While reading ”The Memory Keeper’s Daughter”, there was this one quote from The Lion King that kept running in mind. It says, “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But you can either run from it or learn from it.” (In case, you have still not watched Lion King, please slap yourself:)) So yes, this book is all about how past decisions can affect your life and how it can set in motion events that impacts not just your life but also those around you.
The main protagonist of the story is David Henry who has had a less than happy childhood in the state of West Virginia. Because of the fact that his family was poor, they were not able to save his sister, June who died of a heart defect when David was 12. In the hope of curing other people, David then leaves his home to become an orthopaedic surgeon in Lexington. Later, he meets Norah Asher in a departmental store. They fall in love and get married and Norah gives birth to a set of twins. David delivers the twin in the company of his assistant nurse, Caroline who was the only available help due to a blizzard that had hit their city. So, while the baby boy, Paul is normal and healthy, the girl baby, Phoebe is born with Down’s Syndrome. Because advancements in the field of this disease is almost negligent, David feels that she is unfortunate and her future is completely bleak and shattered. So he does what he feels is right and gives the baby to Caroline with instructions to leave her at an institution and tells his wife that the girl child died. But Caroline is horrified by the condition of the institution and takes Phoebe back to her home, to raise her like her own child. These two decisions form the core of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. From here on, the book moves in parallel paths with the lives of Paul and Phoebe and those involved in their lives.
Throughout the book one gets a sense that the main question that the author was trying to resolve was that how could David live with the fact that he had done such a thing. So while the question is valid, the manner in which the author addresses the issue seems to be very distinct and vague. Because from the moment David decides to give up his daughter, his life seems to be headed towards complete chaos and agony. In addition, along the way, his bond with both his wife and son is weakened and his family life is completely ruined. The sad fact however is that David never really does anything about it because though he gets numerous opportunities to confess his deeds to his wife and son, David never really tells them the truth. For a novel that is based on drama and suspense, the book feels very dry and uninteresting after a particular point of time. Additionally, with such a long narration of both the lives of Phoebe and Paul, the readers expect the climax to be extremely dramatic and explosive. But in reality, the climax of the book is very anti-climatic because it does not create the necessary impact in the mind of the readers.
Also characters are the most important aspect of any book. I did not feel any kind of sympathy or love for any of the characters of the book. Other than maybe Caroline, I was not very interested in knowing more about their lives. A major flaw is that all the characters are one-dimensional and it is very difficult to relate to their choices and decisions or feel any kind of sympathy for them. Hence, barring a brilliant premise and interesting style of writing in the first few chapters, the book sadly falls apart soon. So though well-meaning, the book sadly lacks the soul, even though the intentions are right.
About Kim Edwards
An American author and educator, Kim Edwards was born on May 4, 1984 in Texas. She began college at the Aubum Community College and in 1979 she got transferred to Colgate University. In 1981, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree and received her master’s degree from the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. She also earned a second master of arts degree in linguistics from the same college.
Apart from the Memory Keeper’s Daughter (which has been translated into 38 languages), she has written two other books namely the Lake of Dreams and a collection of short stories, The Secrets of a Fire King. She has over the years been awarded with numerous honours including the Whiting Award, the British Book Award, USA Today’s Book of the Year, the Nelson Algren Award, a National Magazine Award, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. She currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband Thomas Clayton and their two daughters.
Favourite Quotes In The Book
“Anything can happen. But what goes wrong isn’t your fault. You can’t spend the rest of your life tiptoeing around to try and avert disaster. It won’t work. You’ll just end up missing the life you have.”
“He’d kept this silence because his own secrets were darker, more hidden, and because he believed that his secrets had created hers.”
“In some deep place in her heart, Caroline had kept alive the silly romantic notion that somehow David Henry had once known her as no one else ever could. But it was not true. He had never even glimpsed her.”
“A moment was not a single moment at all, but rather an infinite number of different moments, depending on who was seeing things and how.”
“Grief, it seemed, was a physical place.”
It is not a bad book but it definitely lacks the soul and intensity. This book has an amazing premise but unfortunately it did not hold my interest for very long. I really tried my level best to enjoy this book but to completely read it, required some level of patience and time on my part.