1964. A blizzard forces Dr. David Henry to minister to his own wife, Norah, in childbirth. This was a time when technology allowed for surprises. Soon after delivering his son David, Dr. Henry discovered that there was a second baby. A girl who had Down syndrome. Remembering the pain of losing a sister to a lingering disease and wanting to spare his wife the pain his family endured, he hastily decided to get rid of the baby. He instructed his nurse, Caroline, to send the child to an institution. Caroline, compelled by circumstances and driven by the desire to be significant, ran away with baby Phoebe instead.
Interesting premise. Until you realize that every other Filipino soap opera begins with this -- the spiriting away of an infant. And then, the rest of the story revolves around the dark consequences of such an act.
Like many soap operas, this story is long-drawn-out, tedious, and melodramatic. A 25 year saga.
Like most soap opera viewers, I couldn’t help but be emotionally involved in the story, wanting to know what happens next, suspending reality. No, more like confusing reality with fiction by actually feeling for the characters, feeling real emotions – hating the doctor for the lies he wove, suffering Norah’s pain, relating to Caroline’s confusion, wanting to have the power to speak to the characters to tell them what to do. In fact, I found myself screaming at times to tell the characters to do or not to do something. I was that involved in the story. Yeah, sappy sucker me.
Unlike soap operas, this one goes deeper into the characterization, explaining the layers of history and motivation beneath a character’s behavior and decisions. Showing the different dimensions of each personality. I understood where they were coming from even though I did not agree with their actions.
I didn’t hate this book too much. I didn’t like it much either. Too slow. Too long. Too sentimental. Too much drama. The author could have chopped a hundred or so pages to make it more taut. The ending was not quite what I expected, but it wasn’t that bad a way to end. I’m just glad it did end because my emotions were spent. I did not expect to have invested too much energy in it. If you don’t have the patience for melodrama, stay away from this book.