Sunday, March 04, 2007

thanks for the Memory

If you're looking for your next book, look no farther. Pick up a copy of Kim Edwards' startling debut The Memory Keeper's Daughter. It's easy to see how this was a New York Times bestseller. I'd heard so much about this book I accidentally bought it twice. I started reading it on Thursday and my only complaint is that I wish it had been longer.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter is a portait of a single decision stretched out and spun into a spider's web of secrets and distance. On a snowy night in 1964 Dr. David Henry delivers his own twins -- Paul born first, pink and perfect and a daughter he wasn't expecting. He sees right away that she has Down Syndrome and after the fashion of the time hands her to the nurse with instructions to take to her an institution. He tells his wife that their daughter died and a small crack begins to form between them, the only evidence that earth below them is shifting.

But Caroline, the nurse, decides not to leave the baby behind. Instead she gives her the name she heard her mother whisper -- Phoebe -- and leaves town to raise her as her own. And so the story truly begins. It would have been easy to slip into a maudlin discussion of loss, but Edwards avoids that skillfully delineating what can and cannot be regained. At one point she notes, "there would be no easy answers where Phoebe was concerned" but the conclusion when it comes is a deeply satisfying one.

I've heard rumors that Edwards is at work on her next novel. I hope she writes very quickly.

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