K's Reviews > The Memory Keeper's Daughter

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
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's review
Jun 17, 2007

it was ok
bookshelves: situation-not-a-story, chicklit

Ok -- after all that discussion (see comments), there's not much left to say. The adjective "overwritten" comes to mind. This woman was definitely in love with her own writing facility, which I admit was not bad but she totally overdid it. Lyrical descriptions and poetic symbolism were way disproportionate to actual events and interactions in the novel, dramatic though they were at times. The premise was interesting but flawed -- as Margueya pointed out, why didn't he just pretend there had only been one baby? And once that happened, how exactly did this death destroy the marriage and the family? The author tried, but she fell short of conveying this in a believable way. I also agree with Margueya that not a single character was endearing, except perhaps Caroline the nurse who, I feel, was heroic in deciding not to institutionalize Phoebe (this was 1964, don't forget) and instead, to make the sacrifice of raising this handicapped child of uncertain ability and future on her own, as a single mother. I admired her decision, although I probably would have felt more empathy for her had the book in general been rendered in a more seamless, believable way.

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Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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message 1: by M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:19AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

M I have much to say ... let me know when I can comment :)

message 2: by K (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:19AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

K I just started it, so I'm not ready to be prejudiced yet. I'll let you know, though. Looking forward to a good discussion!

message 3: by M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:19AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

M I know, I'm withholding so as not to taint your experience ... but looking forward to a virtual book club discussion

message 4: by K (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:19AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

K OK -- I'm still more or less at the early stages of the book, so try not to respond with a spoiler. However, I have a reaction. Please forgive me if I seem to be minimizing a genuinely tragic situation, because thank G-d I have no personal experience with this, but in all honesty, is it realistic that, if she had no idea she was having twins in the first place and only found out after the fact that her one healthy baby could have been two, that she'd have this much trouble getting over the dead baby whose existence she never knew? It seems contrived to me, like the author needed to make more of this than it was in order to have a situation to drive the book. I'm trying to put myself in her place and I keep thinking, I expected one, I got one -- the fact that it theoretically could have been two might shake me up for a while, but if you're coming home with the healthy baby you expected, I honestly think I would focus on that rather than mourning a baby I barely knew existed. I really don't think it's the same thing as a stillbirth but the author seems to be treating it that way, and it seems to me to be a contrived way of moving the book along; if she just got over it, there would be a lot less to write about.

message 5: by M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:19AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

M That was sort of my issue as well (one of them)... clearly she needs this decision to be a huge turning point - its funny bc when I read it I was like, dude, here's your alibi, just go along with the one kid idea- now she really doesn't have to know. OH, what, is that DISHONEST? I mean, come on, how can that be more of a moral dilemma than what you're already doing? It didn't seem consistent to me, it seemed unnecessarily cruel as a means to assuage his conscience or something - and I do question how realistic it is, the only answer I have is that the woman is a bit of a drama queen and uses this as an excuse to never really recover but that's a side point that the author doesn't develop so that can't be right. I dunno, I guess also in real life you look to move on whereas in literature you are a plot device ... though obviusly in higher quality lit you are not supposed to be or at least not as obviously ... more to say but will patiently wait...

message 6: by K (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:19AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

K I actually asked Linden Stromberg today if she thought it was realistic that the woman wouldn't have moved on if she came home with the one healthy baby she was expecting in the first place. Linden said that that was actually quite realistic; she described Yemenite women in Israel whose babies were stolen from them and were told they had died, and said that these women never got over it. She said that was the case even in the event that there were twins, and the government took one and let the woman keep one, lying about the death of the twin. I guess it's like Yaakov Avinu who never got over the "death" of Yosef because he was actually still alive. The mefarshim say, if I remember correctly, that a parent gets over the actual death of a child but if the child is actually still alive and the parent just thinks he's dead, the parent never stops mourning the child -- as if the parent knows on some level that the child is still alive. I don't know whether this is what Kim Edwards had in mind, but it's interesting that she may have somehow tuned into that. Or else, we can remain cynical and insist that it was just a literary device.

message 7: by M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:20AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

M yeah I was thinking about that a little, like on some level the mourning process is endless bc there is no way to have closure, I suppose it villanizes the husband even more ... She wanted some ceremony that he wouldnt let her have, right, or she wanted to see the body or something ... I suspect that if he had tried to show her something, some other corpse, even that would've helped. Interesting. It's still hard though bc its so extreme and so the driving force of the book that I can't help but be my usual cynical self ...
One of my students, as a total aside, said to me, I heard you went to Stern, and I was shocked - you're way too cynical for Stern!
I was like, um, I don't think I've ever gotten that before. I think - well, hope - she meant 'real and deep' but I'm not sure ...

message 8: by K (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:20AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

K Funny. someone at our book club tonight ("We Need to Talk about Kevin"; GREAT discussion) was telling me how her sister had to leave Stern because it was just too narrow for her. She ended up going to Queens and marrying someone non-frum. Anyway, that was my little Stern reference for the night.

message 9: by M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:20AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

M I'd love to hear what you and everyone else had to say about kevin

message 10: by K (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:20AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

K It's hard to remember it all; I think the questions were more interesting than the answers. We talked about Eva as an unreliable narrator (and whether there was any merit to Franklin's perception of Eva and Kevin's relationship), whether it was realistic or not that Kevin would have been that evil from that early an age, whether Lionel Shriver's attempts to make Kevin's exact nature more ambiguous (e.g., his humanness during his illness and at the end of the book) were realistic, at what point exactly did Kevin decide to do what he did, why he kept his mother alive and what the nature of their relationship was, how much of a role Eva's ambivalence as a mother really played in the way Kevin turned out, etc.

