The Memory Keeper's Daughter

November 18, 2008
Normally, when the nineteen fifties or sixties come to mind, we automatically incorporate cheesy, or over exaggerated, cheerful times. However, that is not the case in the Henry family's life, in fact, it is the complete opposite. The fictional family in, The Memory Keeper's Daughter, a novel written by Kim Edwards, hardly ever takes the easy road in their life, and is faced with a variety of difficult day-to-day challenges.

The heart-breaking, yet realistic story's author, Kim Edwards, grew up in Skaneateles, New York (Finger Lakes Region) and was the oldest of four children. She graduated from Colgate University and the University of Iowa, where she received a MFA in Fiction and a MA in Linguistics. After her graduate work, she went with her husband to Asia and spent five years teaching in a small town south of Tokyo, Malaysia, and Cambodia. During her time there, she wrote a few novels which have be recognized and awarded.

The story's title is The Memory Keeper's Daughter because the father, David Henry, is always taking endless photographs of the family's entire journey of life. Norah, his wife, is always nagging and complaining to her husband, who she thinks is irritating and rude, to put away his beloved camera. It is almost as if she is jealous of the device, and wants his attention. Later in the story, Norah finds all of the old pictures, and realizes the significance of the moments.

The Memory Keepers Daughter is all about being truthful because if not, others may take things the wrong way or have the wrong impression. In the story, Dr. David Henry gives away his daughter, Pheobe, with down-syndrome at birth, and explains to his wife that she was still-born. However, her twin brother, Paul, was perfectly fine, and grew up knowing nothing about his existing sister. Throughout there lives together, Norah and David were always arguing and Norah always felt that David was hiding something, and keeping all his feelings inside. But the truth was that Pheobe was living with David's nurse, Caroline Gill. The unhappy couple ends up getting divorced, because David just could not confess and come clean. Norah and Paul were unaware of Pheobe until David died many years later, and Caroline informed them. The threesome, family ended up becoming close and bonding, but they never understood why their father and husband had lied to them. Unfortunately they would never find out because David died of a massive heart-attack. Even though David thought he was doing the right thing, by “saving his family heart-ache and pain,” they still suffered from the non-existent loss of their daughter, which caused Norah and Paul much grief. The lesson learned in the novel is to never lie about something you know you will not be able to keep hidden, and always tell the truth.

Since the tale is depressing and heart-braking, yet surprisingly realistic, the genre of The Memory Keeper's Daughter would most likely fit into drama. Various tragic events and scandals are thrown at the reader on almost ever page. If a reader is on the emotional side or needs a more pleasant story, I would not suggest The Memory Keeper's Daughter. Honestly, it is a tear-jerker and will make you endlessly wonder, why in the world would someone give up their own child? But you have to remember Pheobe was born in 1964 with down-syndrome, a disease of mental retardation no one truly understood. However, this does not make it a bad book. It is an excellent novel, and is a story almost everyone can relate to, because most families are not perfect and have many complications in their household, whether it is endless fighting between parents, or a family member with an illness or a disability.

In my opinion, The Memory Keeper's Daughter is a must-read for any intent reader, and can hold a place in anyone's life. It is so relatable and so true. The story really makes you realize that everyone has situations that are necessary to face, and are forced to take the long road. Take my word, and take this upside-down, roller coaster ride with the Henry family.

with her husband to Asia, where they spent the next five years teaching, first on the rural east coast of Malaysia, then in a small city an hour south of Tokyo, and finally in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. where she received an MFA in Fiction and an MA in Linguistics. After completing her graduate work, she went with her husband to Asia, where they spent the next five years teaching, first on the rural east coast of Malaysia, then in a small city an hour south of Tokyo, and finally in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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