Thursday, May 3, 2012

"The Memory Keeper's Daughter" - Book Review


On a winter night in 1964, Dr. David Henry is forced by a blizzard to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy. Yet when his daughter is born, he sees immediately that she has Down's Syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split-second decision that will alter all of their lives forever. He asks his nurse to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret. But Caroline, the nurse, cannot leave the infant. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself. So begins this story that unfolds over a quarter of a century - in which these two families, ignorant of each other, are yet bound by the fateful decision made that long-ago winter night. Norah Henry, who knows only that her daughter died at birth, remains inconsolable; her grief weighs heavily on their marriage. And Paul, their son, raises himself as best he can, in a house grown cold with mourning. Meanwhile, Phoebe, the lost daughter, grows from a sunny child to a vibrant young woman whose mother loves her as fiercely as if she were her own.

Last summer I had started reading this book only to abandon it for months leaving it lying on a bookshelf collecting dust. I had gotten this book from a thrift store where a woman told me it was absolutely amazing and imperative that I read it immediately.
The first half of the book, where I ended up stopping and abandoning it, was really slow and I found myself forcing myself to read it. Once I begin reading a book I can't put it down until the very last word, it's just a personal quirk. This was a book I needed to read and get off of my shelf so I started reading it again yesterday, but found myself bored once again and not wanting to carry on reading it.
What I really didn't like about this book though was how the author/narrator made the reader sympathize with the father after what he had done to his family and made us hate the mother when she had done nothing wrong but mourn the supposed death of her daughter. Several times while reading this book I would rant about that to my friends and family and they're already tired of hearing me complain about it saying 'just ignore it' or 'if you don't like it don't read it'. Paul and Pheobe were the only characters that I really liked in this book, completely innocent to the treachery and dark secrets of their family. I felt really sorry for them, having to live their lives well into their middle-ages to discover they had a twin sibling out there in the world when Paul had thought Pheobe had died the day of their birth and Pheobe had thought she was an only child.
The last hundred pages or so were okay for me and I no longer felt like reading it was a chore. I liked the ending, it was really beautiful and although the new relationship between Paul and Pheobe was strange and difficult it was a wonderful note to end the book on. Once I had passed that really fuzzy unbearably boring part I slowly started to find myself liking the book.
The hidden messages in the book were deep and easily relate-able and wrenched my heart at times. This wouldn't really be a book I would recommend in a jiffy but don't get me wrong it wasn't terrible. If you have ever dealt with discovering new family members you never knew your whole life or know someone that has then this book would touch that spot in your heart, that's what it did for me drawing  out those personal feelings. But alas I've gotten one 'to be read' book on my shelf and can swap it for another book at my local library. I just heard that the book was also made into a movie so I might watch it whenever I get the chance.

Here's the trailer if you'd like to check it out.


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