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Memory Keeper’s Daughter ? 1

January 8, 2007

When David hands his baby girl over to Caroline and tells Norah that she has died, what was your immediate emotional reaction? At this early point, did you understand David’s motivations? Did your understanding grow as the novel progressed?

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– Stephanie

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2007 10:43 am

    I struggled at the beginning to understand why he would lie to her – as the novel went on I still thought, “I wish he just would’ve told the truth.” I could kind of see his point but I just kept thinking how things COULD have been if he’d been honest from the start.

  2. January 8, 2007 10:48 am

    Am I the only one who feels nothing for the David and Norah characters? I almost wanted to skip their entire story and just read about caroline and phoebe. I found caroline’s story and struggle to be compelling. David and Norah just seemed selfish and childish.

    At first I thought it was so horrible. I wanted Norah to fight more to see her dead daughter. Why wasn’t she more upset with David? Why did she never question his friend who had taken the body? or request to see the body before the funeral? I understood David’s first reaction and as the book went on it just reinforced how selfish he was. Instead of realizing the child would have the best shot being with them b/c he is a doctor with the medical knowledge, $$, and time resources he only thought of the burden that phoebe may be. But it was the 60’s when people with mental disorders and disabilities were not considered to be part of society but instead packed in to institutions until they died.

  3. January 8, 2007 11:13 am

    **As a caveat, I listened to this book on AudioCD and it was abridged. However, it was still eleven hours long, so it couldn’t have been that abridged.**

    I was confused by the whole scenario. After all, Phoebe CRIES in the room after she’s born. You’d think Norah would have noticed. Then, I thought that maybe Norah was drugged into oblivion. But later in the novel, when the author is describing Rosemary’s labor experience, she comments that Norah wanted a natural birth. So, it just seemed a little unrealistic.

    My younger sister had a daughter last February, who lives with my parents. On my summer and winter breaks I spent a lot of time with the baby, and I’m extremely close to her. So, my gut emotional reaction was just horror and sadness. On one level, I understood that he was worried about all of the complications that a Downs Syndrome baby would bring. But just the idea of giving up your *baby* seems awful.

    I think that David’s action was just his split-second gut reaction. If the circumstances had been different, if he had not been able to immediately get rid of the baby, I think he would have quickly realised that, perfect or not, the baby was his and Norah’s.

    I also found it odd that he even told Norah about Phoebe. Since Norah didn’t seem to be aware that she had given birth to twins (see earlier skepticism), wouldn’t it have been best (from the p.o.v. of protecting Norah) to just pretend Phoebe didn’t exist?

    Finally, and this is off-topic, was anyone else driven insane by the massive quantities of really bad/trite metaphors and similes? I think that Edwards needs to find a new editor: her book would have been much stronger without them.

  4. January 8, 2007 11:37 am

    I was horrified and hoped he would have changed his mind. I think that decision and secret really messed up their marriage.

    Nora went to pieces – she was dealing with just giving birth, hormones, breast feeding, and grieving the “death” of her daughter. I think she was on the brink of insanity, so I did feel badly for her.

  5. January 8, 2007 11:55 am

    My immediate gut reaction to David’s actions was horror and disbelief. I held onto that reaction throughout the book. It just seems so wrong to lie to your wife in such a fashion. He just made a very selfish decision in the heat of the moment. I too had a difficult time feeling anyhting for David and Norah. As another writer noted above, she seemed to just go along with the whole thing that one of her children died…she never asked any questions at all. I found the whole thing a bit strange.

  6. January 8, 2007 12:44 pm

    First, I agree with Jenney and Maureen. I too didn’t really feel any sadness or really found anything likable about Norah or David. Caroline was a much stronger, more likable character. Having said that, I really did not enjoy this novel as much as I had anticipated. Except for Caroline (and probably Al and Phoebe), I didn’t really feel much of anything for the rest of the characters, so I was not sad to see the book end. For me, if I am not saddened to see a story finish, then it wasn’t worth the read.
    – Stephanie

  7. Courtney permalink
    January 8, 2007 2:23 pm

    Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I am still somewhat young (23) and childless myself, but I completely understood David’s decision- considering the time period. I think we forget how far we have come with accepting challenged children in our times. David’s intentions were innocent I do believe; he thought completely of his wife who he loved dearly (as we see in the opening scene).. he truly thought he would be sparing her pain by sending this child away and lying to his wife. It unfortunately did not work that way but there was no way for him to know how it would work. He honestly thought Pheobe would die very young.

