Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"The Memory Keeper's Daughter" or, "The Giant Book of Overreactions"

For those of you who have not read "The Memory Keeper's Daughter", here is the plot. A couple gives birth to twins. The girl has Down's Syndrome, the boy does not. The father gives the Down's Syndrome kid away to a nurse, who raises the child as her own. The father tells the mother that the Down's Syndrome baby died. Shenanigans ensue.

I thought the plot sounded pretty interesting, so I read it, only to find myself hating most of the characters or being bored by most of the characters or both. Mostly what bothered me about this book though is how everyone overreacts to everything throughout the whole book. Here is a list of the most egregious overreactions.

1) Faking the Down's Syndrome baby's death.
Look, I get that having a baby with Down's Syndrome is bound to be upsetting. And I KIND of understand why he wanted to give it away, though that is not how I personally would handle the situation. But to pretend that she died? To let your wife think her baby is dead? To have funeral for the baby and tell everyone that the baby died? This is the first, seminal overreaction in a book that is essentially filled with people making mountains our of molehills.

2)The mother sinking into a twenty year depression over the baby's death.
Again, losing a baby must be devastating. But the mother didn't even know she was carrying twins. So it's not like she was expecting and planning for this baby, only to have her hopes and dreams dashed. She got a healthy baby boy out of the deal.

I'm not saying she shouldn't be sad, of course she should! But she sinks into a twenty year quagmire of depression over the situation, which in my opinion is unreasonable. Yes, losing a baby is sad, but it died at birth and she wasn't expecting it anyway. Essentially she just had a miscarriage. Which is sad. But not "I'm going to drink myself stupid and mope and ruin everyone's happiness for the next twenty years" sad.

3)The father/son drama.
The healthy son was supposed to be some kind of guitar virtuoso. The dad gave the son what to me sounded like very measured, reasonable advice. Essentially his advice was "Pursue music if that is your dream, but keep your options open, because music isn't a stable career choice". Not exactly "knock it off with that faggy music shit, you worthless squirt". Actually he was pretty supportive overall. But the son's reaction was basically "My dad doesn't love me. My dad hates me and can't accept me for who I am. Screw you dad! I'm gonna get high and destroy all your photography stuff". Overreaction.

4)The son's reaction to getting into Julliard.
The son eventually gets into Julliard. He tells his father. His father says "Good job son. I'm so proud of you". The son, in the biggest overreaction in the entire book, storms out of the house, STEALS A CAR, drives off and then GETS ARRESTED FOR SHOPLIFTING. Yes. Because his dad told him congratulations for getting into Julliard, which apparently was very confusing and upsetting to him.

5)The dad's reaction to the son's arrest.
When the parents come to bail the son out of jail (he was arrested for the aforementioned car theft and shoplifting) the dad sternly tells the son that he can come home, but there will be consequences. (Basically he will be grounded, have extra chores etc.) To which the son, predictably, responds by shouting something like "You can't stop me from playing the guitar!! Why can't you accept me for who I am?" though the father didn't say the son couldn't bring up the guitar. But that's not the biggest overreaction in this scene.

After the irritating son's outburst the father says "I'm sorry I failed you both" and storms out of the jail. But that's not all.


Really? OK, yes the marriage had problems. And yes, his son is a total d-bag, to the point where he would probably rather have Down's Syndrom girl around, because at least she's really sweet and nice through the whole book, unlike his ungrateful horror of a son. But why is this what makes him move out? Not his wife's cheating. Not the fact that his son hates him for no reason. This just makes no sense to me.

So yeah. The whole book is full of strange overreactions perpetrated by boring people. I recommend the book if you like separated at birth type stories and aren't at all annoyed by the above depictions of irrationality, and feel like those types of reactions make sense.

No comments:

Post a Comment