Monday, 11 August 2014

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

   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 in an institution.  Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself.
  Caroline meets a truck driver, Al, and together they provide a stable home for Phoebe.  But David is tortured by his decision and it causes a wall between him and his wife.  Norah becomes very involved in business and has a few affairs.  They finally separate.  The perfect son has grown to be an angry young man who only wants music in his life.
  On David's death, Norah finds out about Phoebe.
I first read this book in 2006 and was fascinated by the dilemma.  In 1964, it was not expected for Down's Syndrome babies to live long.  David had had a sister who died young, and he was greatly affected by the devastation to his mother.  Was he trying to save his wife from that type of devastation?
The beginning of this novel is spell-binding but drags a little later on.  However, it is a book that I couldn't get out of my mind and I read it again three years later, and enjoyed it even more.

the movie version

  I have been taking this book to the retirement home where we distribute public library books and I have convinced some of the residents to read it.  Last week, one of the ladies brought me her video of the story so that I could take it home and watch it. It really emphasized the dilemma and you could clearly see the turmoil that this secret caused.
  I was reminded of the dilemma in "The Light Between Oceans". In both books, the husbands made serious decisions based on what they believe their wives can or cannot handle.  Both situations were disastrous.

The book is by Kim Edwards.  The actors in the movie were Emily Watson and Dermot Mulroney.

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