June 13, 2014

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

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.
-from The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

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The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards is a book I have been meaning to read for years. I bought it on clearance at Borders before they were going out of business, which gives you an indication of how long I've had it. This novel is about the repercussions of a powerful decision Dr. David Henry makes in 1964 when his wife gives birth to twins: a healthy baby boy and a baby girl with Down's Syndrome. Affected by his own sister's health problems and premature death, Dr. Henry believes that it's best to tell his wife, Norah, that their daughter died in childbirth and instructs his nurse, Caroline, to take her to a special needs facility. But Caroline just can't abandon the baby girl and decides to move away and raise the baby as her own.

Overall, I found this book incredibly lukewarm. It had a powerful and emotional story, but I still found it only mildly enjoyable. It wasn't a bad book by any means, but it also wasn't my favorite. I didn't feel a huge connection with the characters which I think would have made all the difference in enjoying this story. I could easily explicate how affected both Norah Henry and the nurse Caroline's lives were because of the simple decision Dr. David Henry made on his own; I would probably even enjoy fleshing out the repercussions these women faced because of the world they lived in in the 1960s. But because the writing felt like it was held an arm's distance away from the author, I never really felt truly connected to these characters despite how dynamic I think they were meant to come across.

Something I did enjoy was the path of Dr. David Henry's life and how realistically flawed he is as a character. While I don't agree with him, I understand his motivations for giving his daughter away. I can see that he wants to protect his family, and yet the guilt he obtains from his choice ends up eating away at his family anyway. The overall message that you cannot control life and you should make the best of it rather than control it is very powerful. I think that made it worth giving this book an extra half-star in my rating. I'm glad I finally read this book, even though it wasn't necessarily one of my favorites. I definitely think it's the type of book that may very strongly affect another reader in a more positive way.

Bottom Line: Not my favorite book, but you may enjoy it if you like family-focused contemporary novels, especially containing the subject of Down's Syndrome. I didn't love it or hate it, but I'm glad I finally checked it off my TBR list. 3.5/5 stars.


  1. I've heard of this one a lot, did they maybe make a lifetime movie about it? I feel like someone told me about it one time. It sounds interesting but I don't think it's one I'd be eager to pick up! Glad you checked it off your TBR! I'm glad it had a powerful message that added to the story!

  2. I read this book in high school for my AP lit class. It was alright in terms of a book I had to write a paper on, plenty of literary things to talk about to be sure, but it was definitely not my kind of book. I kept waiting for it to get less sad and it just never really did lol. Maybe I'd enjoy it more now that I'm a little older, but I'm not in a hurry to pick it up again. I definitely agree that it has a great message for those who read it, though. It is a powerful story if nothing else.

    --Katie at The Pop Cultist


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