Sunday, February 10, 2008

Book Review: The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

During a blizzard in 1964, Dr. David Henry is forced to deliver his own twins. His son is born normal, his daughter, with Down's Syndrome. He asks the nurse in attendance to bring the girl child to an institution, telling his wife that their daughter was stillborn. The nurse disappears with the child and raises her as her own. This is their story.

Let me begin by saying Kim Edwards is a fabulous wordsmith. Her imagery is fresh, yet doesn't jar the reader from the story she is telling. She creates a sense of place and mood as completely as Dickens. And the story's premise--how a monstrous secret can infiltrate and destroy a family--compels the reader right through to its final pages.

Let me qualify my next comments by a little self-disclosure: I don't have a particularly long attention span and, at this time of year, I get about ten minutes of reading in each night before I find myself drooling on the pillow, my book on the floor. That said, I found the pacing of this novel a bit slow. By the end I found myself skipping from one burst of dialogue to the next, too eager to reach its conclusion to appreciate the authors undaunted descriptive skill. I suppose therein lies my draw towards children's literature. Kids are ruthless: get on with it or I'm going on the computer.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter is a beautiful study of human nature. Every expecting parent prays for a healthy child. The consequences of a child born with illness and/or disability are life changing. This story is the result of one father's decision, one he lives to regret. I'm so grateful to Barbara, my mother-in-law, for the gift of this book. It deserves a second read in the summer when I'm not so darn sleepy.

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