The Memory Keepers Daughter
by Kim Edwards
From the dust jacket of the 2005 hardback first edition (Viking Penguin):
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 Downs 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 beautifully told story that unfolds over a quarter of a centuryin 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 as 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.
A brilliantly crafted, stunning debut, The Memory Keepers Daughter articulates a silent fear close to the heart of every mother: What would happen if you lost your child, and she grew up without you? Rich, compulsively readable, and deeply moving, the novel explores the way life takes unexpected turns, and how the mysterious ties that hold a family together help us survive the heartache that occurs when long-buried secrets burst into the open. Yet it is also an astonishing tale of redemptive love.
Kim Edwards is the author of the short story collection The Secrets of a Fire King, which was an alternate for the 1998 PEN/Hemingway Award, and she has won both the Whiting Award and the Nelson Algren Award. A graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, she currently teaches writing at the University of Kentucky.
The Memory Keepers Daughter unfolds from an absolutely mesmerizing premise, drawing you deeply and irrevocably into the entangled lives of two families and the devastating secret that shapes them both. I loved this riveting story with its intricate characters and beautiful language.
Sue Monk Kidd
The Memory Keepers Daughter is a gift, filled with radiant mystery. Kim Edwards writes with great wisdom and compassion about family, choices, secrets, and redemption. This is a wonderful, heartbreaking, heart-healing novel.
A gripping novel, beautifully written. With amazing compassion, Kim Edwards explores the impact of a family secret that challenges the limits of love and redemption.
Kim Edwards has written a novel so mesmerizing that I devoured it in a single gulp, reading far into the wee hours. Her characters will hold you spellbound as you watch a marriage founded on the sweetest of intimacies destroyed by unexamined concepts of conventional wisdom, by lies and by secrecy. From the ashes grow new lives strong enough to defy convention and to define family simply as supportive love. Terror, pity, redemptionwhat reader can ask for more? This beautifully written novel has it all.
Sena Jeter Naslund
This unusual novel is exciting, probing, dashing, and filled with surprises. The writing is memorable and smart. A keeper!
Bobbie Ann Mason