The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter opens with Dr. David Henry and his wife, Norah, about to have their first child. They encounter a freak snow storm in the middle of March and Norah delivers at David’s clinic instead of the hospital, with a nurse, who’s in love with David, there to assist him. This is 1964 and in those days they used to knock a mother out while she delivered. Norah first delivers a healthy baby boy, and then unexpectedly she delivers his twin sister. When David turns the baby over he realizes that she has Down Syndrome. In that instant, and with Norah passed out, he makes a rash decision and tells the nurse to take her to an institution. The nurse, Caroline, takes the baby to the institution, is horrified and refuses to institutionalize the girl named Phoebe. Instead she disappears and starts a new life in a new town and raises Phoebe as her own. David, trying to spare his wife the grief of having to raise a mentally disabled child, tells her that their baby girl died at birth. The book follows the two families for 25 years until the secret is resolved.
I wanted to like this book more than I did. While I thought it was beautifully written and no one can describe a scene in more vivid detail than Edwards, I just found it a bit depressing. None of the characters were very likable. The most likable was Caroline who fights for Phoebe’s right to a public school education and access to the resources that will make her an autonomous adult. The secret of Phoebe is a wedge that firmly implants itself into David and Norah’s marriage and also their relationship with their “living” child, Paul.
Reading it, however was a good exercise in thinking about family secrets. I was so frustrated with David for not sharing his life history with Norah. She had no idea the poverty he grew up and why he was so driven to succeed. His “protection” of Norah was actually not protection at all. She was never given a choice to know her daughter and instead lived in the grief of a lie for 25 years. He saw his own mother grieve for his sister when she died early from a heart condition and wanted to spare Norah that. But, it begged me to ask the question, why tell Norah a daughter was born at all? She was knocked out during the delivery and would have never known and therefore could have been spared from any grief at all, if that was his real intent. I was so frustrated with him throughout the book that I just wanted to shake him right through the pages.
For a book about secrets and lies it was a very honest look into what was acceptable to do to those with disabilities in the 1960s and the fall out that comes from those “acceptable” decisions. I thought it was exceptionally well-written, definitely a page turner since I couldn’t put it down, and would recommend it to anyone who isn’t prone to let the mood of a book take over their own.
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Blink of An Eye by Gregg Luke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I read this book for the book club I’m a member of, otherwise I would probably have never picked this up.
The book is about a man named Joseph who is severely injured in a horrible car accident in the first chapter and is in a coma for 3 weeks. Up until then he thought he had had a fairly good life, but could not remember his early childhood. With the accident, Joseph dreams horrific nightmares about his early childhood that set him on a journey to find out the truth about his early years.
Part psychological thriller, and part medical drama, this book is about family secrets. I say this a lot as a social worker, but have found it to be true: you’re only as sick as your secrets. Joseph’s inner secrets have made him very sick and they manifest in scary ways.
I wanted to like this book more than I did. This book is from an LDS author and every time Joseph’s religion was mentioned, it took me completely out of the story. I was also annoyed that the protagonist was too perfect. No one is that perfect. The author makes it seem like Joseph has never made a single mistake in his life. The breeches in client confidentiality between Joseph and his lawyer was something that also rang incredibly untrue to me.
Overall, if you want a quick read that’s not to taxing on the brain, consider picking it up.
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-Getting our yard put in.
-The hubs being recruited and hired by his new company.
-Spending my birthday in Seattle with the hubs.
-Finally being able to get our daughter the educational help she needs and going to her following Parent/Teacher Conference and learning her test scores have tripled since the beginning of the year.
-Our son being baptized.
-Our littlest little potty training….finally…
-Having my Dad come visit us twice.
-Not having to sell my house and move to Washington.
-Discovering that I like The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family.
-Our trip to Seattle in December that was just 3 days of pampering fun.
-Our annual trip to Bear Lake with the fam.
-Making new friends and spending time with beloved family members.
-Losing the hubs’s paternal Grandmother in April.
-Having to turn down a piano teaching job at a music academy because I thought we were moving.
-The two months I thought I was moving to Washington and was sad about it.
