Review of ‘The Memory Keeper’s Daughter’

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards is an emotional novel about a husband and wife who struggle through a 24-year-old secret. On the night of his children’s birth, David Henry ends up delivering his twins by himself. The first of the twins come out perfect, but when he delivers the second baby he notices immediately the signs of Down’s Syndrome. Afraid for how this baby might change and alter their life, David asks the nurse Caroline to take the baby to an institution to be cared for. Caroline does as she was told but cannot go through with it. She steals the baby and starts a new life for her and the child.

It took me a bit of time to read through this novel. Almost 2 months to be exact. A long time to try and push through a book I know, but I was determined because my Mom told me that the ending was worth it. So it took me some time but I finally made it and now I can add it to my list.

My first impression as I was reading through the first chapter. “Man, that’s a lot of metaphors.” There was a comparison of every emotion and action, which continued throughout the book. Now, I’m not saying having metaphors are bad, quite the contrary, I just don’t like them in almost every sentence. With that said, it helped to paint a clear picture of exactly how the characters were feeling. Personally, for me, all of the extra writing made it harder for me to follow the story and want to continue reading. I also didn’t understand some of the expression of metaphors to the characters feelings or experiences. So at times, it felt like I was only trying to figure out what the author meant instead of just enjoying the story.

As I was told, the ending was good. It was somewhat predictable in my eyes, but there was an event that took me by surprise and I did end up crying through most of that chapter.

David Henry is a complex fellow. You can understand both sides of his story and why he made the decision to pass his daughter off to be taken away. Now, that is obviously a terrible thing to do, but as a healthy human being, I can understand. It would be very hard to live a life with a child who had Down’s Syndrome in the 60s when this kind of illness was not taken seriously and the people were treated as psychotic. I felt very sad for him most of the time, not anger. Watching him struggle through the years in this book, wanting to protect his family, himself, but also wishing he could make things right; it was very heartbreaking. David’s mistake throughout this whole book was his lack of confidence in knowing if he did share with his wife what happened, things could have probably been okay.

David made the wrong sacrifices in order to create a normal life. He also acted a bit selfish because of a past that he just couldn’t accept.

His wife, Norah, is an entirely different character that you see transform immediately and constantly. She was always changing throughout the book. Whereas David, stayed stagnant until he became calm and permanently depressed at the end. Norah went through many phases, showing different parts of her sadness from losing her daughter. As a woman, I can also see why she overreacted, became distant and demanding, etc. The situation Norah had to endure is one of the toughest things a mother could go through. Now, reading through this kind of cycle she got into, I naturally did not agree with how she handled most of her emotions.

The issue with David and Norah in the book was the lack of communication. Even if David wanted to keep this secret he created, he just never wanted to open up about his feelings in general. Norah pushed herself away and let the distance grow between her and her husband. They didn’t know how to express their feelings in a healthy way that would help them both get over this terrible nightmare. Instead, they blamed each other and pointed fingers at who was right and wrong in their daily lives. Reading their life and seeing it unfold for as long as it did, was a little unbearable. I wanted to yell at them both and just tell them to “Do the right thing for Pete’s sake!”  It was a little maddening at times.

Part of the ending was a little foreseeable to me, as I stated above. I could see the connections between the characters and honestly, I was waiting for a tragic event to happen to where I would be proven wrong. Now, a tragic event did happen, just not in the way I was thinking. Which made me feel very melancholy and I hated what unfolded after. It just wasn’t fair and it made you feel like “What If?” all the time. It kind of sucked, because this was actually my favorite part of the book even though it was the saddest. I was crying and after I thought, “Oh that sucks! Why did that have to happen?” But it made the story feel more real.

The ending was a happy and dismal one. It showed the distance that would always be there because a person with Down’s Syndrome at the capacity that the daughter had, there would be no way to make up for the lost time. Knowing this and having to accept that, would be really hard.

This was not my absolute favorite book to read, obviously because it took me a while to get through it. The writing style was just too slow for me and I felt like I was reading the same kind story over and over again just at different times in the characters lives. Now I’m not saying this is a bad book. It is a very good, well-written story that is compelling to the heart and soul. It shows the challenges and complexities of living in a family with a person who has Down’s Syndrome. There are no easy ways to live that kind of life, which is what David wanted to keep his family from experiencing. But with such a secret held inside for so long, that secret ripped apart a family and a connection, which should have never happened in the first place.

Secrets are never a good thing to keep. They create a false living and knowledge of the present. Secrets push people away and make the secret-holder feel alone.

I wish that no one has to endure any part of the story that unraveled within it.

 

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