This book had a lot going against it in terms of my personal reading tastes. It is heavily contemporary, far too literary for the summer (you know I do a lot of chick lit, action/adventure in the summer), in the adult section, and also about morally uncomfortable topics, in this case, what is best for children with disabilities like Down Syndrome. On a blizzarding night, Dr. David Henry is forced to deliver his own twins. A boy is born healthy, but the girl is born with Down syndrome. In a split-second decision, he tells the nurse to take girl away to an institution, but the nurse keeps the baby to raise as her own. The doctor lies to his wife by telling her the girl died.
Now, you know this book is good because it was simply one of the books shelved in the cabin we stayed at in Tennessee. My dad picked it off the shelf, and I casually read the first chapter. It had me by the end of the first page. I wasn't planning on finishing it, but I saw it at Borders the other day and the compulsion was too great, so I bought it.
The story is essentially told in two parts: the story of David and Norah Henry and how their marriage slowly deteriorates from the strain of the ever-constant phantasm of the mysterious girl baby (Phoebe), and Caroline Gill, the nurse who raises Phoebe. I have read several books like this, books that are split-POV among two major characters. This is the advantage of third person, that you can flutter from one character to another and maybe give a genuinely interesting facet of the story you might otherwise lack. If I remember correctly, this is how Weronika's Where The Doves Fly was originally formatted in the early stages. However, I feel like this kind of story-telling often suffers from a great weakness. That is, one of the storylines is weaker than the other.
Sometimes, this can be a good thing because it keeps the audience in suspense. You can build the tension in the separate story lines and it is multiplied because the reader has to read each part in alternation. On the other hand, this can also get really annoying if you don't particularly care for one storyline. In The Memory Keeper's Daughter, I was far more interested in David and Norah's story. Caroline's started out very slowly in the beginning. The relationship between the married couple is pitch perfect and the slow worm that eats away at the marriage is painfully real and well-portrayed. Caroline and Phoebe just don't seem to be given the same thorough character treatment for a good quarter of the book until their story picks up.
So as of now, I am still on the fence about this method of story-telling. Opinions? Love it or hate it, the two in one technique? (Usually, by the end, these two storylines converge, and it is sometimes satisfying in itself just to see how the author pulls that together.)
By the way, I haven't finished it yet, so if you have read it, please don't spoil the end for me! I'm trying to read it as slowly as possible; I tend to rush things that are really good. The writing itself is delicate and beautiful - the kind of writing that has fellow writers gasping for delight at the sheer joy of digesting the words. Kim Edwards is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, so THERE'S a surprise.