I have been recommended this book by many and was glad to see that my book club had chosen it as one of our selections. I had heard that it was a very powerful and moving book, that it was an exceptional read, that the characters were ones the reader could easily relate to even despite the circumstances. And, I finally got the opportunity to see for myself!
In order to do the book justice, I have included a brief description of Edwards' novel posted on Amazon (an editorial from Publisher's Weekly) below . . .
Edwards's assured but schematic debut novel (after her collection, The Secrets of a Fire King) hinges on the birth of fraternal twins, a healthy boy and a girl with Down syndrome, resulting in the father's disavowal of his newborn daughter. A snowstorm immobilizes Lexington, Ky., in 1964, and when young Norah Henry goes into labor, her husband, orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Henry, must deliver their babies himself, aided only by a nurse. Seeing his daughter's handicap, he instructs the nurse, Caroline Gill, to take her to a home and later tells Norah, who was drugged during labor, that their son Paul's twin died at birth. Instead of institutionalizing Phoebe, Caroline absconds with her to Pittsburgh. David's deception becomes the defining moment of the main characters' lives, and Phoebe's absence corrodes her birth family's core over the course of the next 25 years. David's undetected lie warps his marriage; he grapples with guilt; Norah mourns her lost child; and Paul not only deals with his parents' icy relationship but with his own yearnings for his sister as well.
Overall, I loved, loved, loved this book!! However, with that said, I do also have to say that it was a very difficult book to read for a woman who had just given birth days before! I was so angry with David for making the choice of giving his daughter away and telling his wife that she had died. How horrible!! Nora felt that something was not right from the beginning, thinking that it was just the loss of her child, but I think it was more her maternal instinct. This instinct is so strong in women that I believe that she had to have known all along that little Phoebe was alive. Afterall, she never did get to see her daughter's body prior to the memorial service. And, she always had this unexplained "feeling" about her daughter.
I admired Caroline for her decisions, her battles that she fought (both internally and externally), including her final decision. It was truly not her place to share this information with Nora, but ultimately she did when David never chose to. I was happy to see that Caroline reached happiness, especially considering the circumstances that took her on that path.
Rosemary was an interesting addition to the story. She was very therapeutic for David, his ultimate emotional release that once I read, I found in my own heart to forgive him a bit for his decisions in life. I was disappointed, however, in that David never cleared the air in regards to their relationship. She seemed to be a very good person and it was unjust in a sense to have those thoughts hanging over her.
Once I actually finished the novel, I let myself step out of the story emotionally and think about it from a more neutral stance. At the time that the story took place, it was not uncommon to be ashamed of a child born with Down Syndrome or other disorder. It was the ultimate family secret. These thoughts then led me to more thoughts about family secrets and why people choose to hide parts of their lives from even those closest to you. I also thought about the effects on Paul and how his life compared and differed from Phoebe's. Who's was better, happier, or more truthful? How would life have changed for all those involved if David had not made that decision so long ago? And, that finally led me to what if . . . what if I had made different decisions in my life? Where would I be? Would I be as happy as I am now? And, finally, I decided . . . I cannot play this "what if" game! I have made my choices and I am glad that I chose to read this book!! :) Very though provoking, very emotional, and VERY GOOD!!