message 11: by K (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:20AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

K I'm about halfway through now, and this book is starting to get on my nerves. I think the author is in love with her own writing and is spending a lot of time on poetic description and symbolism re. David and Norah's faltering relationship; however, I'm not getting a sense of why and how their marriage is disintegrating. Yes, some kind of dubious barrier was erected with Phoebe's "death" -- but how did that keep building on itself, exactly? What was there relationship like before -- were there no compensating factors to help them overcome this barrier? In conversation and introspection, they seem to be taking turns complaining about the barrier between them and wondering how it happened. As the reader, I'm wondering too. In a better book, I think I'd be seeing it even if the characters aren't. Instead, I'm just as confused as they are, which makes it hard for me to empathize and lose myself in the book.

message 12: by M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:20AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

M In terms of WNTTAK, which blew me away, I had all those same ?s, and yea it probly is more enjoyable to contemplate than to answer - in a way, as odd as this will sound, it was the first time that a books weaknesses were also its strengths for me - bc they presented such interesting angles. first, can it be that a child is evil from the start - and when you look at a Columbine kid, you do have to wonder - also, how does a parent love a child like that - and it paints it that it was out of E's hands which I think is often the case and yet of course the parents are always to blame - yet you have to question her reliability esp snce she didnt want to have him in the first place and that for sure had an impact - and the book is so extreme, ie, her husbands total blindness versus K's evilness ... yet that also gave the book a sharp edge and put E in a confusing light - I was amazed at how well sketched it was even with all those extremes - and how at the end of the day when she heard what happd at school her first thought was that she hoped he was safe - and that within all the turbulence she actually had the most connection to him ... it was a packed read.
As for MKD, I dont know if I can start ripping into it yet but I really hated this book - I found I did not like any of the characters (the one trait I can say they all have is selfishness but even that isn't fully true, for the most part they are just puppets with no real dimension) or thought they were at all developed, it read like the rut it was trying to depict, I think the premise is interesting and it had a lot of potential which was why it was all the more disappointing how flat it fell. Her basic point is that one mistake can affect your whole life but reading a book like that is just painful - you basically just watch a group of people deteriorate. Thinking back on it now I suspect she was trying to write a modern day tragedy; the doctor suffering from hubris, the fatal flaw creating a chain of terrible events that traps him in a downward spiral, etc, but I say Macbeth wins over any day. I found a lot of pple really liked this book, either for its very real portrayal of consequence or stam the conflict but I personally had to push my way through - I think if there had been at least one likable character it wouldve helped ... when you finish I will add my closing rant ...

message 13: by M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:20AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

M and as to your specific ?, I guess that's what brough the downfall of the marriage, this unspoken issue, the fact that he felt what he was doing was saving their marriage when all it did was create distance - he with his guilt, she her grief which can even bring a couple closer but since he didnt share it there was no way it could do anything but harm, and as such there is this growing tension of how pple change with tragedy or shame and bc there is no communication there cant be healing.

message 14: by K (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:20AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

K I'll respond to your last comment first, because the previous one requires more thought and time. Re. the marriage, I understand the pivotal event that ostensibly started the ball rolling; however, despite the author's efforts to the contrary which I do grudgingly acknowledge, I couldn't see the day-to-day slide of the marriage. It was a little like when I read "The Bell Jar," and the main character suddenly says, "And then I decided I wanted to kill myself," and I was thinking, huh? Where did that come from? The Bell Jar was much more extreme and abrupt; I do recognize that the author here tried to give us some day-to-day interactions and render the actual process of the marriage's disintegration. However, I don't know whether I needed more of that, or more overt, or something. It seemed like they were always asking each other where the marriage went wrong, and somehow neither of them could answer, and like they both wanted to keep the marriage going but somehow nothing was there. I'm not saying that that couldn't happen, just that it could have been rendered in a more believable and meaningful way. I felt like the whole relationship, from beginning to end, was happening in theory rather than in practice.

message 15: by K (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:20AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

K P.S. -- why the hell are you up at 5 a.m.? Not that I'm complaining; it's nice to get a morning response to my goodreads comments.

message 16: by M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:20AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

M I wish I knew myself, woke up around 430 and that was that...
So I hear you, and if I had more faith in this writer Id say she was actually showing that there wasnt all that much to the marriage to begin with, or that thats true of a lot of marriages but the ? is if life is easy enough that they slip thru or if they are able to cope with adversity - and if it was to show that the marriage wasnt all that substantial then its less of a tragedy - but to be perfectly frank I really don't think there is a lot of raw talent here, at best we have someone who could write a short story ... I do think conceptually she had a point but simply lacks the ability to carry it out.

message 17: by K (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:20AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

K Your last sentence about sums up my view of this matter. It's true that marriages can turn out to be empty and insubstantial despite the couple's strong wish to believe otherwise. However, I also think that this could have been developed and described in a more convincing way. A good author would have made me see this and believe it rather than question it.

message 18: by K (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:20AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

K I also want to add that Paul sounds way overmature for a 13-year-old. Additionally, it's pretty strange that they're fighting about Juilliard now, five years before it could even be a question. Why isn't at least one of these supposedly intelligent parents saying, he's just barely a teenager, he may change his mind eight times before he even applies to college? Are you getting the sense that this book is getting on my nerves?

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