Over the years I have picked this book up and put it back down again countless times in different book stores. Interested but not quite motivated enough to actually purchase it and read it. Then recently in our work book club of sorts my colleague put it forward. She had read the Memory Keeper’s Daughter years ago, enjoyed it and had a copy to lend me. The story is intriguing: A doctor forced into delivering his own baby on a story winter night in the 1960s discovers that not only is his wife having twins but the second twin, a daughter, is born with Down’s Syndrome. He sends his nurse to take the baby away to a home telling his wife she died at birth but the nurse take the baby and raises her as her own. The novel follows their lives over the decades, watching the twins grow, observing the consequences of their actions.
This book confronts some serious themes of keeping secrets, regret and guilt, morality and ethics. The main character, Doctor David Henry, makes the fated decision that will affect his life from that day onwards. He created this secret, a void between him and his wife, which eats away at him day by day. His motives behind his decision are clear and I immediately understood where his decision came from and had some genuine sympathy for him and his wife. The book jumps through the years visiting the central characters at each time point and we truly being to learn the effects of the guilt and regret on relationships in the future. The ethics behind his decision are complicated and although you know they are wrong you can understand the though processes and of course,back then was a different time. I enjoyed these aspects of the book giving me something to think about beyond the story on the pages.
The characters in themselves were fascinating and intricate from Doctor Henry and his wife Norah and son Paul to the nurse Caroline Gill raising Phoebe. I appreciated the story being told from the perspectives of each of the characters across time. Understanding each character’s thoughts and actions was an integral part of the book and I enjoyed the format. My only criticism was that considering the focus of the book was Phoebe having been abandoned due to her Down’s Syndrome and that Caroline spent her years fighting for Phoebe to be given equal rights as other children I found it disappointing that she was not afforded the same rights in the book. We didn’t get to see any chapters from her perspective. It would have been fascinating to have read her thoughts, her perceptions of the world. I felt like her character was let down and not given an equal opportunity in the book.
At times I found the story meandered a little off the track of the story and could have been a little more powerful if it focused more on the key elements of the plot. Truth be told there was just a little something missing for me in the end. I did not fully connect with the characters and I think this was a defining factor that stopped me truly loving the book. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the story and would definitely recommend reading it, I just don’t think it will be one I need to revisit. Overall I give this book three kittens for Phoebe.