I surprised myself and finished the book “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” yesterday. I have been thinking alot about the issues in the book. And even more about the issues it brings up in my life.
Norah Henry delivers twins, and her Dr. husband (David) tells her the baby girl died. He sends baby Phoebe off with the nurse, who is supposed to take her to a home for the retarded because she is Down Syndrome. The twin son, Peter, is raised by the parents Norah and David. Phoebe ends up being raised by the nurse Caroline.
So…. the premise of the book is that it is all about secrets. Who has secrets from whom and how it affects relationships.
Dr. David turns to photography to channel his shame/unhappiness/emptiness and to keep a record of the memories. He becomes “the memory keeper”. The son, a fine musician, feels misunderstood, invisible to his father. Norah is always longing for what she can’t quite grasp…. as if she knows something is amiss, but doesn’t know what or why and tries to fill a huge void in life.
Throughout the book I vacillated between wanting David to tell Norah the truth….. and not telling her. Eventually I knew she would come to know, but had no idea HOW she would come to know. I won’t spoil it for any of you either….
This book was particularly profound to me in several ways. My own Dad was a photographer. The book talks about why we take pictures. What is the purpose? the intent? the motivation? Things I think about often as I make art. Questions I ask of myself as an artist and photographer. What is important about taking a photo (and just the RIGHT photo) of a moth? What am I trying to say? Universal questions for artists. No universal answers. More of my thoughts on this another day.
And the other questions for me….. what was my Dad thinking as he took photos? Was he just recording events? No, I know not. He experimented with light and technique. He also used photos to help police and fire agencies to solve crimes and investigate accidents, fires and other events. I also wonder what he would think of today’s photography and digital technology.
The other profound thoughts I have had about this book have to do with longing. Longing for what we can never attain. And if we do, it is not as we would have expected it to be.
Phoebe and Peter are twins. But never knew of the others’ existence until adulthood. What would that be like?
I am a twin. I have a twin brother. I always wondered what it would be like to not be a twin. (Does that statement give you insight into our relationship?) What would that be like? It isn’t like I longed to be a singleton, it is just that I always wondered. I always hated being compared to him. We were and are so very different.
I think I understand Peter, who felt invisible. I have always been invisible to my twin. And he is now invisible to me.
Before you go telling me how sad that is……let me say this: What we strive to attain is never as we expected it to be.
Sometimes it is better.