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The Memory Keepers Daughter: 1965 February, March and May February 8, 2007

Posted by Han in The Memory Keepers Daughter by Kim Edwards.

Okay first off what is with books no longer numbering their chapters 1-20….don’t they know it is hard to organize a book club when they keep changing things up.  😉  Had to vent about that.  HEE HEE

So here we will discuss the whole 1965 section.  Thoughts etc.

What were your thoughts as Norah went to their old house with the camera?

Were you surprised by Caroline finally writing a letter about Pheobe?  What did you think of Al finding her?

Did your feelings toward David change at all when you read about June’s death and his Mother?



1. Michelle - February 10, 2007

Was I surprised by Carolines writing the letter? No, I wasn’t. She seems to be very level headed, wanting whats best for Pheobe. And I think she figured that included Pheobe’s natural parents knowing she was okay. She wouldn’t want them to have to worry. It was simple and to the point– Pheobe is okay and healthy.

I loved that Al tracked Caroline down. Kinda romantic. He seems like a gentle and sweet guy. But it still seems kind of forward, don’t you think?

2. anne - February 10, 2007

Bethany, so with you on the Chapters thing…at least number them even as you put the dates…totally NOT convienent for our purposes! 🙂

OK I had to force myself to put the book down so I would not get too ahead! I am already too far! How can you stop though?
I am not surprised at all, because I do think deep down she still hoped; while Phoebe still young that he would come to his senses and want her back. But at the same time conflicted because she thought he would probably not read the letters since he told her to do whatever she wanted (he wanted to leave Phoebe in his past) and also like Michelle said to let him know she was fine and good despite all his concerns.
I too thought it was kinda romantic that he tracked her down(but also like Michell said, kind of forward), I wanted them to get together from the get-go. He obviously was a lonely man but saw something in Caroline…her lonliness too?
I am still mad at David…the lies too hurtful for all! I do feel for him more, he had a really hard life, but at the same time it is no excuse to be a fool! He knew deep down that lying about Phoebe was wrong. No matter what the outcome of Phoebe(in the long run), having this secret from Norah rather than having Phoebe with them and perhaps dying at a young age they could have coped together. They were differnt than his parents…they WERE connected to another, in love and honest. But once he told Norah that PHoebe had died it was all lost, them becoming like his parents…distanced from one another and Norah “killing” herself in other ways. Ok I am getting ahead of myself I think.!

3. heather - February 11, 2007

I feel sorry for Norah with how fearful she’s become. Though her sister Bree is world’s away from me in terms of lifestyle/philosophy, etc., I find myself really liking her. I think it’s because she is a good balance for Norah with all of her fears and insecurities. Norah admits she couldn’t like the way Bree does, because she’s afraid of more disaster at every turn. I loved Bree’s advice on page 77: “You’re right, Norah, anything can happen, any time. But what goes wrong is not your fault. You can’t spend the rest of your life tiptoeing around to try and avert disaster. It won’t work. You’ll just end up missing the life you have.”

Norah taking all those pictures at their old house shows just how badly she wants to hold on to the same past David is so eager to forget. The fact that she picked out that particular model of camera shows how desperate she is to remember: ” The Memory Keeper, it said on the box, in white italic letters; this, she realized, was why she’d bought it — so he’d capture every moment, so he’d never forget.” p. 88

That moment when she makes the decision to move on, as a gift to David and Paul, filled me with a sense of dread. I think it’s because her very next thought is “Phoebe she would keep alive in her heart” — which seems to indicate that she’s willing to live a lie on the surface, which can only lead to further distance between her and David down the road.

4. heather - February 11, 2007

I loved that Al tracked Caroline down — that was very romantic! On the one hand, Caroline has sacrificed a lot by keeping Phoebe: “For nearly a year she had not let herself think too long or too hard about the life she had left…She had given up those pleasures willingly, she had embraced this change out of some deep unacknowledged yearning.” p. 103 On the other hand, though, the pleasures she’s refering to were the pleasures of a lonely woman (coming home to an empty, orderly apartment for a modest meal and an evening with a book) (not that there’s anything wrong with an evening with a book!!!) The arrival of Al seems to indicate more hope for Caroline, that her yearnings will come to fruition. I think her reaction to Phoebe’s first successful attempt at grasping an object reflects her own, more optimistic outlook: “Oh, yes, she thought. Grab it, my darling. Grab the world.” p. 105

5. heather - February 12, 2007

I found myself marking a lot of passages in the May 1965 chapter. It seems we get a much deeper look into David’s thoughts and emotions in these pages.

