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.
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter was a fantastic book that I truly enjoyed. I found that the characters were believable and appreciable. It was interesting to stand outside the situation of the Henry family and see their utter lack of ability to communicate as a family – and what this entails for choices made by these individuals as well as the results for relationships within the family. It was a realistic situation that was accurately portrayed – though don’t look to this book for a complete “happy ending.”
It also provided an interesting historical perspective for the modern reader – to see the choices made by the characters as contrasted by the time that they were living – and to try to understand the characters and their decisions in this context. The idea of “giving away” your daughter because she has Down’s Syndrome is unconscionable in our day and age, but this book and its characters and events must be contemplated and understood from a time period that may even be prior to a reader’s birth.
It provided a great foundation for discussion and in particular I was swept up in the symbolism of David Henry in particular as the “Memory Keeper” – but you’ll have to read the book to debate this with me 🙂
Recommendation: Buy this book.