Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Memory Keeper's Daughter

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The Memory Keeper's Daughter

by Kim Edwards

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2005, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2006, 432 pages

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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 that the child was not their offspring but rather a changeling - some creature birthed by a supernatural creature such as a troll, fairy or elf, and substituted for their rightful child, perhaps out of a desire to have a human servant, for the love of the human child, or simply out of malice.  Thus, parents would take their "wrongful" child back to the forest where it belonged, and leave it for the changelings to reclaim.

Also of interest:
Molly Bruce Jacobs's memoir, Secret Girl (April 2006) in which she writes of her decision to meet her retarded twin-sister who was born with hydrocephalus ("water on the brain") for the first time when they both in their 30s - a sister who she didn't know existed until she was 13-years-old. 

An aside:
It is said that my Uncle Bobby developed "water on the brain" when a baby.  My grandfather was in the military stationed in Egypt and sought out the best doctors, but was told that there was nothing that could be done.  The story goes that when he was about three-years-old Bobby was in his high-chair crying with frustration, or more likely pain; so violent was his crying that he started to rock the chair, which tipped over.  He fell sideways landing on a toy car my father, two years older, had left on the ground on its side.  The car axle penetrated his skull, draining the fluid - and he's been "right as rain" ever since.  He celebrated is 80th birthday last week!

This article is from the June 1, 2006 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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