This is a haunting, tragic, and distressing family tale, an enthralling page-turner primarily because it centers on an abysmal act by one individual that affects everyone for whom he cares. David Henry leads the perfect life; he's an orthopedic surgeon married to a wonderful, beautiful woman. It is 1964, and there's a terrible snowstorm in Lexington, KY, when his wife goes into labor. The bad weather keeps Norah's ob/gyn from making it to the hospital, so her husband, along with his nurse, Caroline Gill, decides to deliver the baby in his clinic. Under sedation, Norah gives birth to a healthy boy. As David is thrilled by the birth of his son, Norah starts to have more contractions. He quickly sedates her again, and she gives birth to a girl with Down syndrome. Wanting to protect Norah and feeling she would not be able to cope with a mentally challenged child, David gives the baby to Caroline and asks her to place her in an institution and never reveal their secret. The novel, read by Martha Plimpton, is told through different characters' points of view, moving from one person's thoughts to another, always keeping the secret at the center of the story. The Memory Keeper's Daughter, while ultimately hopeful, tells much of the dark side of human understanding and relationships. Recommended.-Carol Stern, Glen Cove P.L., NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Edwards's assured but schematic debut novel (after her collection, The Secrets of a Fire King) hinges on the birth of fraternal twins, a healthy boy and a girl with Down syndrome, resulting in the father's disavowal of his newborn daughter. A snowstorm immobilizes Lexington, Ky., in 1964, and when young Norah Henry goes into labor, her husband, orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Henry, must deliver their babies himself, aided only by a nurse. Seeing his daughter's handicap, he instructs the nurse, Caroline Gill, to take her to a home and later tells Norah, who was drugged during labor, that their son Paul's twin died at birth. Instead of institutionalizing Phoebe, Caroline absconds with her to Pittsburgh. David's deception becomes the defining moment of the main characters' lives, and Phoebe's absence corrodes her birth family's core over the course of the next 25 years. David's undetected lie warps his marriage; he grapples with guilt; Norah mourns her lost child; and Paul not only deals with his parents' icy relationship but with his own yearnings for his sister as well. Though the impact of Phoebe's loss makes sense, Edwards's redundant handling of the trope robs it of credibility. This neatly structured story is a little too moist with compassion. Agent, Geri Thoma. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.