After taking an uncomfortably long break from reading (due to reasons that should be rather apparent, if not blatantly obvious), I picked up this thrilling bestseller that left me emotionally hooked after about 8 pages. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter tells the story of the young Dr. Henry who delivers his own twins one snowy night in the 1960’s. The first twin, a son, comes out perfect in every way. His second child, a daughter, is born with Down Syndrome, and, in a moment of decision, Dr. Henry hands his own daughter to the nurse and tells her to place her into a home for handicapped people. The nurse, who has always been secretly in love with him, finds herself unable to follow through with the request and ends up fleeing the state and raising the daughter as her own.
As if that premise alone isn’t sufficient to make you want to pick up the book, the novel weaves a complex cat’s cradle between the doctor and his wife and son (who both think that the daughter died at birth) as well as the long-distance correspondence the doctor has with the nurse as she sends him photos and excerpts of his missing daughter’s life. Much of the novel is spent stretching the tension between all of the characters until the ending, when a semblance of a resolution must be made after the unspoken secrets have finally brought them all to their breaking point.
My take? Well, breathtaking plot aside, I must say that the ending truly stunned me…and not necessarily in the best way. I was hoping for a much different resolution, but by the last page, the novel had tied up enough loose ends to leave me fairly satisfied. Other than the last 50 pages or so (when I was beating my fists on the dashboard of the car while Matt drove us home from the honeymoon), I was deliciously satisfied with the book–it was emotional, yet had enough plot substance in it to move it along. It took some surprising twists and turns (esp. the last third or so), but most of those were welcome changes to the general terrain of torn-apart lives and failed dreams. Even though a part of me wishes that the book would have been a little bit more “redemptive,” I would recommend it based on the plot and intricate emotional detailing alone.
My Rating: 4.5 stars. I would have given it the full five, but I really did not see that ending coming at all…