Saturday, 22 August 2009

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

The author Kim Edwards was, according to the website, 'born on May 4, 1958, in Killeen, Texas. When she was only two months old, her parents moved the family back to upstate New York, where Edwards grew up. Although she was interested in writing since she was a little girl, it was in her college years that the wheels were set in motion for her writing career. After transferring from Auburn Community College (now Cayuga Community College) to Colgate University in 1979, she signed up for a fiction workshop. Here, Edwards wrote her first story, ‘‘Cords,’’ which eventually became ‘‘The Way It Felt to Be Falling.’’...' She teaches creative writing, and has published a volume of short stories, but The Memory Keeper's Daughter is her first novel.

The story was given to her - a 'found' plot - by the pastor of her local church and she felt it was so extraordinary that she had to write about it. Kim Edwards talks about it in an interview you can read here.

I was attracted by the title when I saw it in a bookshop in New Zealand and put it on my wish list last year. This month, I was given it as a birthday present by my daughter and it kept me company in bed with the dreaded SF Virus. I'm an omnivore where books are concerned and like to alternate meaty books with a bit of light froth and cover the whole spectrum from non-fiction through lit fiction, crime and romance with the odd bit of sc-fi and horror. Where does this book fit? If you like Jodi Picoult, you'll like this. If you enjoyed Message in a Bottle, or The Notebook, you'll like this. The author's development of the central plot theme - a betrayal that rots a marriage at the root from the very beginning - is well executed. She describes an act done to protect someone, which in the end damages both the protector and the protected.

There's no mystery - we're told at the beginning that when twins are born, one of them has downs syndrome and the father - a doctor - decides that the baby should be taken away to be brought up by someone else. He tells his wife that the baby has died. The trouble is, the author didn't make me believe it, even though this is a 'true' story. I didn't know enough about the doctor's 'back story' at the beginning, to find his act credible. He just didn't seem capable of such ruthless cruelty. But from then on the motivations are perfectly worked out. The book is very well written and the journey the parents make towards their lost daughter is beautifully told. The 'Memory Keeper'? It's a camera and photography is central to the plot. And, yes, it does have a happy ending.

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