The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

After work yesterday, several of us met at Outback for a monthly book club meeting. I’m fortunate enough to belong to two book clubs, and this one is affiliated with work

Last night we discussed The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards, a novel described by the Chicago Tribune as being “rich in psychological detail and the nuances of human connection.” That’s my kind of book!  As soon as I read the first page, I realized that I had read this bestselling book a couple of years ago. The image of falling snow and worsening weather conditions coupled with the expectant mother safely sheltered within the home are unforgettable images.  

For those who haven’t read it, I’m not going to give away the entire plot…just enough of the story to pose a question. A young doctor and his wife are expecting a child, and because of inclement weather, he and his nurse are the ones who deliver the child. A perfect baby boy, Paul, is born. Then, much to the surprise of the doctor and nurse, a second child is delivered, a baby girl. This tiny girl, however, has Down Syndrome, and the father makes a split second decision to send the baby away and to tell his wife that baby Phoebe died. Although it sounds callous, the book explains the doctor’s motives. He tells his nurse, Caroline, to take the baby to an institution, but ultimately she moves to another city and raises Phoebe as her own child.

The book made us think about family dynamics and family secrets. First there was the couple, madly in love with each other. Then the babies were born, and the father decided to keep a major secret from his wife, supposedly to protect her. After that, he was never quite the same, and hence, the two of them grew apart. She resented that he didn’t let her at least glimpse the infant who “died.” Paul, the son, was affected by his parents’ relationship and the “secret.” As years pass, events unfold, some good and some not so good. You’ll have to read all about it for yourself.

Last night we shared some family dynamics and discussed. how relationships can affect family synergy and dynamics over generations.  It’s fascinating to ponder such things and equally intriguing to listen to others’ examples. Another question posed by our “facilitator” was whether each of us had a secret that we had chosen to keep from our loved ones and whether that secret affected our families regardless of whether it was told or untold. Guess what? We all did…not as dark as the doc’s, but still….

We then dispersed, each of us thinking of our own lives and how they were intertwined with others…and of course of the events, both open and concealed, that influence our circles. What about you? Can you see the influence of certain events affecting your family, perhaps over more than one generation? 


Author: jayne bowers

*married with children, stepchildren, grandchildren, in-laws, ex-laws, and a host of other family members and fabulous friends *semi-retired psychology instructor at two community colleges *writer

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