I was very impressed with “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” on several levels. The author’s decision to tell the story from the perspective of Dr. David Henry, his wife Norah, and his nurse Caroline Gill, allowed the reader to gain a detailed view of how all their lives change with David’s hasty decision in the middle of a snow storm. When David is forced to deliver his own baby, he is surprised to find his wife was actually pregnant with twins! The boy, Paul, is perfect, but the girl, Phoebe, has Down syndrome. David makes a quick decision to give away his daughter without telling his wife Norah. David instructs his nurse, Caroline, to take Phoebe to an institution. But when she arrives, it is so horrific, Caroline instead decides to leave town and begin a new life as Phoebe’s mother. David ultimately tells Norah that Phoebe died, and the book follows these three people as they live with the secrets and grief of David’s decision.
A serious book with uncanny introspection and details, I was taken with the writing and complex characters. But the story was rather depressing. Near the end of the book I was a little irritated that Norah was basically throwing away her life because of Phoebe’s death. People move on, they pick themselves up, but she never seems to be able to do that. Instead, Norah wallows in the grief of losing a child, and the weight of the secret on David over the years wears him down a well. Caroline’s life is much happier, but there is an element to even her story that evoked sadness.
The book was excellent. It was well written, and read like a biography rather than fiction. The element of Down Syndrome was an emphasis to the story and did not overshadow the book’s focus. I would recommend the book, but a reader would need to really be in the mood for a serious subject, which is slightly depressing.