The Memory Keeper's Daughter Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Memory Keeper's Daughter

In 1964 Dr David Henry is a highly-regarded orthopedic surgeon, whose wife, Norah, is in the last stages of her pregnancy. When her labor begins prematurely, during a blizzard, Dr Henry is forced to help with the delivery himself, assisted only by the nurse, Caroline Gill. The birth proceeds without complications; the baby boy, Paul, is healthy and well. The problem arises when a second, unexpected, baby arrives. Dr Henry immediately recognises that his son's twin sister has Down's syndrome - a physical and intellectual impairment caused by an extra chromosome in the genes. As his wife is sedated, he instructs the nurse to take the child to a nearby institution for people with similar afflictions. When his wife wakes from her sedation, he tells her that the baby girl, Phoebe, was still-born and has already been taken away. Caroline, the nurse, takes the baby to the institution but, appalled by its cold and heartless atmosphere, secretly takes the baby and raises her herself.
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Over the following twenty-five years, the book develops the characters and their relationships with each other.

Dr Henry strives to bury his choice by immersing himself in photography. The inclusion of unique light and form styles in his work lead to fame and notoriety amongst the visual arts set. His secret gradually gnaws away at his conscience, however, leading to alienation in his relationship with this wife and son.

Norah is torn by the apparent death of her daughter, especially given that she never had the chance to see or hold her 'dead' daughter, thus lacking the opportunity to fully grieve. Her relationship with her husband withers, and she attempts to recompense her emptiness through various affairs and a new career.

Paul's relationship with his father grows strained as he dreams of becoming a professional guitarist. Dr Henry does not doubt his son's talent, but believes that a more mainstream occupation would be preferable for money-earning capacity.

Caroline joins with other parents of intellectually-impaired children, arguing and lobbying for the children's rights to similar benefits as those enjoyed by 'normal' children.

Phoebe grows and develops as well as could be expected; she finds it difficult to understand that, after more than twenty years believing that Caroline is her mother, that she has another mother, as well as a twin brother.
The review of this Book prepared by Jeanne Cross

On a snowy night Norah Henry goes into labor. Unable to make it to the hospital, her husband Dr. David Henry takes her to his own local medical clinic where Norah's doctor and a nurse, Caroline, are to meet them. Unforeseen events force David Henry to deliver his own child. A baby boy is born first and then a second child is delivered. Dr. Henry realizes at once that this second baby, a girl, has Down's Syndrome. As Norah lay unconscious, David quietly hands the baby girl over to the nurse and instructs her to take the baby to a home outside the city and leave her.

Caroline Gill is devastated by Dr. Henry's instructions. Upon arriving at the home, she is unable to leave her precious bundle feeling it is no place for a child. She slips away into the snowy night sure that Dr. Henry will come to his senses and want the baby back. Days later Caroline reads the announcement in the newspaper for baby girl Phoebe Henry's funeral service. Caroline leaves the city and her previous life behind to raise this child on her own.

Norah Henry grieves the loss of her twin baby girl while trying to be a mother to her son Paul. David Henry lives in his own world of guilt not knowing if his decision was right or wrong and how can he ever tell his family what he has done.
The review of this Book prepared by Dana Riedberger

This first time novel by Kim Edwards reminds the reader of the tearjerkers of the thirties,"Mildred Pierce", in particular. The story begins in 1964 with the birth of twins to David and Norah Henry during an unexpected flal blizzard in Kentucky. Their gynecologist is unable to reach them so David, N orthopedic surgeon delivers his wife with the help of his nurse,Caroline Gill,31,who is secretly in love with him. Twins are born; aboy, paul, robust and helthy, and later, a girl with Down's syndrome. Nora is anaesthetized during the births and she is unaware that she has had twins. David is horrified at his daughter's condition. He is haunted by the meory of his sister born with a heart defect that later killed her so he is unable to accept his imperfect baby girl. In a rash decision that influences his entire future life,he gives the baby to Caroline and directs her to take the child to a home. Then he tells Nora that the baby was stillborn.
   When Caroline sees the appalling condition of the home where David wanted her to leave Phoebe, the name that Norah picked out if she had a girl, she takes the baby home and decides to keep her. In ove of the book's most poignant scenes, Caroline attends the funeral Norah holds for her baby. She meets David's eyes and both are locked into the lie that will imprison them for the rest of their lives.
   During the next 25 years, David tries to contact Caroline who writes him terse letters keeping him in touch with Phoebe's progress. Caroline fights to get Phoebe accepted into public school. Phoebe works as a young adult and even marries. Caroline comes to love a truck driver who helped her when she was fleeing with Phoebe and who miraculously hooks up with her in later years.
The review of this Book prepared by Betty-Jeanne Korson

The year is 1964, and during a blizzard, Dr. David Henry's wife, Norah, is in labor. In a private clinic, with only the help of Nurse Caroline, David delivers his own set of twins. Norah, having been sedated, is completely unaware that she has had twins; so when one of them is born with Down's Syndrome, and David decides to get rid of it, Norah has no idea.

Caroline, secretly in love with the doctor, would do just about anything he asked of her. But when she arrives at the institution with the baby girl, she cannot bear to leave her there. Norah has already been told of the baby girl's death, so Caroline decides to leave and start a new life, raising the baby girl as her own.

David's internal struggle with this secretdoes not make for the happy life that he envisioned for his wife and their son. Remembering his younger sister, who died very young because of Down's Syndrome, forces him to look back at his own childhood and come to terms with his past.
The review of this Book prepared by Angie Bonner

Chapter Analysis of The Memory Keeper's Daughter

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   depressed Time/era of story    -   1960's-1970's Internal struggle/realization?    -   Yes Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Pregnancy/Child rearing    -   Yes Major part of story:    -   giving up children Coping with loss of loved one(s)    -   Yes Loss of...    -   child/children

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   doctor Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   White (American)


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   6 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Northeast City?    -   Yes Small town?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

Books with storylines, themes & endings like The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Kim Edwards Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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