1964, Chapter 1 Summary

Kim Edwards grew up in New York and earned advanced degrees in fiction and linguistics. She and her husband spent five years teaching in Asia, and there she began to publish short works of fiction and win many writing awards. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter was published in 2005 and was number one on The New York Times bestseller list. It has since been published in fifteen other countries.

March 1964

Several hours before Norah’s labor begins, it starts to snow; it is the kind of storm rarely seen in Kentucky. David lights a fire in the fireplace and begins rubbing his pregnant wife’s feet.

David is a thirty-three year-old orthopedic surgeon; Norah is eleven years younger. The baby is not due for three weeks, and they are content. They have only been married about a year; they met just over a year ago. He was new to Lexington, Kentucky, and she captivated him when he saw her on a store escalator and followed her into the lingerie department. Norah wrote her name and phone number down for him, and he carried that piece of paper in his pocket all day. David called her that night, they had dinner the next night; they were married three months later.

They read and talk in front of the fire as the snow continues, and Norah goes to bed around eleven. David continues reading his medical journals, thinking about the miracle of strong bones being knitted together after they break. He takes great comfort in that kind of solidity, something his family never had. In their bedroom, Norah is doubled over, suffering apparent labor pains. David tells her it is probably false labor, but she says the contractions are only five minutes apart and strong. She is scared, but he has been trained to remain calm in emergencies and begins gathering her things for this long-awaited trip.

The car is frozen shut, but David is finally able to usher Norah to her seat before pulling out into the snow-covered streets. They both realize their lives will never be the same after this night. David has called ahead so their doctor can meet them, but when they arrive at the clinic there is only one car in the parking lot: the nurse’s powder-blue Ford Fairlane. He had called her as well. As soon as the couple opens the clinic door, they know something is wrong. The doctor who was to meet them has had an accident and will not be coming for the delivery.

The nurse, Caroline Gill, is tall and thin; her eyes are solemn and intelligent—and she is a little bit in love with David. One evening he fell asleep at his desk and dreamt of his childhood home, before his sister died and his parents moved away and abandoned the house. Caroline was in the doorway at his moment of waking, and

for an instant nothing whatsoever stood between them;...

(The entire section is 1155 words.)