    Unlike most posters above, I actually learned a lot from David and Norah in this novel. I learnt how quickly a marriage can fall apart and how volitile they can be. David’s one secret, although quite a large one, made it possible for him to accept his wife’s “secrets” and it ruined them. Who knows how their lives would have gone, had they kept Pheobe from birth; perhaps a challenged child would’ve ruined their marriage as well.

    I felt a lot of pain for David. (However, he did create it for himelf.)

  8. January 8, 2007 5:27 pm

    My first reaction, totally stunned. I couldn’t believe it. I was thinking what a great premise for the book and it’s really going to take off from here. I was sympathetic quite a bit towards David’s character despite the fact that I didn’t agree with his decision. Where I was a bit letdown with the book was my reaction to Norah. I would have thought her character would get a lot of sympathy from me and yet I felt very removed from her.

  9. Wendy permalink
    January 8, 2007 5:31 pm

    I agree with everyone who said that they had a hard time relating to David or Norah. The characters of Caroline and Phoebe were much more interesting–and well written. Even Al seemed to have more depth of character. Perhaps that was the author’s point, that David’s secret created a dishonesty and shallowness which came to encompass all the relationships within his own family. For me, too, I think it was difficult to get into this book directly after having read The Time Traveller’s Wife. The characters in that book were just so rich. Ultimately, I had a hard time investing in the characters in this book.

  10. January 8, 2007 5:43 pm

    courtney: I totally understand what you mean. Before I had children I would think “what if they are retarded? what will I do? adoption?” now the kid could be born faceless, legless and brainless and I wouldn’t think twice about it. It sounds cliche but its true you don’t realize how much you can love someone until you give birth.

  11. Nicole permalink
    January 8, 2007 6:57 pm

    I was disgusted by David’s decision, even with the understanding of the time period. I guess that’s the parent in me. However, I did understand it a little better after learning more about his sister. Nevertheless, it did not make me “forgive” him. I don’t think it gave the baby away so Norah wouldn’t suffer, I think he did it so he wouldn’t suffer again (like he did with his sister).

    I didn’t like these characters either. While I admire Caroline for fighting so hard for Phoebe, I still can’t get over that she went along with David from the beginning. She did do the right thing in the end, I guess.

    This was a very slow book for me. I wasn’t invested in the story at all!

  12. January 8, 2007 10:30 pm

    I’m happy to hear that other people didn’t feel invested in the story either. I didn’t care about anyone! And I wasn’t able to finish the book… But I can answer this question! (phew!)

    My experience with special needs children and parents completely contradicts the premise that David would give away his daughter. No matter how many challenges a child faces, a parent loves their child. Birth is an emotional time, but no dad would take a child away from its mother like that. I just didn’t buy it. The fact that he was concerned about a heart problem and an early death does not figure in to be enough to completely abandon a newborn. Considering his extensive medical training, he would/should know that each child is different and medical/health status is a complex diagnosis (and one that is not made by simply looking at the child!).

    I realize that children (typically-developing and special needs) are abandoned every day in the world, but most of those parents are facing vastly different financial and governmental challenges. David could have taken care of all of the needs of the child. Additionally, in my opinion, the fact that it was a twin birth partially off-sets the special needs status of the second baby. Sort of a “buy one, get one,” which I know sounds terrible, but I really think that it’s true in a twin birth. They got a bonus child, that happened to have Down’s Syndrome and it makes it more ok than just a singleton birth of a special needs child.

    I agree with another commenter about why didn’t David not tell his wife at all. That wasn’t fully explained in the story.

  13. January 8, 2007 11:17 pm

    I too found nothing likable about the characters, other than Caroline. Even with her, though, it seemed as if there was a lot of character development that could have been added to the story, but was missing. I was hoping for a more sympathetic take on David’s decision to give away his daughter (as opposed to the story behind “Secret Girl”), but David seemed terribly troubled and unable to care for a healthy child, let alone a child with challenges.

  14. January 9, 2007 12:08 am

    It was totally unbelievable that David would give away his daughter, but given that was the premise of the whole story, we had to accept that he did. Where his reasons justified, I don’t think so. Like others have said, why didn’t Norah pursue seeing the baby before it was buried. And what mortuary would provide a casket without ever seeing the baby.

    I definitely like the parts of the story that deal with Caroline and phoebe. I really liked Al.

    Still have 100 pages to go so my feelings may change.

  15. May 18, 2007 11:29 pm

    OK, I am way behind here, but just have to comment.

    Full disclosure: my son has Down syndrome.

    My reaction to David: disgust. I do not believe he was trying to protect his wife, I believe his motives were purely selfish. And I agree with the others who were not invested in these characters. I found nothing redeeming about either one of them.

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