No Other Tale The Same: The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Images and descriptions of photographs and bones haunt The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards, a devastatingly beautiful novel about a husband who, with one lie, changes the course of everyone's lives around him. David, an orthopedic surgeon, ends up being the only one available in a snowstorm to deliver his wife's babies. One, the boy, is "perfect". The other, the girl, has Down's Syndrome. It's 1964, and David, believing that this baby girl will follow in his dead sister's footsteps with a fatal heart problem, makes a decision to have Caroline, the nurse, take the baby to an institution and to tell his wife that the baby died in childbirth. He hopes that Norah, his wife, will just move on.

Caroline decides the institution is an inhumane place for Phoebe to grow up and raises her as her own daughter. Phoebe continues to live, learn and grow. "You missed a lot of heartache, sure. But David, you missed a lot of joy." (Edwards 249). Of course, on the other side of the story, it's impossible for Norah to move on. "He had handed their daughter to Caroline Gill and the secret had taken root; it had grown and blossomed in the center of his family." (Edwards 310). Norah can't stop thinking of what she's lost, and as the years go by, she becomes angrier and more withdrawn while David's guilt completely consumes him.

Every character in this book is flawed, vulnerable and utterly compelling. Memory Keeper is the name of the camera Norah buys for David. Four voices are heard throughout the book; David's Norah's, Paul's (the son) and Caroline's. Paul grows up lonely, angry and confused. He sees his father's obsession with documenting life as a negative. "Camera, his father told him, came from the French chambre, room. To be in camera was to operate in secret. This was what his father had believed: that each person was an isolated universe. Dark trees in the heart, a fistful of bones: that was his father's world, and it had never made him more bitter than at this moment." (Edwards 381).

There is some resolution at the end of this novel, although there's even sadness in the happier ending. This novel compels the reader to look deeper and to marvel at every human emotion and moment. One example is the way Edwards describes snow through David's voice: "It was a moment when all the disparate shards of his life seemed to knit themselves together, every past sadness and disappointment, every anxious secret and uncertainty hidden now beneath the soft white layers." (Edwards 9).