Last night I stayed up late to finish The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. It was a good book but there was something about it that annoyed me- the repetition.
The book is about a woman who gives birth to twins. It's a snowstorm and her doctor husband and his nurse are the only ones in the delivery room. It is 1964 and she is knocked out during the delivery as was common at the time. The first baby is born, a healthy boy, but then the second is born, a girl with Down's Syndrome. The father decides that the nurse should take the baby to an institution and that he will tell his wife that the baby was dead at birth.
We read this scene early in the book but parts of it are repeated over and over. It is as if the author doesn't trust that you'll remember it. Yes the scene is critical, more reason that it will be remembered. As I was reading last night, I was becoming more and more annoyed. And it is not just this scene that is repeated. The book might have been significantly shorter had the author and the editor trusted the readers.
Readers remember everything. If you've accidentally changed the colour of your protagonist's house, readers will spot it. Even if it is only mentioned once. It's okay to mention aspects of critical scenes again, but to repeat the entire thing over and over just becomes tiresome. Trust your readers and respect that they will follow your story.