“In every end, then, a beginning.”
–The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (2005), Kim Edwards
I like to travel light—and that concept applies to my reading selections as well. On my most recent ocean crossing, I needed an easy-read, a page-turner: something that I could read in line at the airport or in the seat of a crowded shuttle. Kim Edwards’ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter proved to be a good pick.
The novel begins on a snowy evening in 1964 when Norah Henry gives birth to twins. Her husband, Dr. David Henry, notices that the second child—a daughter—has Down syndrome, and he makes a hasty decision to send the baby to an institution. He tells his wife that the child was born dead. Instead of taking the baby to the institution, Dr. Henry’s nurse decides to leave town and raise the girl as her own. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter chronicles the lives of these families divided by a secret, and it traces what happens when they live for twenty-five years with a lie.
The book’s title presumably comes from the name of Dr. Henry’s camera, The Memory Keeper. The doctor turns to photography after receiving the camera as a gift from his wife, and he delves into the pursuit with a passion that he is unable to offer his wife and son. Norah Henry never recovers from the grief of losing her baby girl, and her marriage offers no solace. In some ways redeeming the story of their parents’ shattered lives, the twins grow up separately but each manage to secure in their individual lives what a secret has prevented in their families: beauty and, ultimately, love.
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter has been on U.S. and U.K. bestseller lists, topping out in the U.S. as the #1 New York Times Bestseller. It’s not hard to understand why—the plot of this fiction book is easy to follow; the story is captivating from beginning to end; its prose is smooth and simple. These features, I think, also make a book good to read on the go.