The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

Title: The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Author: Kim Edwards
Series: Stand Alone Book 
Source: Personal Copy
Format: Paperback
Genre: Literary Fiction
Synopsis (from book cover):
On a winter night in 1964, Dr. David Henry is forced by a blizzard to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy. Yet when his daughter is born, he sees immediately that she has Down's syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split second decision that will alter all of their lives forever.

What do you think a secret can do to a relationship – strengthen it further or cause it to fall apart? This is one of the many question marks that Edwards engraved in her bestselling book, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. The book chronicles the life of a family in the span of 15 years – from the year of 1964 right through 1989. The couple, Dr. David and Norah Henry, leads a happy and serene life right until the night the doctor is forced to deliver his own baby in the middle of a blizzard. His first son, Paul, was born perfectly but the twin – his daughter, his Phoebe – one that he does not know exists was born with Down’s syndrome.

Knowing the fate of his daughter and the possibility of complications that might follow as the girl grows up; he makes an ultimate decision to send his daughter to an institute that manage children like her. He hands the little girl to the nurse, Caroline Gill, and prepares to tell his wife that their daughter was born dead. This is where the future starts to change; this is where the landslide begins. While Caroline runs away, trying to raise his daughter on her own, the secret that David keeps from his wife morphs into a hedge that separates the two of them and later cracks the family. How could people do the unthinkable thing while convincing themselves that it is for the best? How does this one lie has the ability to affect the life of so many?

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is indeed an interesting and thoughtful read but admittedly, I do have a mixed feeling about it. Edwards’s style of writing is so beautiful, so poetic and she definitely has an excellent way in visualising the scenes, capturing the atmosphere and most importantly, revealing the life of people in those 15 years in great detail. One thing that I appreciate most from her writing is that she has this deep emotion towards the characters that she created to the point that she managed to persuade me to have some compassion towards them as well, when the truth is, I did not fully second the decisions that they made and the actions that they had taken. She makes me understand them, put myself in their shoes and sees the obstacles through their eyes.

What falls short – for me – is that Edwards seems to be focusing more on the difficulties that both David and Norah faced rather than those suffered by the other victims of the situation: Caroline, Paul and Phoebe. Yes, I can understand David’s guilt and Norah’s depression but I think the impact of the deception towards these other three lives should also be pin-pointed and described in length. There are some stories about them but the intensity doesn’t seem to match David’s and Norah’s. I strongly believe that if the stories about these separate lives are being laid out in a more balance way, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter will be even more heart-wrenching, mind-blowing and poignant read. Nonetheless, the book is still good, complete with interesting storyline and characters that can be likeable at one point, but totally hated at another.

After reading The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, I can understand that it is not really a candy to just about everyone. It is one depressing book that talks about deceptions and the dominoes effect that is initiated by just one big secret. A book about grief and a vivid detail on what could possibly happen if one is not allowed to grief openly and freely. There is a lot to ponder in this book which makes it an excellent choice for a book club as it is the kind that is meant to be dissected and deeply discussed.

Favourite Quote: You can't stop time. You can't capture light. You can only turn your face up and let it rain down - David Henry


  1. I had forgotten about this one, I remember seeing around and then it slipped my mind. Still it might just be too depressing for me

  2. @Blodeuedd: I've read more negative reviews on this book rather than positive ones and I can clearly sees why. It touches sensitive issues and the way it was written is very real, making it a very plausible read. It takes a lot of time for me to write this review cause I have to think about what is it that I truly like and dislike about it.

  3. You know, in theory, I liked this book - great premise, great characters - but something was lacking, and I felt the pace was really off. I appreciate your honest review, Shy! :)

  4. ooh, no depressing books for me at this time. I have read my share. :) Great review, Shy.

    ps: Here in the South it's snowing, so we are going to have a white christmas. And a cold one. :) I think I will post a picture of it tommorow.

    And of course Merry Christmas to you too. I hope you have a wonderful two days.

  5. I recently finished reading this one, and although I'm likely not posting my own review, I think that I would give it a 4 out of 5 (B) rating as well. I can't quite pinpoint it, but it IS lacking a bit of SOMEthing. As someone older, however, I identified so strongly with each of the older characters who never pictured their lives ending up like this. I wish so much for David to take a different course of action. I wish I could state succinctly what it is that keeps this from being a five-star book, but I can't really.

  6. @Melissa: Yes, that is one point that I forgot to mention above. The book moves really slowly and at times TOO slow that I felt like skipping some passages. Maybe it's because of all the details that make the book somewhat overwhelming?

    @Julie: I definitely have to agree with you, Julie. I know for sure that there is something more that I need to make me feel totally satisfied with this book but I know not what that something is! How weird is that? I also symphatised with both David and Norah and at time feels like I need to shake them and make them talked to each other. It is a depressing, slow book but still, I cannot stop myself from reading it till the end.

  7. Love the quote. I have wanted to read this for so long but reviews haven't intrigued me to read it.

  8. I love reading this book...
    a bit disappointed though that Edwards don't tell much about Pheobe and Caroline...
    the story much revolves only around David and his family..
    Pheobe and Caroline deserved the limelight too..

  9. Couldn't agree more, I was glad to have read this one but it's certainly not a feel good story! Edwards' writing is indeed beautiful. Excellent review Shy :)

  10. And reading your review about the book is already depressed me. Wonder what if read it myself? It's a great review btw Shy. And I quite intrigued with the book premise. Maybe I'll read it soon, at the right time!

  11. The book sounds so heart-wrenching and severe. It is such a serious issue and you can't really pass judgment so easily on any of them. You can still sympathize with the man, even though he gave up his own daughter!

    Thanks for the review!

  12. Read this one! The language is indeed beautiful but I'm hard in understanding poetic words. haha! BTW, talked to you about my opinion on this book yesterday right? haha...great review!