Summary and book reviews of The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

By Kim Edwards

The Memory Keeper's Daughter
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  • Hardcover: Jun 2005,
    416 pages.
    Paperback: May 2006,
    432 pages.

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Book Summary

Award-winning writer Kim Edwards's The Memory Keeper's Daughter is a brilliantly crafted family drama that explores every mother's silent fear: what would happen if you lost your child and she grew up without you?

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. He asks his nurse to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret. But Caroline, the nurse, cannot leave the infant. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself. So begins this beautifully told story that unfolds over a quarter of a century in which these two families, ignorant of each other, are yet bound by David Henry's fateful decision that long-ago winter night.

A rich and deeply moving page-turner, The Memory Keeper's Daughter captures the way life takes unexpected turns and how the mysterious ties that hold a family together help us survive the heartache that occurs when long-buried secrets burst into the open. It is an astonishing tale of redemptive love.

1964
March 1964
I

THE SNOW STARTED TO FALL SEVERAL HOURS BEFORE HER labor began. A few flakes first, in the dull gray late-afternoon sky, and then wind-driven swirls and eddies around the edges of their wide front porch. He stood by her side at the window, watching sharp gusts of snow billow, then swirl and drift to the ground. All around the neighborhood, lights came on, and the naked branches of the trees turned white.

After dinner he built a fire, venturing out into the weather for wood he had piled against the garage the previous autumn. The air was bright and cold against his face, and the snow in the driveway was already halfway to his knees. He gathered logs, shaking off their soft white caps and carrying them inside. The kindling in the iron grate caught fire immediately, and he sat for a time on the hearth, cross-legged, adding logs and watching the flames leap, blue-edged and hypnotic. Outside, snow continued to fall quietly through ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
INTRODUCTION

It is 1964 in Lexington, Kentucky, and a rare and sudden winter storm has blanketed the area with snow. The roads are dangerous, yet Dr. David Henry is determined to get his wife Norah to the hospital in time to deliver their first child. But despite David’s methodical and careful driving, it soon becomes clear that the roads are too treacherous, and he decides to stop at his medical clinic instead. There, with the help of his nurse Caroline, he is able safely to deliver their son, Paul. But unexpectedly, Norah delivers a second child, a girl, Phoebe, in whom David immediately recognizes the signs of Down’s Syndrome.

David is a decent but secretive man—he has shared his difficult past with no one, not even ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Sue Monk Kidd
I loved this riveting story with its intricate characters and beautiful language.

Author Blurb Jodi Picoult
Unfolds from an absolutely gripping premise, drawing you deeply and irrevocably into the entangled lives of two families and the devastating secret that shaped them both. I loved this riveting story.

Kirkus Reviews

First-novelist Edwards (stories: The Secrets of a Fire King, 1997) excels at celebrating a quiet wholesomeness but stumbles over her storyline.

Booklist - Carolyn Kubisz

Unfolding the plot over the course of 25 years, Edwards tells a moving story of two families bound by a secret that both eats away at relationships and eventually helps to create new ones.

Publisher's Weekly

This neatly structured story is a little too moist with compassion.

Library Journal

First-time novelist Edwards-author of the short story collection The Secrets of a Fire King - has written a heart - wrenching book, by turns light and dark, literary and suspenseful. A natural for book discussion groups; recommended.

The Washington Post - Ron Charles

Some ominously saccharine moments indicate that Edwards can slip into the treacly trade -- "The love was within her all the time, and its only renewal came from giving it away" -- but these gaffes are relatively infrequent, especially considering the presence of a handicapped character, who would, in less disciplined hands, be used to generate a waterfall of sentimental tears.

Reader Reviews
Cloggie Downunder

Very moving
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is the first novel by Kim Edwards. The story is set in the 1960s and involves a doctor, David Henry, whose wife, Norah, goes into labour during a snowstorm. Unable to get to the hospital, he takes her to his surgery, ...   Read More

Sarah

MKD
This book was very captivating although I found some spots to be a little dull.

Kandace

A book that starts out wondefully and then plummets
The book begins with a fairly newlywed couple, Dr. David Henry and his wife Norah. Norah is pregnant and goes into labor on a cold winter night. They rush to David’s clinic, but a blizzard prevents the other doctor from arriving. Therefore, David is ...   Read More

Catalina

Mesmarizing
This book is truly captivating. I loved it and would recomend it to anyone. It shares the fears of all women. This book also encompasses the guilt and other emotions well.

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Beyond the Book

At first glance the heartfelt tale told in The Memory Keeper's Daughter has little in common with the children's book The Sea of Trolls, also recommended in this issue, but dig a little deeper and a connection does appear. 

In The Memory Keeper's Daughter David Henry sends his daughter away, out of sight, never to be talked of; in the Sea of Trolls Jack must navigate the terrifying world of trolls, changelings and the like.  Many scholars believe the European legends of changeling children originated as a way of explaining the birth of children with mental and physical handicaps.  In olden times, rather than be burdened with the responsibility for raising a handicapped child the parents could conclude ...

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