Monday, 2 June 2008

Review: The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

I read 'The Memory Keeper's Daughter' for my bookclub. I found it a real chore - it's the first of our book club books to make me feel this way. 'The Memory Keeper's Daughter' is a twist on the age old 'twins separated at birth'. In this case an unexpected blizzard forces a doctor, David Henry, to deliver his wife's twins. The first twin, a boy named Paul, is fine. However, the second, a girl called Phoebe, has Down's syndrome. In 1964, Down's syndrome was an early death sentence and so David tells his wife that Phoebe has died to spare her inevitable heartache. Caroline Gill, a nurse and the only other witness to the birth, is persuaded to take Phoebe to a home, but instead takes Phoebe and raises her as her own. From this the book continues in duel narrative, David and Norah Henry with Paul, and Caroline with Phoebe.

This book shouldn't have been as tedious as I found it. It spans from 1964 to 1989, explores women's lib, and rights for disabled children. It show brief interludes of each family's life over the 25 year period, demonstrating pivotal moments in each. I think one of the main problems I had with this book, though, was how it is told. Because it is just that - *told*, not shown. There is reams of description and very little dialogue. I found the narrative deathly slow and lifeless. Much of the book relies on probing psychological effect of Phoebe's 'death' on the Henry's marriage and family life, but all these characters felt wooden to me and I just didn't care. Perhaps even worse, characters think the same thoughts over and over, particularly Norah Henry as she ruminates over her lost daughter. Perhaps this is realistic, but it didn't make for an interesting book. In summary: great cover, a good title (although the way Edward's shoehorned the title's meaning into the book was pretty eyerolling - ambiguity would have been better), *terrible* story!!!


jennannej said...

I think you've got it spot on. That is a very true review.

K said...