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The Memory Keeper's Daughter: A Novel Paperback – May 30, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Edwards's assured but schematic debut novel (after her collection, The Secrets of a Fire King) hinges on the birth of fraternal twins, a healthy boy and a girl with Down syndrome, resulting in the father's disavowal of his newborn daughter. A snowstorm immobilizes Lexington, Ky., in 1964, and when young Norah Henry goes into labor, her husband, orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Henry, must deliver their babies himself, aided only by a nurse. Seeing his daughter's handicap, he instructs the nurse, Caroline Gill, to take her to a home and later tells Norah, who was drugged during labor, that their son Paul's twin died at birth. Instead of institutionalizing Phoebe, Caroline absconds with her to Pittsburgh. David's deception becomes the defining moment of the main characters' lives, and Phoebe's absence corrodes her birth family's core over the course of the next 25 years. David's undetected lie warps his marriage; he grapples with guilt; Norah mourns her lost child; and Paul not only deals with his parents' icy relationship but with his own yearnings for his sister as well. Though the impact of Phoebe's loss makes sense, Edwards's redundant handling of the trope robs it of credibility. This neatly structured story is a little too moist with compassion.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics roundly applaud Kim Edwards’s debut novel, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, which plays into one of our largest fears: What happens when a baby is born with Down syndrome? Edwards, an award-winning short-story writer, extends this question even further: What happens if this baby somehow "disappears" without the mother’s knowledge? The Memory Keeper’s Daughter explores deception, family secrets, the influence of the past on the present, our tendency to rationalize poor decisions, and the tenuous nature of human connections. In her sympathetic rendering of parallel stories, Edwards crafts a riveting "study in what really determines a family’s happiness" (Washington Post). Critics praised Edwards’s prose, which "takes on the cadence of poetry" as she describes her psychologically burdened characters (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). Yet while the Chicago Tribune admired the absence of "sticky-sweet" moments, the Washington Post noted a few times when Edwards slipped "into the treacly trade." But if these minor flaws, combined with abrupt transitions, sometimes slow down the narrative, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter packs a hefty emotional punch that will keep readers turning the pages.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 401 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (May 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143037145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143037149
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,271 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kim Edwards is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Memory Keeper's Daughter, which was translated into thirty-eight languages. She is also the author of the New York Times bestselling novel, The Lake of Dreams, and a collection of short stories, The Secrets of a Fire King. Her honors include the Whiting Award, the British Book Award, and USA Today's Book of the Year, as well as the Nelson Algren Award, a National Magazine Award, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she has taught widely in the US and Asia, and currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

249 of 270 people found the following review helpful By RMurray847 VINE VOICE on September 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
The initial premise of the book is terrific. We're in the '60s and a doctor finds himself in a situation on a snowy night in which he must deliver his own child, with the help of his nurse Caroline (who has a secret crush on him). The first child, Paul, is healthy, but the second, a girl, is born with Down's Syndrome. The doctor, David, is convinced his wife Norah will not be able to "handle" the trauma of having such a child, so he decides, in an instant, to hand the poor girl to Caroline and asks her to take it to a home for such children and leave it there, never to mention the girl again. He tells his wife that the daughter has died. Caroline runs to the home,finds it to be a hugely disturbing place, and then looking into the face of this new baby, decides she can love the girl and provide her with a life. She runs off with the baby, ready to start a new and uncertain life.

These initial scenes are fairly well done, and though the decision David makes is abhorrent is somewhat tempered by the fact that in the '60s, we as a society weren't quite so compassionate or understanding of folks with Downs. His logic about sparing his wife is questionable, however, and Edwards fairly effectively shows that the gulf between David's initial guilt and wariness about being caught and Norah's grief at losing a child drives the couple further apart. Norah is not allowed to grieve in the way she wants...for example, she isn't allowed to see the body of her lost daughter...for obvious reasons.

Anyway, after this the book falls apart. Author Kim Edwards, it becomes clear, hasn't learned the lesson of "showing us" how people are feeling and thinking, but telling us.
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594 of 665 people found the following review helpful By K. G Havemann on November 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't read a lot of fiction and I most especially do not read romances. I'm not sure how this book is categorized but it is the most compulsively readable, emotional, and memorable book I've read since "Gone With the Wind" over 40 years ago. This is an epic story of a doctor who, in an emotional moment and with all his medical knowledge telling him to protect those he loves, makes a decision that affects him and everyone around him forever. On a blizzardly night in 1964, David Henry helps his wife give birth to twins, one a perfect boy and the other a girl with Downs Syndrome. At that time, imperfect children were "put away" in institutions where they died young and families and friends spoke of them in shame-filled whispers, if at all. David grew up with a very sickly sister whose death at age 12 ended all meaningful life for his parents. With all good intentions of sparing his wife and new son the pain he and his parents endured, he made a fateful decision and told his wife the little girl had died at birth. It was a decision that, once made, could not be redeemed nor remedied. Time inexorably moves away from that moment but, instead of becoming distant, it grows tentacles that seize their beings and influence everything for the next three decades. We learn a photograph can capture a moment but it cannot tell you what encompasses it, what came before and after. It cannot effect change, it cannot correct. One moment, one choice, and an ever-widening circle of consequences, many roads taken and many not.

The writing in The Memory Keeper's Daughter is so well-articulated, the story itself is so engrossing and so different from any I have read before, that hard as I tried to remain disaffected, about 100 pages before the end I felt actual pain knowing there was a last page.
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57 of 66 people found the following review helpful By MLRapp on October 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
I really wanted to love this book....after all, its a National Bestseller, on multiple critic's "must-read" list, on my Amazon recommendations list every time I check, and I have had more than a few people recommend it to me. Also, after reading the first thirty pages or so, I was riveted - such a unique and interesting plot....I though the rest of the book would be sensational. However, not only was I wrong and beyond disappointed, but I just can't understand the hype surrounding this book!

Once the plot is set-up within the first thirty pages or so, the book utterly failed to deliver and just tanked. The writing is boring, trite and the entire middle of the book is way too repetitive. Each paragraph I read felt like I had read it before...saying the same thing ten different times/ways does not make a book interesting. In fact, I had a hard time forcing myself to keep reading, but kept thinking about the fact that so many people liked this book so figured maybe the ending would somehow redeem it. It didn't. The book went downhill fast and never recovered, not even at the end. I DO NOT recommend this book at all!
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77 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Haley Burke on December 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I found THE MEMORY KEEPER'S DAUGHTER to be disappointing for me. I chose it for the story which sounded wonderful, but I found the writing tedious. The story didn't move for me. It seemed to be in a midst of a fog with far too many details about things that didn't matter and not enough about things that did interest me. After awhile, I didn't care if I finished it or not and started other books, which I completed, before returning to this one. I wished I'd checked it out at the library rather than spent money on it, quite honestly.
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