Synopsis: (Taken from the back of the book)
This stunning novel begins on a winter night in 1964 when a blizzard forces #4 The Memory Keeper’s Daughter Dr. David Henry to delivery his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy, but the doctor immediately recognizes that his daughter has #4 The Memory Keeper’s Daughter Down Syndrome. For motives he tells himself are good, he makes a split-second decision that will haunt all their lives forever. He asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the baby away to an institution. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child as her own. Compulsively readable and deeply moving, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is a brilliantly crafted story of parallel lives, familial secrets, and the redemptive power to love.
The year is 1964 and Dr. David Henry has just sent his newborn daughter to an institution for unwanted babies and told his wife she had died. What man could do such a thing? What on Earth could possibly have motivated Dr. Henry (a man who always strives to do right and help others) to lie to his wife and strip away her right at being a mother to their daughter, Phoebe? This was his own daughter, born of his own flesh and blood, and cast aside. The question compulsively ran through my head as I read – “How could he do that? How could he live with that secret? How could he live with himself?” This quick decision to send off his daughter would end up haunting him for the rest of his life, and would in turn, affect the relationship he had with his wife and son. Would it all be worth it?
When Dr. Henry David delivers his own twins during a blizzard, he quickly notices that his daughter has down syndrome. As this takes place in the 60′s, when knowledge on Down Syndrome so scarce, Dr. David thinks about Phoebe’s life prognosis and expectancy – and to shield his wife from the pain, he makes the quick choice to instead inform his wife that she was born dead. He hands his daughter off to his nurse, Caroline, and instructs her to immediately drop her off at the institution that he had recommended to so many patients before. Caroline, a nurse in love with her boss, follows directions without question.
Caroline, though, arrives at the institution and quickly makes the decision to (instead) turn away with the unwanted newborn and disappear into another city and raise the child as her own. Would Nora ever find out about Dr. David’s lie? What would happen with Phoebe when and if this should happen? What would become of Phoebe?
I found that I loved reading about Caroline and her quest to raise Phoebe in a world that wasn’t ready to be so accepting of Phoebe’s limits. Brave, hard-working, and determined – Caroline does her best at providing for this child that wasn’t born to her.
Kim Edwards manged to create a handful of elaborate characters that were multi-dimensional, painting a picture of a story, a situation that no one would want find themselves in. Although I wasn’t always fond of certain characters at certain points in the book – I felt that they were believable and I understood why they behaved the way they did. Although the situation in it’s entirety was never a “win-win”, I enjoyed discovering what these families did to learn to deal with their painful past, to forgive, to live, and to love again.
Would I recommend this book to a friend – Oh, yes. I found it was a meaningful read with crucial life lessons that I cannot even begin to go into.