Heather's Reviews > The Memory Keeper's Daughter

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
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Jun 03, 08

bookshelves: fiction
Read in March, 2008

At first I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why I was not enjoying a book that sounded as though it would be ‘my kind of book’ in every way, but the more I read and the more I thought about it, the more reasons emerged.

From the beginning of the novel there were little details that bothered me. The plot often felt contrived, as pieces fell together too nicely. Of course life is crazy and there is always the possibility of the little pieces falling in the most peculiar way, but when all of your characters’ lives seem to follow that incredible pattern, it begins to feel ridiculous.

Some of the characters themselves also became clichés. Perhaps I reached a certain point in the story where I began to look for things that bothered me and therefore found them more readily than other readers. Yet, Norah, the mother of the twins, and her sister, Bree seem to never really develop. Bree is the young, free-loving free-spirit who is thus almost a danger to Norah’s thoughts on life – and that is what she remains, even when older and diagnosed with cancer (although Norah does come to appreciate her). Norah, whose life unravels for a bit after she thinks her daughter has died, drinks too much and then begins having affairs, and this is who she remains for most of the novel. The characters just seemed too much like a sappy Lifetime movie for me to really take them inside of me and keep with me.

I was also very disappointed in the character of Phoebe, the Down’s syndrome daughter given away by her father. She was the driving force of the novel and yet we really never know her other than glimpses through the eyes of Caroline. Paul, her twin brother, is given thoughts but Phoebe’s mind remains a mystery. I understand the difficulty in writing honestly for a character with Down’s but I kept thinking of the autistic narrator in Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time who was so rich and incredible and believable (if you haven’t read this one, please do!!). I just thought that Edwards had a mission in humanizing those who suffer Down’s syndrome; and that she herself undermines her purpose with the complete omission of Phoebe’s voice. I wanted to know this child as a child and not as a sad plot device. In all fairness, however, I have to say that I did love certain passages, as Edwards’ poetic language captured me wholly.

In the end, I think that my largest issue with this book was the absolute destruction of this family. I know that what happened at the birth of the babies was tragic and life changing but I felt as though it was a bit contrived that it drove every emotion and interaction afterwards for the remainder of the characters’ lives. Perhaps, for me, it just made their bonds from the beginning suspect as their destruction was made so inevitable by that one tragic mistake. I didn’t believe it and perhaps, because we read to understand others and to change ourselves, I do not want to believe it.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Rosana Thanks for voicing so much of my thoughts about this book. Very insightful review!


Laura Dugovic Loved this review!
My thoughts exactly.


message 3: by Ally (new) - added it

Ally Brown Your last paragraph is the exact reason I couldn't finish the book. So depressing.


Sara You are right. I read Haddon's Curious Incident and I enjoyed so much exactly because it took me in the mind of the protagonist!


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