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Friday, February 08, 2008

A husband lives a life of secrets, telling no one of his past. He marries a woman, and they truly love each other. She becomes pregnant and on the night of her pregnancy, due to a blizzard, he is the one to deliver their child. Or children. Only a nurse is there to help them, and only she too knows the secret. The second child is a girl who has Down's Syndrome, and because of his past, this man cannot imagine allowing his wife to have this pain. So he sends their daughter away and tells everyone she died. Dr. David Henry makes a decision that takes away one source of pain and puts another in its place - for himself, for his wife, for their son.

David and Norah feel themselves fading farther and farther from each other. David has built a wall around himself to protect the secret, but this wall also keeps everyone else outside. So much is unspoken in their family .. David's painful past; Norah's present attempts to run away from pain and loss; the way Paul (their son) escapes and seeks to fill the emptiness with music; Phoebe (their daughter) and her very existence. Edwards does a wonderful job of creating connections between times and people, whether or not they are aware of them. David's sister loved to sing, and both of his children also create beautiful music. Both Norah and Caroline (the nurse) change from being dependent on David to becoming independent, strong, forceful women. All the main children grow up disconnected from their parents one way or another. Two spouses are often running from something, having a hard time sitting still.

Near the beginning of their sadness together, Norah gives David a camera. It becomes his way to see the world .. to make sense of his pain .. to find connections and establish relationship where it has been broken. This seeking to capture moments and connections often sets him one step away from others, but he already feels that separation so this only aggravates his loneliness. As a doctor, he enjoys being able to see and help others to see the way our bodies reflect the world (ie lungs and trees, veins and rivers). His art becomes valuable and honored later in life, but is almost adverse to the depth of his relationships. The only person he tells his story to is a stranger, who then becomes part of his life and closer to him than his wife .. although still held at arm's length. Art has such power .. but when used as a way to hide it's effects are painful for so many. As with all good art, there are many levels of truth in this book, and I suspect that I will revisit it a number of times in the future.

Title:The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Author: Kim Edwards
Date published:2005
Genre: Fiction
Number of pages: 513
Notes: Recommended by Betty


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