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          Volume 10 |Issue 40 | October 21, 2011 |


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Book Review

A Captivating Tale

Tulip Chowdhury

In a bleak winter night in Kentucky, Dr David Henry delivers his own twins, a boy and a girl. The boy is robust and healthy. But when the father takes a look at the new born girl, he immediately knows that she is a down-syndrome baby. He knows the signs that will follow: “flaccid muscle tone, delayed growth and mental development, possible heart complications and early death”. He remembers his own sister who had these complications and died at the age of twelve. He shivers when he thinks of all the difficulties his parents had while raising his sister.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Author: Kim Edwards
Publisher: Penguin Books

He calls to the only nurse at hand, Caroline. The nurse is told to take the baby to an orphanage immediately. When his wife wakes up from her induced sleep, David tells her the biggest lie of his life; he tells her that the twin girl had died and that he had already buried her to spare her the pain of seeing a dead child. Norah, the wife, takes her son in her arms, but somewhere deep in her heart there is a gnawing pain for the lost daughter. The mother inside her is devastated; why has fate delivered her such a cruel blow?

The story is gripping and holds the reader spell bound from the very first chapter. Caroline, the childless nurse is unable to part with the delicate baby once she holds her in her arms. She takes the child and moves to another town. He cannot justify his own doings and yet he is unable to undo his lie. Norah's grief is irreplaceable. She wishes that she had taken just one glimpse of her daughter. There is pulsing suspense; will the secret of the down-syndrome baby Phoebe be out? Will Caroline one day call Norah and tell of her husband's misdeed? And, indeed, when Phoebe grows up and learns that Caroline had hidden her real parents' identity, will she still love Caroline like her mother?

In the saga of “The Memory Keeper's Daughter,” perfectly normal human beings are caught up in the unpredictable events of life. David is a good man and yet on a split-second decision he decided to part with his mentally disabled child; now, he is constantly on guard of his secret. Caroline's motherly instincts refuse to give in and she takes up a new job and struggles to save the child whom she had saved from the neglected life of an orphanage. Norah, the distraught mother watches her son, Paul, grow into a fine young man while her heart still cries for the baby girl whom she never saw. The tremendous secret keeping has its toll and Norah and David slowly grow apart. For the sake of their son, they share a home. David manages to send money regularly to help Caroline to an anonymous address.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter has only three main characters sewn into the storyline and so it is very easy to keep track of the plot that builds up gradually. The story reaches its climax and throws the reader into emotional turmoil as the events gradually unfold. Will Caroline lose the child she has so lovingly raised? Will Norah and David go in their own ways? What will Paul say to his father when he knows that he had given away his sister?

As the readers go through the turmoil of the Henry family, they are comforted by the soothing details of the scenic beauty of Kentucky. One reads and rereads the picturesque scenery portrayed. Throughout the story the nature is held forth in picture perfect vision. Human emotions too are described with breathtaking reality. When Paul is a toddler and roams around the house, to him “…every room was an adventure…” When Norah repeatedly talks about Phoebe, David wonders why, “…she couldn't let the past rest and move on…” Indeed few writers have the power of writing with intricate details as Kim Edwards! The readers are transported into the dramatic world of the Henry family with the mastery of the writer.

Compulsively readable and deeply moving, The Memory Keeper's Daughter is a brilliantly crafted story of parallel lives, ancestral secrets and the power of love. It is written in a language so lovely that you have to reread a passage just to be captivated all over again and you must hold your breath till you read the last page.



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