David admits to himself that he hasn’t spared either one of them from loss and grief, and he acknowledges how much his past (with June) has been a part of his own grief. “He had wanted to spare her, to protect her from loss and pain; he had not understood that loss would follow her regardless, as persistent and life-shaping as a stream of water. Nor had he anticipated his own grief, woven with the dark threads of his past. When he imagined the daughter he’d given away, it was his sister’s face he saw, her pale hair, her serious smile.” p. 109

Up until this chapter, I’d looked at his grief for June as being sort of one-dimensional, meaning he’d experienced such sadness and loss at the death of June that he wanted to protect his family from experiencing the same with Phoebe. But in this section we get a glimpse of some other emotions at work, like bitterness and resentment. He’s bitter because June died, and his parents didn’t know what to do with themselves, “she’d been the center of their lives for so long” (p. 112); he’s bitter not only because he lost his sister, but also because while she was alive, he’d been forced to “fend for himself because his sister couldn’t” (p. 113). When she was still alive, he resented the extra care June required, and he purposefully did a poor job of watching his sister: “His love for her was so deeply woven with resentment that he could not untangle the two.” p. 120 Yet when June died, he resented the loss: “He felt a resentment at that; he wanted his life to be his own, unencumbered by this shadow, this loss. He felt guilty… ” p. 121

And finally, several times in this section there are references to the “chasm of the past” between Norah and David. “I love you. I love you so much, and I lied to you.” It seems his lies go beyond just the incident with Phoebe, though. Given the number of times thus far that Norah has lamented over not knowing David anymore, it makes me wonder if she has ever truly known him — if he has ever really opened himself up emotionally — to Norah or anyone else.

6. Nicole - February 12, 2007

This part really does show a different side to David, however it seems like he neer really got over the fact that he lost his sister. And the way he is dealing with his grief, or lack of grieving is turning into a disaster for himself first, and then his family as a consequence. I don’t know that he is actually thinking of anyone but himself in the situation. the whole part about loving Norah and not wanting her to go through the pain seems like a huge lie he is telling himself.

7. anne - February 13, 2007

Did Norah really know David? To a point yes, and I do think their love was real for each other…but he limited himself to her. He did not open himself up to her fully emotionally, so this lie (which does really stem back to his sisters death, which he never talked about with Norah) is just making things more complicated. He should have been honest from the get-go because who knows what she would have done because she was not his mother….and of course if their daugther would have died young like his sister it would have been hard but they supposedly had a different relationship than his parents. But did they really?

8. bethany3boys - February 13, 2007

Great observations everyone.

This section just made me really sad. The whole part of Norah feeling so much pain and then David not showing up after all her planning. Her drunk walking through the house taking pictures. It all just made me so sad. I felt for her. As a photographer I could see the images she was taking and know what can be behind the images one takes. Sometimes what one person sees in an image is not what the photographer saw…other times it is very obvious. There have been times I go and take images of very abstract things or things that might just seem like a flower or bench or whatever yet behind those things there is a story for me or something meaningful that maybe even I am the only one that knows. So all this to say I felt so much of her pain in this chapter. And Heather like you said I do think it was very significant the model “The Memory Keeper” of camera she chose to buy.

The whole Al thing was fun. At first when he came in the picture I thought he was going to be bad (my terrible stereotypes…the truck drivers are always psycho in movies and books…hee hee). And I suppose he is a little here tracking her down…but I thought it was romantic and a big moment for Caroline. She deserved to be loved and pursued by someone and I was glad it was finally happening.

The whold reveal of Davids past made me more compassionate toward him. Still annoyed because I had the ability to see how it was changing his marriage and his wife Norah and just wanted him to confess but could see the pain of the past he was carrying and how he thought it best to protect.

9. bethany3boys - February 13, 2007

Oh I was surprised a little by Caroline writing the letter. You could see she loved Pheobe and didn’t want to lose her yet I knew that the contact would be a key part to the book so in a way it didn’t surprise me.

10. Jane Swanson - February 15, 2007

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself in this book so I hope I’m not “revealing” anything, but it really surprises me that the story about June doesn’t seem to be common knowledge in this family. I don’t think Norah knows about June, or that Paul knows about her either. I am just so surprised by that. With all that type of secrecy how can they presume to know anything about each other? Their relationship seems so surface, and not deep. I mean, really, I couldn’t IMAGINE my husband being able to get rid of my baby or something as sinister. Did they know each other very long before they had the babies? I guess here is a good reason to be awake when you are giving birth! My own mother had all of her six babies with this “twilight sleep” of gas and neither of my parents even saw us until hours later. No wonder so many babies were given to wrong parents during these days.

11. anne - February 15, 2007

Thats the whole thing…they were in “love” but they did not know each other long AT ALL before they married, which I think is having an impact on their relationship…especially since they are not very open with each other…at least David about his family.

12. bethany3boys - February 16, 2007

Jane, Yeah I agree how could you not know your husband lost a sister at a young age and the tragic effect it had on his family….I mean that is so much a part of who someone is…makes you think do they ever REALLY talk.

13. Ashleigh - February 20, 2007

I wasn’t surprised that Caroline wrote David the letter. Because she was still harboring feelings for him, I think some of her motivation was not wanting to completely close that door yet. She wanted to leave the possibility of seeing David again open.

Part of me thought it was sweet that Al tracked Caroline down, and the other part reacted like you did, Bethany. I was nervous when she was in the truck with him and then invited him to stay at her apartment. I was like, “Wait a minute! What do you know about him?” But I guess she made a good decision. 🙂

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