Monday, January 11, 2010

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

This book was recommended to me by my dear teacher Andra Thorne. I asked her if she liked it but instead of replying in a normal way, she stopped for a moment, narrowed her eyes in concentration and simply said, “It intrigued me. You just have to read it.” After reading it, I couldn’t agree more; there isn’t much else to say about it.

This book begins on a snowy night in 1964 with a very pregnant Norah Henry and her husband David. She begins her labor and they arrive at the hospital just in time for David, who is a doctor to deliver her baby. To his surprise, Norah was pregnant with twins, the first being a healthy baby boy and the second, a girl born with Down syndrome. He makes the rash decision to hand his little girl over to his nurse, Caroline Gill, and tell Norah their daughter had died, a decision that affects them from that point on. Caroline is instructed to take her to a home for the mentally challenged but after seeing the home, Caroline takes the girl to raise as her own.

It took me a very long time to get involved in this story. Edwards uses a very interesting writing style that, at times, was littered with too much romanticized wording. The detail she put into everything was overshadowed with the overuse of metaphors and comparisons. The bigger metaphors that flow throughout the book are truly beautiful and captivating, however. At one point in the novel, Norah buys David a camera called The Memory Keeper. This turns into an obsession of David’s, as he tries to use photography as an escape and a way to capture his son’s life and the life of his now very distant wife. I loved the use of photography through the course of this novel and how seamlessly Edwards used it to highlight defining moments in the characters lives, like the moment Norah meets a man named Howard on the beach and begins her string of affairs.

For the longest time, I didn’t know what kind of a review I was going to give this book. Truly, it isn’t enough to say that I hated it, but I can’t say that I loved it. Through the course of the novel, I had a very hard time sympathizing with any of the characters. I think a big part of this is because I have no idea what it feels like to lose a child or to be a mother in general. If you are a mother, I will say that I think this book is a must read. If you aren’t a mother, I would say give it a try. For the most part, I hated Norah especially. She was contrived, I felt. I’m a fan of reading about affairs but I saw no point in hers. Her anger, which would have been justifiable, felt like it had no purpose. A big part of this was the way she was written. In a way, she was written a bit like Ophelia in "Hamlet"; a main character, but unfairly underdeveloped. I wish there would have been more to these characters.

I went through a lot of periods of hating this book. It took me a long time to finish because there were times when I couldn’t even pick it up because it made me so angry. But, there were even longer periods of time when all I wanted to do was keep reading this story. At places in this story, I hated every character. But at other times, I was crying because I felt their pain as if it was hitting me. In the last few pages of the story, I finally connected to Norah and I cried as she did.

This story has a very magical quality that mesmerizes the reader until the very last page. I still can’t explain how I feel about this book. All I know is I’ve never been affected like this by a novel. I would love for more people to read this book because I’m dying to discuss my feelings with people. I can’t even tell if I would recommend this book or not but I think that it would most definitely be worth your time to read it. It opens your eyes to a lot of new things. Give it a chance and let me know when you do, I’d love to discuss it!

Until next time, happy reading! Send me your book recommendations if you have them, I’d be happy to check them out and review them all! Leave any comments below! I’d love to hear them!


  1. I did not like this book - though, I thought it was written well. It made me angry. Guess books are supposed to provoke feelings.

    Nice blog - BTW!


  2. I wasn't a fan. It was too slow for my taste and I think you nailed the underdeveloped characters. I found myself jumping ahead. I wanted to know and understand the resolution, but I couldn't get through the all-too-many slow parts that existed in this novel. The concept was fascinating but I didn't enjoy Edwards execution of it. It won't be a novel I'll ever pick up again.