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The Memory Keeper's Daughter: 10/12/06

Memory Keeper's Daughter

I signed up for a book ring of The Memory Keeper's Daughter last November as the story of a father keeping a huge family secret until his death was something I was using in that year's Nanowrimo novel. Now nearly a year later the book has reached me and it was well worth the wait.

Kim Edwards chose a very cliched set up for her story but the narration is told well enough to make the book a page turner. In the first chapter she uses:

  • A freak storm
  • An unexpected birth of twins
  • A father forced to deliver his own children
  • A twin whisked away to live a separate and secret life.

From this formulaic beginning, Edwards sets up two parallel but ordinary (mundane even) except that one mother has depression now to face and the distancing of her once close husband while the adoptive mother must learn how to raise a child with Down's syndrome and fight for her daughter's rights. It is the emotional evolution of these characters that makes the book interesting.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

The best intentions are not always the best ideas. A young father who had seen his childhood torn apart by the loss of his sister tries to save his wife and infant son from a similar fate when is wife gives birth to a daughter with Down's syndrome. Though he doesn't kill his daughter, he tells his wife that his daughter died at birth and keeps the secret of her life until his own death decades later.

While the set up of the births feels contrived the rest of the story crafted well enough and with such tenderness that the extraordinary circumstances at the beginning are soon forgotten and forgiven. The novel isn't so much about what the characters do in their separate lives but how they grow emotionally and how the burden of the secrets tears at the bonds of family.

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