(*NOTE* There are slight spoilers in this review, however, I have tried my best to make the spoilers not relevant to the enjoyment of the book.)
Book Name/Author: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Summary: Dr. David Henry and his wife Norah are expecting their first child in 1964. During a snowstorm, Norah goes into labor, and after receiving gas, gives birth to Paul, a perfect, healthy little boy, and then Phoebe, a girl who has Down’s Syndrome. David hands Phoebe to Caroline Gill, a nurse, instructing her to take the baby girl to an institution. He then tells Norah that Phoebe has died. Caroline, upon seeing the deplorable conditions of the institution, takes Phoebe and raises her as her own. The novel goes from there, showing how David’s choice, made with what he felt were the best intentions, impacts his wife, his marriage, their son, Caroline, and of course, little Phoebe.
Review: I am not usually into books like this, however, “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” pulled me in rather quickly. I had an aunt with Down’s Syndrome, and she was a little girl during that time period, in fact, in 1964, she was 17. She was one of the most loving, genuine people I ever knew, and it is because of her that I know so much about Down’s Syndrome. When David gave his daughter to Caroline with the instruction to take the newborn baby to an institution, I felt my mouth drop open in shock. A newborn baby! And his decision to tell his wife that Phoebe had died shortly after birth was, to me, even more cold and cruel. His decision does not come without a price, however. The reader can literally watch how the burden of knowing their daughter is still alive, and keeping that knowledge from Norah, drives a wedge between them.
Norah, understandably, is devastated by the loss of the daughter she never even got to look at. When David tells her that Phoebe was buried right away, Norah decides to hold a memorial for her daughter, and David’s anger and coldness about her desire to do so puzzles Norah, and pushes her away.
The tale alternates between the perspectives of Norah, David, Caroline, and later, Norah and David’s surviving child, their son Paul. Each story interweaves beautifully yet would stand alone as a beautiful story on its own. It is heartbreaking to see the destruction David’s choice (a very common one at the time, actually) to have his daughter sent away has on his marriage. The story is not overly emotional, the beauty is in the very subtlety of it, and Phoebe’s story is a testament to Caroline’s love for her.
In other words? I highly recommend this book. Seriously. Go read it. I’ll wait here.