Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Memory Keeper's Daughter: Section 5

Well I can definitely say that I did not expect anything that happened in this section. This was the first time since the very beginning that Caroline and David’s lives have collided and what a collision it was. Caroline walks off on him with the realization that she can’t always wait around for what’s good for David Henry, and David is left reeling and goes through a nostalgic three days. When he returns to his parents’ house he meets a young pregnant girl who he is obsessed with protecting and providing for, as if that somehow helps him to cope with his need to provide for his own family and Phoebe. Norah immediately rejects the idea of having the girl in the house and, ironically, seems to be jealous of her like she is somehow David’s girlfriend with whom he has been with.

The whole event of bringing Rosemary home, stirs up more unspoken words and feelings that eventually Paul end up bearing the brunt of. In a fit of confusion and anger, Paul runs away, only to be caught a day later stealing something. As Bree, Norah and David confront Paul in the jail Paul speaks the unspeakable words, lashing out to anyone who he can hurt, “My sister doesn’t know how good she’s got it”. This causes Norah to physically lash out and strike him and David to walk away. Even though Paul knew that his dead sister was somehow always at the heart of their family problems, he never realized how deep the actual pain and sadness ran.

Later in a church, Norah reflects that it’s been almost 20 years and she still hasn’t gotten over Phoebe. It seems to me that while the death of a child is a terrible blow, it doesn’t have the effect on most people that it’s had on Norah. I’ve known people to lose children or to have stillborns and they are deeply affected but they never shut down socially or become workaholics or have affairs. Norah’s grief goes beyond the normal mourning period and it takes control of her whole life. While David hasn’t been much help, she herself was never able to move on and she has never done right by Paul in that sense. At the same time, David also hasn’t done right by Paul. To his credit he did try when he was younger, but his efforts were often too intense or not serious enough. When David gave Phoebe to Caroline, he wanted to protect himself and he wanted to give Paul the life that he never had. Instead, he ends up causing a grief that can’t be overcome and he and Norah spend their lives depriving Paul of any normal life that he deserves.

And yet through all of this, David never mentions Phoebe and it makes me wonder if Paul will ever get to meet her and how his life would have been different if he had grown up with her. Maybe his mother would have been there more often, or maybe she would have been worse, unable to cope with a daughter like Phoebe. Maybe David would have completely shut down, or perhaps he would have loved and cared for his twins like he cared for June and he would have taken their joys and the suffering of Phoebe’s condition together.

Section 6 is the next to last and it takes place 6 years later. Paul and Phoebe are going to be 25 and adults with their own lives. Paul should be graduated from college and Caroline will have had to decide what to do with Phoebe and her future with Al. Until then…

Happy Reading!

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