The Memory Keeper's Daughter Essay - Critical Essays

Kim Edwards

Critical Overview

Besides enjoying a long stay on the New York Times bestseller list, The Memory Keeper's Daughter was also chosen by USA Today as the best book of 2006. The popularity of Edwards's novel was not completely apparent when it was first published in hardback. The book did not take off until the paperback edition was published and then it surprised everyone. When most reviewers mention this fact, they claim the novel's success was based on word-of-mouth promotion. People read it, and the word quickly spread.

The reviews for this novel are somewhat mixed. Almost everyone agrees that the novel is a page-turner. Edwards knows how to engage readers and to keep them anticipating what is going to happen next. As Marie Hashima Lofton at puts it, this is "a page-turner, a wonderfully crafted tale of two sets of people tied by the lie of one man. What is most fascinating to this reviewer is the parallel stories of the two children, twins who grow up in separate environments, becoming as different as night and day."

However, other critics point out some of the novel’s flaws. Ron Charles, of the Washington Post complains, "Edwards has trouble maintaining the electrifying atmosphere of this long opening scene, but David's fateful decision that night is enough to power the novel through the next 25 years." Other reviewers mention some of the details of this story that seem improbable, such as the acceptance of a death of a baby without the presence of a body. Still others have noted that Edwards seemed in a hurry to tell the story, which leaves the readers somewhat removed from the emotions of the characters. Writing for London's Guardian, Joanna Briscoe states: "This is an unlikely scenario, burdened with too many improbables and underpinned by a structure of convenient psychological justifications. But there's no denying Edwards's ability to spin a tale." Briscoe concludes: "With such a long progression of parallel lives, we need the pay-off to be dramatic, but the expected explosion turns out to be more of a happy fizzle. This is a highly accomplished, well-written novel that lacks soul. It's a page-turner on Valium."

With these distractions noted, the majority of reviewers nonetheless praised Edwards, such as Carolyn Kubisz for Booklist, who wrote: "Edwards tells a moving story of two families bound by a secret that both eats away at relationships and eventually helps to create new ones. Motoko Rich, of the New York Times described Edwards's book as "Appealing to readers who want a literary page turner."

In 2008, The Memory Keeper's Daughter was adapted as a movie made for television starring Dermot Mulroney as David Henry and Emily Watson as Norah.