Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

When Dr. David Henry's wife gave birth his son was perfect. His daughter had Down syndrome. He tells himself that the best thing for her is to send her with a nurse to a facility for the mentally ill and inform his wife that their daughter died in birth. Caroline, the nurse, can't bear to do it and she disappears, taking the infant with her. Each family attempts to go on with their lives, but they are secretly bound to each other.

This was a gripping story, and difficult to put down once you start reading. However, I didn't find it as inspiring or wondrous as some reviewers apparently did. I was rather appalled by how weak most of these characters were. They seemed all to willing to simply throw their hands up and flush their life down the toilet. I was frustrated by this, and rather angered. I know I am more stubborn than most folks, but I still found it unbelievable that all these people just sat back, got a drink, and watched things fall apart. Then they had the nerve to whine about how hard everything was and how unfair, which mostly all worked out happily in the end. Shouldn't a family try to help one another through these incidents rather than sticking their heads in the sand and saying "It will go away. Just wait a little longer."? How often does that work?

My problem wasn't as much the decision to send away the little girl, I know that was common in the time period this was set in, but with the inability of these characters to do anything for each other rather than themselves. (Even Caroline has some selfish reasons for keeping the little girl, although hers bothered me the least.)

The writing is solid and the characters are varied. I did feel sometimes that the author was trying too hard to write something that could be called "literature" rather than mere "fiction." It felt a little forced and lofty sometimes, while the actual language and sentence structure weren't always strong enough to support all of what the author dumped on it.  Despite it's flaws, I enjoyed this book. I thought it did a good job of showing that things we consider completely unacceptable (giving away a child) isn't necessarily an act of evil.

3 Stars

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