The Memory Keeper’s Daughter – Kim Edwards – 7/10

While this was historically interesting (to examine the attitudes towards Down’s Syndrome changing, and also the concept that a woman could be pregnant with twins and not know it) and certainly emotionally charged, I came away thinking it could have been better.

The story (no spoilers here – it’s all in the blurb) is of a doctor who delivers his own twins. The boy is born healthy, the girl has Down’s syndrome. This being 1964 and Down’s Syndrome being an early death sentence and an enormous hardship for families and/or an automatic committal to an institution (disclaimer: having zero experience of Down’s Syndrome, I don’t know how different things are now), he convinces a nurse to take her to an institution, and tells his wife that the girl died during birth. The novel then follows the parallel stories of the twins.

I thought the characters were well-moulded – the doctor and his wife, the nurse, and the two twins being the main characters here – they are credible yet flawed, and the time progression is managed convincingly. Not being familiar with Kentucky, I couldn’t really judge whether the landscape was faithfully represented, but there was certainly plenty of effort put into describing it accurately.

What I struggled with was the characters’ occasional strange choices. Why the wife became a travel agent and the doctor a photographer, when there was no previous inclination in those directions. As a result, the plot felt a little forced into unusual directions.

Entry at Powell’s Books (synopsis and reviews) here.


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