Monday, September 15, 2008

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

I was pretty disappointed in this book. I felt like I was reading one of those bad "women's" movies on the Lifetime channel, or even a soap opera. Everyone was sad/angry, everyone was hiding something, nothing good EVER happened to anyone (and any sort of 'good' event was accompanied by a subtext of impending doom - you could almost hear the sad music in the background!). I also have to refute one of the blurbs on the cover, that gushed about the author's beautiful, nearly poetic language. Huh? What book was that about - certainly not this one! (If you want a book that is absolutely beautifully written, read Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton - which is also one of the most moving books I've ever read!)

In this book, Edwards follows the life of a family "with a secret" (cue the violins), from the early 1960's to present-day. The big secret (which is no spoiler) is that during the birth of their first child, it was actually twins, though the girl was born with Down Syndrome. The husband - a doctor - hid this fact from his wife (who was under anesthesia), and passed off the daughter to his nurse and told her to put the girl in an institution. He tells his wife that the girl died, and doesn't mention Downs Syndrome. From this point on, the wife feels "something is missing", the father feels guilty, and the boy grows up wondering why his father hates him.

Of course, the nurse does not put the girl in an institution, but raises her by herself. When the novel was following these two, I enjoyed it the most. It seemed the most authentic, both emotionally and factually. (Having worked with kids with Downs, I have to commend Edwards for really getting it right.)

Unfortunately, the bulk of the book follows our "doomed" family, with pretty contrived 'symbolism' of the father's impressionistic photography. We see the usual fallout from "secrets": alcohol abuse, depression, adultery, teen angst, etc. It was all a bit too melodramatic for my tastes. I never related to any of the characters (with the possible exception of the nurse), and just kept wanting to scream "get over it!".

Thankfully, the book was short and I "got over it" very quickly. ;-)

Not one I'd recommend, nor an author I'll probably read again.

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