KimN ~ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

28 02 2009

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter ~ by Kim Edwards


Wow! That is my first word for this book… it is fantastic!  I can’t even count the number of people I told about this book while I was reading it!  Before I go any further, I should probably give you a brief synopsis…

The novel begins in 1964, with the couple David & Norah heading out in a blizzard to the hospital to have their first child.  Due to the blizzard, they don’t get very far and David (who is an orthopedic surgeon) ends up delivering their son, Paul, at his practice, with the assistance of a nurse, Caroline.  To David & Norah’s surprise, a second child is born.  David, immediately recognizing the signs of Down Syndrome in his daughter, passes Phoebe to Caroline and instructs her to take the child to an institution.  Caroline changes the path of everyone’s lives by deciding to raise Phoebe on her own.  From here, the novel takes off and you see the ripple effect that this single event has on each character’s life.

While reading, I sort of felt like I was reading a novel for school – there are so many aspects of the book that you could analyze and dig in to.  The novel is divided in to sections, focusing on different stages of Paul & Phoebe’s lives as they grow up.  It is uniquely written, in that each chapter is told from the limited omniscient point of view of a different character.  This allows you to really see how David’s action affects all of the characters.  Each character seems plagued by something they cannot control, and throughout the novel you see them focusing on the tasks and aspects of their lives that they can control. 

David finds himself detached from his wife, because of the void that his secret has created – he told Norah that their daughter was a still-born and lives his whole live acting on this charade, even when he recieves letters and pictures from Caroline and Phoebe.  He becomes obsessed with photography, and pours his life in to trying to capture the perfect image – to immortalize a memory or a moment.  He uses his photography as a way to hide from the reality of his life, until it all unwinds in the conclusion of the novel (but I’ll leave it to you to read it and find out how it ends!).

Norah moves through her life with a void as well, but for her it is a void that exists because she feels she has lost out from never even having glimpsed her daughter.  She tries to fill this void by focusing on party planning, supporting her son Paul, and later in life by taking over a travel business.  Caroline pour herself in to being an advocate for Down Syndrome and fighting for equal rights in schools for these children, and she truly loves Phoebe as if she were her own biological daughter.  Paul grows up feeling the tension and distance between his parents, David & Norah, and focuses his talent and skills into music.

I could go on, but I’d rather leave it at this and encourage you to pick up this book!  It is a great, complex read with dynamic characters that draw you in throughout their journey in life.  If you are interesting in Down Syndrome, hobby photography, or how family secrets can tear people apart… read this book!!


BBC’s The Big Read

18 02 2009

Back in 2003, the BBC held a search to determine the best-loved novel of all time.  No surprise, The Lord of the Rings was that #1 book, but they also came up with a list of the 200 greatest reads, as voted in by participants.  We thought it would be fun to share this list with you all, and let you know how many we have read, and which ones we loved!  We are starting out slowly, and only doing the first half of the list for now; the second half will be soon to come!  If you want to read more about the BBC’s search check out their web-site:

There are a few things we wanted to track on this list, so here is a little legend to help it all make sense!

  • K or N – Kim/Nic has read it
  • K♥ or N♥ – loved it
  • K◊ or N◊ – want to read it

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien ~ K, N♥
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen ~ K♥, N
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams ~ N◊
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling ~ K♥
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee ~ K, N◊
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne ~ K, N
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell ~ N
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis ~ K♥, N♥
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë ~ K♥, N♥ Read the rest of this entry »

Nic ~ I’m pretending to read..

7 02 2009

Water for Elephants.

(So pretending to read ended up with me actually reading.  Who woulda thought?)

Running away to the circus, unrequited love, top hats, and Proboscidea: Elephantidae…this one was unlikely to disappoint from the beginning.

