The Memory Keeper's Daughter is a first novel for Kim Edwards. It is a story starting in the 1960's and spanning over 25 years. It is a story one family and the on-going consequences each member pays for one split-second decision made by one member.
Dr. David Henry, a young doctor very much in love with his wife, is faced with delivering his own child when a snow storm prevents them from making it to the hospital. Going to his clinic which is closer, he along with his nurse help to deliver his baby boy. To his surprise, there is a twin delivered also by Norah, who is basically unconscious from medication. As soon as he holds the baby, Dr. Henry right away realizes the baby girl has Down's Syndrome. In a split second decision, he gives the baby to his nurse to take to an institution which was the method of the day in dealing with Down Syndrome children. He then informs Norah that she birthed a baby girl who died.
When Caroline takes the babe to the institution she finds the conditions deplorable. And there begins the journey of deception, secrets, dealing with loss and pain, and consequences of choices made. While Dr. Henry believed that he was making the right decision to protect his wife, whom he very much loved, from heartache, he could not have predicted the road that his family would travel from that decision.
With my background working with Down's Syndrome children and various other disabilities, I very much looked forward to reading this book. It grabbed me from beginning to end. Back in that time, when institutions where the way of handling children with disabilites combined with memories and undealt grief from his past, the character of David Henry was acting with the times. The level of it affecting all their lives comes from the decision to decieve his wife with it. I was totally caught up in their story and the nurses story and how a wrong decision even done with the best of motives can reverberate down through years and affect another generation. Kim Edwards did a lot of research into what was happening with families with Down Syndrome children at the time and it really comes through in different parts of the story. I thought the characters where well defined and real. I was however surprised at the ending. To me it was very abrupt and wrapped up too pat. I kept turning the pages thinking there was more but nope that was the end. In spite of that, I thought it was a great read that really involved my emotions and empathy for all the characters. Kim also provides questions at the back for reading groups or for individuals to work through. I will definitely be picking up Kim's next book.