Kim Edwards shows through the whole book that we are only human, the themes that life is beyond our control and through the connection between suffering and joy. Edwards uses plot to set up a sort of life schedule. It goes in order into the future but occasionally skips years ahead. She also cleverly sets the book up so that each year, or “chapter” has both sides of the story, that of Caroline who is raising Phoebe and then the life of Norah and David raising their son Paul.
As the book starts off it is that of a happy tone with Norah giving birth and then leading to a depressing and melancholy tone as Dr. Henry lies to his wife telling her that their daughter has died, to save her from the pain of their daughter having down syndrome. Norah gains more and more depression as the years go on, always wondering “what if”. With all the depression going on in the story line of Norah there is a gain of strength in Caroline’s story line as she raises Phoebe. This shows the theme of suffering and joy.
The idea that even though the character is suffering they are the one with the most joy. Norah Henry has it all: the doctor husband, money and a healthy son but still wants what she never had; her daughter. Caroline has struggled with at first the decision to keep Phoebe and raise her as her own, then struggling with actually raising this baby girl with down syndrome alone and with no one, but she is joyful in the book never having the depression that plagues Norah and her marriage with David Henry.
When Caroline finally sees David 18 years later, she says: “You missed a lot of heartache, sure. But David, you missed a lot of joy”. In the theme that life is beyond our control the author Kim Edwards has the book move through the years rapidly and at a fast pace in order to demonstrate how life flys by. Throughout the book Edwards uses photography as a metaphor showing the character David’s growing obsession with taking photographs as a desperate attempt to make time stand still: “Photo after photo, as if he could stop time or make an image powerful nough to obscure the moment when he turned and handed his daughter to Caroline Gill”. Life may also feel as it is out of their control with there being a constant aura of uncertainty or “what if” quality. That being said, the characters in the end will always wonder what life would have been like if David had never given his daughter away, but find it exhausting to wonder once they are brought together in the end after the death of David. As Paul reflects at the end of the novel: “His mother was right; he could never know what might have happened.
All he had were the facts”. Life was also seeming to be out of anyone’s control with the struggle of the melancholy tone through the novel with Norah becoming more and more depressed becoming that of a drinker in Paul’s young life and then being so unhappy with her marriage with David for him being so distant that she has an affair with a man while she is on a trip to Aruba with her job. Even with the tone the author seems to have it progress in a rapid fashion just as the years fly by in the story line.
Life is inevitable, people make mistakes, and the mistakes people make have great impact and effect not only them, but the people around them; just as David Henry’s mistake haunted his life and tormented that of his wife’s. In day to day life there are always the people that make mistakes with good intentions. The authors point wasn’t to completely make David the antagonist in the story but yet he was that one person who’s mistake was made with half hearted good intentions, he wanted to spare his doting wife the pain of having to raise one child with down syndrome, he didn’t want her to think that it was her fault in anyway.
David just wanted the problem to go away not fully realizing that the problem wasn’t his daughter it was him having to deal with his own past. David Henry’s sister died at the young age of twelve and she had down syndrome as well, it is really sad that this character couldn’t deal with his own past so much that he ruined his present and his future. He knew the pain that his sister having down syndrome had left on him and her death that not only was he trying to spare his wife the pain of having a daughter with down syndrome but yet the author was trying to convey to the reader that he also did it to protect his son from it as well.
Norah becomes the character you feel bad for not a protagonist but yet just that good character who’s life unfolding before her is the result of decisions from those around her. She is constantly depressed from thinking she lost her daughter, then she is also gaining more and more eternal sadness with her husband not letting her gain any sort of closure with this or even to simply tell her the truth of his actions and what he had done. The relationship between Norah and David grows further and further apart with him setting himself more distant from her as time goes on due to his guilty conscious eating away at him.
Then on a happy note you have Caroline, she turned her whole life around for the life choices of David and that of herself. She raises Phoebe alone at first always fighting for more advanced learning abilities for down syndrome, she gains a man in her life named Al who helped her in the very beginning get to shelter when she had decided to keep the baby but then her car wont start in the middle of a blizzard, he becomes her knight in shining armor.
Al becomes a big character having sought out Caroline after years and years of that first encounter with her and stays in her life loving and caring for both her and Phoebe, he becomes the father figure Phoebe never got to have. Kim Edwards set up all the right kind of characters for this plot and in every right way to develop the novel. In the end the themes of life being out of our control and the connection between suffering and joy are evident throughout the story.
Kim Edwards used immense characterization that helped to develop those following themes with having the right selection of types of characters. The plot definitely has to do with developing the story, for it ties in with the life is out of our control theme having time go by so rapidly demonstrating that life is always constant and never stopping or standing still like a photograph for anyone or anything.
Photos represent memories in life, David became enthralled with taking photographs in an effort to make time stop, maybe capture the memory he had when he made the decision to give his daughter away. The metaphor of David and his taking pictures ties into the Title “the memory keeper’s daughter” for he was the memory keeper, the keeper of the biggest life secret and lie. Kim Edwards made everything tie together with literary elements of metaphor, characterization, and Plot.