Edwards, Kim 1958–

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Edwards, Kim 1958–

PERSONAL:

Born May 4, 1958, in Killeen, TX; married Thomas Clayton, 1987; children: two daughters. Education: Attended Auburn Community College; Colgate University, B.A., 1981; University of Iowa, M.F. A., 1983, M.A., 1987.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Lexington, KY. Office—University of Kentucky, Department of English, 1215 Patterson Office Tower, Lexington, KY 40506-0027. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, novelist, short-story writer, and educator. University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, visiting professor, 2003, currently assistant professor. Taught in M.F.A. programs at Washington University and Warren Wilson College; spent five years teaching in Malaysia, Japan, and Cambodia.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Pushcart Prize, for short story "The Way It Felt to Be Falling"; PEN/Hemingway Award finalist, for The Secrets of a Fire King; National Magazine Award for Excellence in Fiction; Nelson Algren Award, 1990, for short story "Sky Juice"; Whiting Writer's Award, 2000; Kentucky Literary Award for Fiction, 2005, and Barnes and Noble Discovery Award, both for The Memory Keeper's Daughter; recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Seaside Institute, Kentucky Arts Council, and Kentucky Foundation for Women.

WRITINGS:

The Secrets of a Fire King (short stories), W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1997.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter (novel), Viking (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to periodicals, including Paris Review, Redbook, Michigan Quarterly Review, North American Review, Iowa Woman, Threepenny Review, Chicago Tribune, Ploughshares, Anteaus, Story, and Zoetrope. Author's stories have been performed at Symphony Space and broadcast on Public Radio International.

Author's works have been translated into more than fourteen languages.

ADAPTATIONS:

The Memory Keeper's Daughter has been optioned for a TV film by Lifetime and Jaffe-Braunstein Films.

SIDELIGHTS:

Writer and educator Kim Edwards has published many short stories in journals that include the Paris Review, Redbook, Chicago Tribune, and Ploughshares. She wrote her first short story in a fiction workshop while a student at Colgate University. "The Way It Felt to Be Falling," originally published in Threepenny Review, won the Pushcart Prize and is included in Edwards's first book, The Secrets of a Fire King. "Writing is always a process of discovery—I never know the end, or even the events on the next page, until they happen. There's a constant interplay between the imagining and shaping of the story," Edwards remarked on the Memory Keeper's Daughter Web site.

The Secrets of a Fire King, which Nina Sonenberg in the New York Times Book Review deemed an "accomplished" debut, presents stories that deal with a wide range of themes and settings. Many refer to Asia, where Edwards spent five years traveling and teaching. In "Spring, Mountain, Sea," for example, a U.S. soldier's Asian bride learns about American foods and customs from the couple's neighbors, but their response to her gift of gratitude turns her away from the American culture. In "Gold," a young man's life is affected when gold is discovered in his Malaysian village, while "The Way It Felt to Be Falling" tells how a young woman learns about her inner strength when she suddenly decides to attempt a sky dive with a friend. Chicago Tribune Books contributor Patricia Lear described this story as sophisticated and brilliantly constructed. "The stories are impeccable, a treasure," wrote Lear, who observed that each piece "possesses the breadth of a novel." In the Hudson Review, critic Tom Wilhelmus wrote: "Rich in detail and at home with abstract ideas, Kim Edwards' stories mark an impressive beginning for a talented new storyteller."

The Memory Keeper's Daughter, is Edwards's debut novel. Protagonist David Henry is a physician who overcame a difficult, impoverished background in West Virginia to become a successful orthopedic surgeon. Years later, he is still haunted by the travails of his sister, June, whose fragile health kept the family in a constant state of stress and who died of a heart condition at age twelve. At the beginning of the book, in 1964, David's life is as good as he could hope. His practice is thriving, he is married to Norah, a beautiful woman he loves very much, and the two have a child on the way. When Norah goes into labor, a harsh blizzard is threatening the Lexington, Kentucky, area, and David and Norah can only make it to the clinic, not the hospital. There, with the assistance of his nurse, Caroline, David delivers the couple's offspring. To his surprise, Norah is carrying twins. The first child, Paul, is a perfectly healthy boy. However, the second child, Phoebe, is born with Down Syndrome. Wracked with indecision, and still keenly remembering the difficulties surrounding his sister's short life, he finally asks Caroline to take Phoebe away and commit her to an institution. His intention is to save his wife and family the disrupting, draining stress caused by perpetually ill child. He tells Norah that the girl was stillborn. Caroline, unable to abandon the infant girl, instead disappears, taking Phoebe to raise as her own.

As the next twenty-five years unfold within the novel, Edwards examines the effects of these events on the two families. David struggles with the guilt of his lie and with the fact that he abandoned his daughter, the secret of her existence always looming large in the background. Norah experiences the keen grief of a mother who has lost a child. The couple's marriage deteriorates, and the family fails to come together as a whole, always driven apart by the unseen but deeply felt rift caused by Phoebe's "death." Paul grows up feeling guilt of his own at having survived, and wonders often about his lost sister. Though he had hoped for the best, David's decision brought down years of trouble on his family. Phoebe, on the other hand, living in Pittsburgh, grows happily and thrives under Caroline's love and dedicated care. For her part, Caroline's life takes an upward path, and she prospers personally and professionally. Phoebe matures into a vibrant and capable young woman, nourished by love and by Caroline's steadfast devotion. "This is what drives the story—as one family thrives, the other one deteriorates," observed by Marie Hashima Lofton on Bookreporter.com.

Edwards "has written a heart-wrenching book, by turns light and dark, literary and suspenseful," commented Keddy Ann Outlaw, writing in Library Journal. A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that "this neatly structured story is a little too moist with compassion." With this novel, "Edwards tells a moving story," commented Carolyn Kubisz in Booklist.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 15, 2005, Carolyn Kubisz, review of The Memory Keeper's Daughter, p. 1634.

Bookseller, August 4, 2006, "Viking Wins US Bestseller," p. 11.

Daily Variety, January 15, 2007, John Dempsey, "A ‘Keeper’ for Lifetime," p. 3.

Entertainment Weekly, August 18, 2006, "The Charts," review of The Memory Keeper's Daughter, p. 143.

Hudson Review, autumn, 1997, Tom Wilhelmus, review of The Secrets of a Fire King, p. 527.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2005, review of The Memory Keeper's Daughter, p. 437.

Library Journal, April 15, 1997, Ellen R. Cohen, review of The Secrets of a Fire King, p. 122; July 1, 2005, Keddy Ann Outlaw, review of The Memory Keeper's Daughter, p. 66.

New York Times Book Review, April 20, 1997, Nina Sonenberg, review of The Secrets of a Fire King, p. 20.

Publishers Weekly, February 24, 1997, review of The Secrets of a Fire King, p. 64; May 15, 2005, review of The Memory Keeper's Daughter, p. 34.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), June 1, 1997, Patricia Lear, "Getting it Right," p. 4.

ONLINE

Blogcritics,http://www.blogcritics.org/ (February 24, 2007), Ginger Haycox, review of The Memory Keeper's Daughter.

BookBrowse,http://www.bookbrowse.com/ (April 10, 2007), interview with Kim Edwards.

Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (April 10, 2007), Marie Hashima Lofton, review of The Memory Keeper's Daughter.

Memory Keeper's Daughter Web site,http://www.memorykeepersdaughter.com (April 10, 2007).

W.W. Norton Web site,http://www.wwnorton.com/ (April 10, 2007), description of The Secrets of a Fire King.

Zoetrope: All-Story,http://www.all-story.com/ (April 10, 2007), "Kim Edwards."

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