This is an interesting premise for a book, but the author’s execution left me frustrated. She repeats herself endlessly, continually ruminating over David's decision to send away the child, like she’s picking a scab. I think she is trying to illustrate David’s continuing guilt, his inability to let the event go, his perseveration, if you will. But it was too much, and I wanted to scream “I get it already!!!” by the end.
She also spends a lot of time on the origins of David’s decision (the early death of his sister, who had a heart condition, and the grief her death caused his mother). David sees himself as trying to protect his wife from similar grief, but his self-delusion didn't sway me. The author, Kim Edwards, also tries to convince us of the relative normalcy of David’s initial decision to lock the child away by making the case that Down syndrome children were often institutionalized. Yet I couldn’t really summon any sympathy for David. We are also supposed to admire Caroline for her bravery in raising Phoebe (the Down syndrome baby); yet this is a woman who was too passive to stand up to the doctor and tell his wife the truth about her child.
Was it really the rule to institutionalize Down syndrome children in the mid 1960’s? I know it was before the days of widespread access to the public schools, but I certainly remember knowing such children, children who lived with their own families. Were doctors and nurses really trained to view such children as better off dead, as the author implies? I’m sure she did her research, so I suppose it must be true, but nevertheless it doesn’t jibe with my memories of the era, and the relative prevalence of these attitudes doesn’t forgive the attendant behavior. I just couldn’t get beyond that.
I am using the term Down Syndrome, as recommended by the National Down Syndrome Society. The author uses Down’s Syndrome, which is the British term, yet this isn’t a British book. I'm not sure if it’s an error or a choice, but it also irritated me.
(Book 4, 2008)