I don’t normally listen to audio books, actually I never do. I don’t drive for long periods of time on a regular basis. But when I got to drive from Houston, Texas to Kansas City, Missouri with only my 14 month old daughter and two dogs (my husband was driving the moving truck) it seemed like the best time to bring out a book on tape, well CD actually. So there I was on a 12+ hour drive with nothing to do but listen to a book.
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is about a doctor, David Henry, his wife, Norah Henry, and the nurse Caroline Gil. On a frozen winter night, Dr. David Henry has to deliver his wife’s baby with the help of his nurse Caroline Gil. After the birth of their son, who Norah names Paul; David realizes that she was actually pregnant with twins. While Paul was “perfect” in every way, the baby girl has Down Syndrome. David makes a quick decision to send the baby girl to a home to be raised, it was said in the book that this was a common practice in the 60s. He hands her to Caroline to take away and tells his wife the baby girl died. Caroline takes the baby to the home, but cannot bring herself to leave her there, so she takes her home hoping that David will change his mind. He does not. He continues with the lie that the baby died and he and his wife hold a memorial service. Caroline then leaves town with the baby whom she named Phoebe( it was what the mother would have named the baby).
As the story progresses, Caroline raises Phoebe as her own child. She meets friends and a nice man named Al who offer her love and support. David and Norah’s life goes a little different. Norah feels extreme grief over the death of her child. David’s feelings of guilt cause him to refuse to talk about Phoebe and when Norah says she wants to have another baby, David refuses. He secretly fears that another baby will also have Down syndrome. They grow further and further apart with David’s secrets and Norah’s grief. David throws himself into his work and hobby of photography while Norah and Paul feel neglected.
This book is sad. Depressing actually. And not in a good way like Romeo and Juliet or The Book Thief (my review of The Book Thief . It’s sad like Revolutionary Road, a sad that doesn’t feel cathartic, but in a way that makes you not like people for a little while. (Disclaimer, I never finished Revolutionary Road because I found it upsetting, but I read the whole summary) The characters in this book are not likeable. The author explains David’s decision by explaining that his sister died young, and her death destroyed his mother. He did not want Norah to go through the same thing. I do not think this excuses or justifies his actions. He did not want to go through the pain of losing his daughter. He was selfish, and continued to act selfishly the rest of the story.
I cannot get over what Caroline did to Norah. I am not forgiving what David did, but it seemed like Caroline came off as a good guy and David came off as a bad guy. David spent the rest of his life feeling guilty, Caroline felt just a little guilty. Caroline took another woman’s baby. She took it away knowing Norah had no knowledge of any of this. Norah thought her baby was dead for over 20 years. If I was Norah, I would have called the cops and had Caroline arrested for kidnapping. Maybe she’s a better person than I am allowing Phoebe to remain with the woman she feels is her mother, but I could not be so tolerant. The more I think about it the more it angers me what Caroline did. Don’t get me wrong, I am mad at David too, but all Caroline had to do was go to Norah and tell her. Caroline was selfish. She was lonely and wanted a baby. She felt righteous in taking the baby away from the home, but she took the baby away from the mother. She kept in touch with David through the years, but never thought the best thing to do was go to Norah. I cannot forgive what Caroline did; my mom says this is what having a baby does to you. I feel for Norah, it makes my heart hurt. And that is the main reason I did not like the book. What David and Caroline did to Norah was unforgivable.
I would not read this book again and would not refer it to a friend. It wasn’t actually bad, but I don’t feel it has anything to offer. I probably would not have finished it if not for the very long drive.