The Memory Keeper's Daughter, written by Kim Edwards, was her first novel, and was embraced by critics and readers alike.
It is the story of the lives of a family based upon one lie, motivated out of a kind of love, which creates other lies and family mysteries. Dr. David Henry delivers his wife of a downs-syndrome baby, and in his desire to protect his wife, he tells her—when she awakes—that of the twins she gave birth to, only the boy survived.
David asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the baby to an institution nearby where she can be cared for, but the nurse leaves town with the child; she will raise her as her own daughter.
The secrets are not revealed until David is unable to conceal the existence of the daughter any longer, but in the years since the birth, David becomes very private and isolated by his lie.
When I first read this novel, the writing was so concise and "authentic," and the characters so believable, that it sounded like it could be a biography...BUT it is not.
I think the best description of the novel would be realistic fiction.
This book was recommended to me by a friend, however, as a new mother time is more valuable than weapons-grade plutonium and to spend it frivolously on a book not worthy of such a precious commodity is, for me, a high-risk venture. However, I rolled the dice and accepted the loan of her book, promising to return it quickly and as pristine as possible because the look in her eyes as she handed it over, made me appreciate that books, for her, are not just something to do in your spare time. Five pages in and I had lost my heart.
The air is filled with fat, swirling flakes of snow on the night Norah Henry delivers twins. The storm, the like of which is rarely seen in Lexington, has caused the obstetrician to run his car into a ditch leaving Norah and her babies in the hands of her orthopaedic surgeon husband David and his practice nurse, Caroline.
Norah has every faith in the abilities of her capable, strong, dependable husband. She has never had any reason to doubt him; he is a man that most women could only dream of marrying. She could therefore never have anticipated that David was to perpetrate the ultimate betrayal, for whilst their son is born a thriving, vital baby boy, their daughter has Down's syndrome – He imagined her heart, the size of a plum and very possibly defective, and he thought of the nursery, so carefully painted, with its soft animals and single crib. - and David, believing that he has his wife's and indeed their family's best interests at heart, tells Norah that their daughter has died on her way into the world.
It would be utterly wrong to tell you any more. This is a story that must be read, absorbed and enjoyed for what it is. What I will tell you is this: to ensnare an imagination so completely is a skill that cannot be learned. Kim Edwards is among just a handful of writers with the ability to lift you on a carpet of make-believe and carry you away, enveloped in their gift like a grandmother's hug. When you find a writer with such a talent, you must lock them inside your heart and mind and throw away the key. The Memory Keeper's Daughter is a story of secrets and lies that will keep you turning its pages, rapt in the weft of the plot until the final paragraph.
There is not a moment or a word within the covers of The Memory Keeper's Daughter to disappoint. Go and buy it, I insist.
I thought this book would be a tough act to follow. I always find 'the next book' disappointing after I have fallen in love with a novel, even if it has won prizes (often if it has won prizes, actually). Still, there are a few books that can sit on the shelf beside The Memory Keeper's Daughter and manage to hold their heads up high in its company: The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide is such a book, as is The Life You Longed For by Maribeth Fischer and Playing With The Moon by Eliza Graham all of which deal with the subject of loss, in vastly differing ways. Similarly, although there are mixed reviews about The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, I found it simply captivating. If none of these titles appeal and you are looking for something along the same lines but without the lump in your throat, perhaps Uphill All the Way by Sue Moorcroft would be a lighter, but still satisfying, read.