Time to catch up on some book reviews. First up,
I read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter this summer while on our summer vacation.
I liked it well enough, it was a good fiction fix and light vacation reading companion. I think it could have been MUCH better, it started out with great potential but it didn’t quite live up to my hopes I had when I picked it up and started reading. Then again, I may be a little spoiled after reading novels like Hannah Coulter and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
That said, despite how much it lacked (and it was a lot!) there are three main themes in the novel that deserve closer reflection and helped me appreciate the book more:
Grief (especially unresolved).
The destructive effect of unreconciled guilt.
The subject of our society’s history with people with Disabilities and Differences.
First, the various experiences with the trauma of grief woven through each character was something I could definitely relate to. I’m not sure if I would have liked this book, or at least understood it, as well if I hadn’t recently experienced a close personal grief of my own.
I think the author really did a good job demonstrating how powerful grief is and how, when it goes unresolved, it can cause so much more pain. Characteristic to that time period, each character held their grief in instead of talking about it together or seeking outside help and, instead, they looked for “escape” from their grief instead of mutual consolation with those closest to them. This of course led each character on a path of destruction and pain and not healing and joy.
Then there’s the Guilt. This is a somewhat taboo word in this current time as the popular trend is to “do what makes you happy” and not feel bad about it. But, with Dr. Henry’s one pivotal choice, we see how much one choice, kept a secret, can affect one’s life and the relationships so irreversibly. Guilt, gone unreconciled, can grow like a thorny bush, blocking out all the joy and good of life from yourself and those around you.
Lastly, I was intrigued with how the author demonstrated how people’s perspective of those with unique needs and disabilities has evolved over the years starting with the idea in the 1900’s into the later 60’s and even 70’s that “people like that” had to be “institutionalized” or even gotten rid of altogether – an idea that still lingers even into our own modern culture.
So, while the book didn’t live up to my hopes and maybe could have been developed differently I still enjoyed it for the important thought-provoking themes that will probably mill about in my mind for a while.
Have you read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter?
What did you think and why?