24 reviews

The Memory Keeper's Daughter
by Kim Edwards

Published: 2006-05-30
Mass Market Paperback : 432 pages
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Discussion Questions

From the publisher:

1. When David hands his baby girl over to Caroline and tells Norah that she has died, what was your immediate emotional reaction? At this early point, did you understand David’s motivations? Did your understanding grow as the novel progressed?

2. David describes feeling like “an aberration” within his own family (p. 7) and describes himself as feeling like “an imposter” in his professional life as a doctor (p. 8). Discuss David’s psyche, his history, and what led him to make that fateful decision on the night of his children’s birth.

3. When David instructs Caroline to take Phoebe to the institution, Caroline could have flatly refused or she could have gone to the authorities. Why doesn’t she? Was she right to do what she did and raise Phoebe as her own? Was Caroline morally obligated to tell Norah the truth right from the beginning? Or was her moral obligation simply to take care of Phoebe at whatever cost? Why does she come to Norah after David’s death?

4. Though David wanted no part of her, Phoebe goes on to lead a full life, bringing much joy to Caroline and Al. Her story calls into question how we determine what kind of life is worth living. How would you define such a life? In contrast to Phoebe’s, how would you describe the quality of Paul’s life as he grew up?

5. Throughout the novel, the characters often describe themselves as feeling as if they are watching their own lives from the outside. For instance, David describes the moment when his wife is going into labor and says “he felt strangely as if he himself were suspended in the room . . . watching them both from above” (p. 10). What do you think Edwards is trying to convey here? Have you ever experienced similar feelings in your own life?

6. There is an obvious connection between David and Caroline, most aptly captured by a particular moment described through David’s point of view: “Their eyes met, and it seemed to the doctor that he knew her—that they knew each other—in some profound and certain way” (p. 12). What is the significance of this moment for each of them? How would you describe the connection between them? Why do you think David married Norah and not Caroline?

7. After Norah has successfully destroyed the wasps’ nest, Edwards writes that there was something happening in Norah’s life, “an explosion, some way in which life could never be the same” (p. 139). What does she mean, and what is the significance of Norah’s “fight” with these wasps?

8. When David meets Rosemary (p. 267) it turns out to be a cathartic experience for him. What is it about her that enables David to finally speak the truth? Why does he feel compelled to take care of her?

9. The secret that David keeps is enormous and ultimately terribly destructive to himself and his family. Can you imagine a circumstance when it might be the right choice to shield those closest to you from the truth?

10. What do you think Norah’s reaction would have been if David had been honest with her from the beginning? How might Norah have responded to the news that she had a daughter with Down’s Syndrome? How might each of their lives have been different if David had not handed Phoebe to Caroline that fateful day?

Suggested by Members

Why did David make the decision he did?
Keep in mind this story takes place in 1964, how does this affect the story telling?
Who had the better life, Paul or his twin sister Phoebe, explain?
by mrblock (see profile) 11/17/15

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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by Elisa J. (see profile) 07/04/20

by Jessie F. (see profile) 05/08/18

by angie s. (see profile) 09/12/16

  "Dealing with Down Syndrome"by Sue B. (see profile) 08/29/16

The author's approach to Down Syndrome and family relations provides a canvas for broader issues of rejection and acceptance, worth and redemption, choices and consequences.

  "The Memory Keeper's Daughter"by Ann V. (see profile) 11/17/15

Insight into a father's secret when he makes a life changing decision about his newborn Down's Syndrome daughter...and how it affects his relationship with his wife and son.

  "The Memory Keepers Daughter"by Richard B. (see profile) 11/17/15

Why would a doctor give away his twin daughter at birth and never tell his wife or son? How has this decision affected his life and his relationship with his family? At what point does he finally realize... (read more)

  "The Memory Keepers Daughter"by Rosalyn C. (see profile) 05/27/14

The books was ok. I thought the author jumped around to different years a little often and sometimes had trouble following the story. I liked the movie better.

by Pat G. (see profile) 04/07/14

  "Couldn't put it down...had to know what would happen next!"by Jennifer D. (see profile) 10/26/12

  "Sad & Inspiring all in 1 book"by Traci C. (see profile) 06/24/12

Read this book twice and was shocked both times at how emotional I got throughout the book.

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