And I was correct.  I really enjoyed this book.  When I was little, I loved going to the circus.  That is, until I got all animal rights on it.  But I was drawn to this book mostly on the circus premise, let alone anything else that may be going on.  And there was a lot of other stuff going on!  This books narrative jumps from current time, with the main character in his 90’s, back to his early beginnings of his circus career in his 20’s.  For me, this was an unexpected enjoyment.  Having worked myself with seniors, I personally felt that the author Sara Gruen painted a fairly honest perception of what many people living in seniors facilities experience and feel.  That alone made this book a positive for me.  But let us not forget all the other big top, freak show, elephant aspects of this book.  This author did her research, and paints a gritty behind the scenes view of the glitz and glamour to show the politics, dirty bosses, and firm lines painted between the performers and the working men.  It takes us into the world of a clueless Vet student suddenly lost in life, devoid of options.  He’s soon thrown into the hands of a ruthless ring master, hell bent on being the greatest show on earth, and nothing is going to get in his way;  people, or any sort of morals. Oh ya, and throw in that so called dumb as a bag of hammers elephant that our main character is suddenly given ownership of. And oh ya,  throw in a beautiful horse whisperer married to the paranoid schizophrenic animal trainer for the main character to fall in love with.   And now you’ve got yourself one hum-dinger of a story line, and one that is lacking NO details.

Although for me there was a feeling of yeah-right-like-that-would-ever-happen at some moments, overall, I would recommend this book.  My only real beef would be the whole love at first site jibberish that half the book revolves around.  Also, a word for the wary.  While most literature these days seems to involved some scandalous moments, this book has more than it’s fair share.  They are brief moments, but there none the less.  You’ve been forewarned.

Who would I reccomend this to?  Well, I would go with the obvious circus enthusiasts, but I wouldn’t stop there.  History buffs would enjoy it too, as it has been very well researched, and provides a very, honest and real look at circuses in their “glory” days.  And really, anyone looking for a well written read and a good story will enjoy.  So.  Get some popcorn and cotton candy and sit back and enjoy the spec!

KimN ~ Interview with the Vampire

7 02 2009

 Interview with the Vampire ~ Anne Rice


I just finished reading Interview with the Vampire (literally, like 5 mins ago) so I thought I should compose my thoughts and get my first book review posted on this blog right away!  I choose to read this book because, as you can see from my book list page, I’ve recently raced through the entire Twilight series.  Following that I saw the movie Twilight (BAD), then re-watched Interview with the Vampire and the Underworld series (all great movies) – so I guess you could say I have a recent fascination with vampires!  All over the internet readers of Twilight refer to Anne Rice as the best writer of vampire mythology, so I picked up her first book in The Vampire Chronicles series.

There are a few angles to approach when talking about this book – as always with movie-tie-ins, you can compare the book to the movie.  In this case, I am really glad to have watched the movie multiple times and thoroughly enjoyed it, prior to having read the book.  I find that when you see the movie first and read the book second, you are less likely to be disappointed with the movie.  As usual, there are dozens of parts of the book that were left out in the movie.  Although I know it is always the case, I am disappointed that the movie re-write left large parts of the book out, and was not able to truly convey the depth of the characters or relationships that Rice easily portrays in her novel.  If you are interested, there is a great chart comparing some aspects of the movie to the book on Wikipedia.

How does this vampire novel compare to those of the Meyer variety?  Well, first off, this is definitely an adult novel – no teen angst or young love here!  Rice is far more interested in delving in to the individual, than the relationships between the characters.  It reminds me of the break-up line people use, “Its not you, its me”, implying that there is something they need to work out internally and for themselves before they can truly become part of a relationship.  In the simplest terms, this is Louis’ struggle in Interview with the Vampire.  He cannot come to face the reality of his immortal life, and it is because of this inner turmoil that he never truly establishes a safe, loving, relationship with Lestat, Claudia, or Armand.

Rice portrays Louis as a vampire with such depth – it is a surprising inner struggle for him to accept his life as an immortal.  He is constantly wrestling with his notions of humanity, and their hold on his life.  He is fighting with himself over what it means to be a true vampire.  For Louis it is the realization that, because of his immortality, he will never experience love the way that a human soul would.  It is a struggle between the knowledge that there is love and goodness in the world but, as an inherently evil being, it will never be possible for Louis to live out these human traits in his life.

As part of our reviews, Nic & I have decided to always include a little blurb about who we would recommend this book to.  So, I guess I’d recommend Interview with the Vampire to the following… anyone who has read the Twilight series (be prepared for a slower, tougher read though!), or watched the Interview with the Vampire movie, is interested in the mythology of vampires, or likes to read horror novels (that are more about humanity and the inner struggles than they are truly horrific).