-Dealing with trolls, drama starters, liars, manipulators, tattle tales, and crazies.
-Missing my Mom on triggering days (Mother’s Day, her birthday, her death day)
-Knowing that last August should have been my parent’s 40th Wedding Anniversary and not getting to celebrate it.
It’s good to enumerate my blessings and realize that the good has always out-weighed the bad. Yes, we are sad about the hubs’s grandmother’s passing, but we were blessed by the life she lived and the legacy of love she left. I believe that things always happen for a reason and that difficulties happen to strengthen and teach us new things. Some life lessons are hard to learn, like who you can and can’t trust, but I believe we can take these lessons and use them to do and be better in the future.
Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I picked this book up because I had read that it was a modern classic. How disappointing to find out it’s a complete work of fiction when the editor said it was edited from a real 15 year old girl’s diary.
Set in the late 60’s/early 70’s, this is a diary from a teenage girl who unwittingly gets mixed up in the drug scene of the time, when her soft drink is laced with LSD at a party. After she experiences an amazing “trip” she seeks out more and more drugs. Pretty soon she is losing her virginity and pushing drugs as a dealer, even selling to elementary school kids. During the course of the book she runs away twice and cleans up her life numerous times. Once when she runs away the drug world she gets involved in is so debased that she struggles through the rest of the diary trying to forget the horrible things she’s done.
Just when you think this unnamed girl’s life has begun to get better she eats some peanuts she didn’t know were laced in acid and she ends up on a bad trip thinking maggots and worms are crawling all over her so she beats herself and claws her skin to oblivion. She ends up in the hospital, and more importantly the psyche ward. The diary ends with her going back to her family, committed to lead a drug free life, and enjoying her birthday and new stable boyfriend. The epilogue tells us that she died 3 weeks after ending the diary from a drug overdose. I would be sad if I didn’t know this book was total hooey.
If this had been a real diary of a real girl (debunked on Snopes), it would have been engaging, horrifying, and tragic. Instead it’s a failed attempt by the morality police at the time to “keep kids off drugs.” I’ve known plenty of drug users in my time and no one has gone into this kind of a descent this quickly as the girl in the book. Yes, I’ve seen some people brought down to some substantial lows, but nothing like this and not this quick. It made wonder what kind of counter-culture nonsense was going on at this time. This isn’t what my parents told me about the ’60s!
I found this as annoying to read as I would my own journals from my teenagehood. All the normal teenage angst and social dramas that I would rather forget, jam packed with drugs, prostitution, and teenage sex. No thank you. At least I know now where the colloquialism, “don’t take candy from strangers,” comes from.
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Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Deborah Feldman’s memoir of growing up as a Hasidic Jewish girl in the Williamsburg district of Brooklyn, New York, is stunningly raw and honest. The first time I went to New York City, I saw a Hasidic Jewish family at the Toys R Us in Times Square as my friend and I were waiting in line to ride the in-door, four story, Ferris wheel. I remember wondering if riding a Ferris wheel in a giant toy store was something they were allowed to do. I had seen Hasidics represented on TV and in movies, but never have I considered or read what their orthodox Jewish beliefs are really about. In fact, I have to admit, while always being interested in Judaism, I never really thought about the Orthodox Hasidic views until an 8 year old girl was harassed and spat upon in Israel by Orthodox Jews for dressing too “immodestly” on her way to school. Right after, I saw Feldman on “The View” sharing her story and I was so stunned by her account of the rules she was forced to live by until she broke ties with her religion, family, culture, and husband as an adult. I had no idea that educating a Hasidic girl past 8th grade is considered a waste of time. I had no idea that reading books was a crime. I had no idea that marriages are still arranged. And their rules governing sex within a marriage are just astounding! This book was a huge eye opener for me. It made me keenly aware of the “rules” that I quietly obey without thinking about where they come from or where they originated in my culture. I’ve since read that Feldman is being harassed online and members of her former culture are creating fake profiles in an effort to discredit her. All I can say is it takes an exceptionally brave and strong person to cast off the shackles of the past, share your truth with the world, and let the slings and arrows fall where they may.
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