Everyone is raving about Kim Edwards’ book, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. The Library Journal said “first time novelist Edwards has written a heart-wrenching book, by turns light and dark, literary and suspenseful. A natural for book discussions groups; recommended.”
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter follows the lives of Dr. David Henry and his wife Norah at the beginning of their married lives. It is 1964 and Norah is pregnant. She delivers twins, a boy first and then a girl with Down syndrome. David makes the decision to keep the little girl a secret, handing her to his nurse, Caroline, with instructions to take her to an institution- not an uncommon thing for the time when babies born with Down weren’t expected to live long or healthy lives. This decision shapes all the characters in the book in unexpected and complicated ways.
I didn’t like the book- but I was in the minority when we discussed it at book club. The characters- all of them- are chilly people and it was very hard to find their emotional center. But not everyone agreed with me. Most of the women in my group felt enormously sorry for Norah- who didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to her daughter…and who suffered enormously because of the secret her husband kept from her. The guilt of his decision haunted and shaped David- who already had some serious issues. Their marriage was irreparably damaged; Norah’s relationship with her son, Paul, was tentative.
The book was easily 100 pages too long.
1. For which character in the novel do you have the most empathy and why?
2. Do you have a secret that you would carry to your grave?
3. Each of these characters is damaged- long before the birth of Phoebe- discuss how their emotional baggage impacts their lives.
4. If Norah and David had had only one healthy baby- would their marriage have survived? Why or why not?
There is a reading guide at the back of the novel. Here are some more.
CROSTINI WITH MUSHROOMS, PROSCIUTTO, AND BLUE CHEESE
Bonnie Wilkens Metully of Cincinnati, Ohio, writes: “As much as my husband and I love to go out to eat, it’s just more fun, intimate, and cozy to cook and entertain at home. I’ve taught a lot of our friends just how easy it is to prepare restaurant-quality dishes themselves. Who taught me? My older sister, who’s a professional chef. She showed me the importance of getting everything prepped beforehand and seeking out the freshest ingredients.”
This sophisticated appetizer is one of Bonnie’s greatest party hits.
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps chopped
4 ounces crimini mushrooms, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (about 2 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped thinly sliced prosciutto (about 2 1/2 ounces)
18 1/2-inch-thick diagonal bread slices cut from 1 sourdough baguette
Chopped fresh parsley
Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add all mushrooms and garlic and sauté until mushrooms are cooked through and brown, about 10 minutes. Add cream and boil until liquid is completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add blue cheese and stir until cheese melts. Mix in prosciutto. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer mushroom topping to bowl. (Mushroom topping can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Arrange bread slices on baking sheet. Bake until just golden, about 5 minutes. Mound 1 generous tablespoon mushroom topping on each slice. Return to oven; bake until topping is heated through, about 6 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Makes about 18.