The Memory Keeper's Daughter, Kim Edwards, Penguin Books, 2006, 401 pp
This book, with its lovely cover, with ecstatic blurbs from Sue Monk Kidd, Jodi Picoult and Ursula Hegi, with its inspiring success story as a book made famous through independent bookstores, was a large disappointment to me. The idea behind the story sounded promising: a doctor delivers his own twins, finds one to have Downs Syndrome, decides to secretly banish that baby and tells his wife that her daughter died. The secret ruins the lives of himself, his wife and the son he kept. Such a secret just begs for a novel.
I am sorry to be a wet blanket, but Edwards does not pull it off. Though a graduate of a well-known MFA program, her writing is not good: repetitive in a boring way, sentiments that are too sentimental, characters who just lie there on the page and refuse to come to life. How many times does the reader need to be told that a secret will drive a wedge into a marriage and alienate the child of that marriage?
After reading through 25 years of how each of these characters longs in his or her own way for the dead sister and a mere 40 pages from the end, you finally get to see what happens when the secret is revealed. It is time for the Oprah moments. This could have been the good part, the balance to all those times of failed understanding and intimacy, but no. It all fades into a sort of limited happiness for each person and I felt I had just watched a made-for-the-Lifetime- Channel movie.
I should probably say that any reading is better than no reading, but when I finished the book all I could think was that if American women are buying, reading and raving about a book this shallow and unfulfilling, we deserve everything we are going to get in this country.