I actually read this book awhile ago and should have written a review then, but I didn’t have a blog to post to at the time. I found my copy while I was going through my books and things, getting rid of some clutter that whole thing. Since I didn’t have a blog then, but I do now, I figured I should review it! So here we go.
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is a novel about a complicated situation set in a complicated time period. Set in the 1960s and spanning across a decade or two, the story is about a couple about to become a family. Dr. David Henry is forced to deliver his own baby during a blizzard, after arriving safely at the clinic where he works, he and his nurse Caroline deliver the healthy baby boy. The boy is followed shortly thereafter by his unexpected twin sister. The little girl, while physically healthy, displays the obvious characteristics of a child with Down’s syndrome. Being the 1960s, very little is understood about mental health and Dr. Henry, wishing to spare his wife the pain of inevitably losing this child to the misunderstood disease, arranges for Nurse Caroline to take the child immediately to an institution. David tells his wife the girl did not survive, and Caroline–seeing the awfulness of the institution–keeps her, running away to raise her as her own daughter.
The novel follows the tale of how these characters deal with the heartbreaking hand they were dealt. David’s attempt to spare his wife pain only leads her into a deep depression over the loss of the child she barely knew. Caroline struggles with being a single mother to a child with special needs, all the while keeping the secret of where she came from and looking over her shoulder for the family that might come to claim her. The brother even struggles in some sense, growing up without his twin but still feeling a strange if unanswered connection to her.
The circumstances of these families, along with the time period come together wonderfully to build an unimaginably human story. They make mistakes and face choices forced on them by history. And they all come to learn lessons about mistakes, forgiveness, and what it means to be a family.
The novel itself is wonderfully written, the characters are complex and real, and each choice is one every reader can identify with and gives you the chance to ask yourself, would you have acted any different? Even as I write all this praise however, I still can’t say whether or not I really liked the book. I couldn’t stop reading it, which is usually a sign that I do like it in some way. But the story is so sad that declaring that I like it feels a bit like liking a Facebook status full of bad news. I would highly recommend it to friends who like to read moving stories about the very essence of what it is to be human, to make mistakes and go on living your life with the consequences.
All in all, it really is a compelling read. I give it 5 out of 5 on whatever scale you use to judge books (5 being the best, of course).
I’m curious, though, has anyone else read a book all the through and still not been sure how they feel about it in the end?
Buy The Memory Keeper’s Daughter here
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