose.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Just a quick post to say I'm still alive, but my computer is only hanging on by a thread. I've been doing as little as possible on it over the last several days and trying to fix the problem on my own, but it's just not fixing. I'm leaving it with a co-worder tonight to work some magic on it, and hopefully I'll be back to posting regularly in no time.

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