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‘The Memory Keeper’s Daughter’ by Kim Edwards

(Viking, $35)It’s a dark and stormy night in 1964 when Dr David Henry delivers his wife’s twins: a perfectly healthy boy and a daughter with Down syndrome. While his wife is unconscious, Dr David instructs his nurse to take the baby girl to an institution, believing this is in the family’s best interests. When his wife wakes up, he tells her their daughter has died, and so begins the rest of their lives.

The book follows the riveting story of what happens to the doctor, his wife, their son, the nurse and, of course, the daughter as the years pass. Actually, the daughter probably has the best time of them all because instead of dropping her at the aforementioned home, the nurse does a runner and brings the girl up as her own, very much loved and quite oblivious to all the holes she has left in other people’s lives.

With so much well-buried skulduggery abounding, it’s a pretty sad story, as you can imagine, and compulsively gripping. My one word of warning would be that you absolutely have to accept the premise of the story to enjoy the book. For a while there I was thinking, “Yeah, but he wouldn’t really send her away, would he?” and “Wouldn’t she guess?” and “How could that happen?” This was really spoiling it for me. And then someone reminded me that, in 1964, babies that died at birth really were taken away, sight unseen, from their unconscious mothers – so perhaps it’s not such a preposterous suggestion after all.

If you have your own book club, this is probably a good story to choose because it will spark much debate about the credibility of Dr David’s actions and the long-term devastation one split-second decision can wreak.

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