Eliza Spalding Warren was just a child when she was taken hostage by the Cayuse Indians during a massacre in 1847. Now a mother, Eliza faces a new kind of dislocation; her impulsive husband wants to make a new start in another territory, which will mean leaving her beloved home and her mother’s grave–and returning to the land of her captivity.
Haunted by memories and hounded by struggle, Eliza longs to know how her mother – an early missionary to the Nez Perce Indians – dealt with both the trauma of their ordeal and an often-difficult husband. As she searches the pages of her mother’s diary, Eliza is stunned to find that her own recollections tell only part of the story.
Based on true events, The Memory Weaver is New York Times bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick’s latest literary journey into the past, where threads of western landscapes, family, and faith weave a tapestry of hope inside every pioneering woman’s heart. Readers will find themselves swept up in this emotional story of the memories that entangle us and the healing that awaits us when we bravely unravel the threads of the past.
Jane Kirkpatrick’s newest novel is truly everything that makes historical fiction such a wonderful genre. Carefully researched and based on multiple accounts of true events, the book examines the life of Eliza Spalding – daughter of some of the earliest missionaries to the Nez Perce, survivor of a horrific attack that left 13 other people brutally murdered, and the first white child born in the Oregon Territory to survive.
Fret not, good readers! The Memory Weaver may indeed be chock full of historical insight but it is certainly not a dull textbook! Kirkpatrick casts a fictional eye at Eliza’s life and creatively fills in several gaps, including (most strikingly to me) the questions left between Eliza’s account of her mother’s death in 1851 and the sentence that followed it:
In 1854 I married Andrew Warren.
Though glimpses of romance dance throughout the story, this isn’t the main focus. Instead, readers are swept up in a life that did in fact exist and taken with her on a journey that did in fact happen and, thanks to Jane Kirkpatrick’s talented pen, we come to see Eliza and her friends and family as more than just a name on a page. She breathes, she cries, she laughs, she loves, she fears, she overcomes. This is the kind of story that makes me close the novel when I’ve read the last word, linger over it in my thoughts for a time, and then hunt down a text to find out more – to research the Spaldings and the Whitmans and the nightmare that changed everything for them all.
Kirkpatrick’s writing skill peppers the book with lines that steal your breath at their poignancy, making even the most agonizing scene one of beauty and grace.
After Eliza’s admission that she didn’t really pay much attention to her father’s sermons:
I had no fear of hell, really. I’d already been there. And some days I wasn’t certain but that I lingered at that gate again.
Much later in the book, the response Eliza receives when she bemoans to her husband that her girls are always saying goodbye to people they love:
Living is all about the different ways we say goodbye.
Later still, a trusted friend talks to Eliza about the memories she’s formed about the attack:
What we remember is not always a true arrow. Memories fall short or range too far.
Bottom Line: While not a light or easy read, The Memory Weaver is more than worth the investment. It is a book that will touch your heart in unexpected ways, full of characters who will do the same. The struggle of early missionaries and settlers sometimes gets lost in the romanticism of the time period, but readers won’t find that to be the case here. Jane Kirkpatrick gives us an honest, emotional and grace-filled look inside a woman who lived – perhaps not happily ever after – but with great courage and grit and heart.
(I received this book from the publisher in exchange for only my honest review.)
About the Author:
Reviewers and readers alike acclaim Jane’s work as unique in a world of storytellers. “Kirkpatrick’s books enfold the reader. They whisper “let me tell you about a woman who…. They find a secret place in each of us and bring it gently to the surface.” The Statesman Journal, Salem Oregon. Moving from being a rancher, writer and rattlesnake fighter to full time writer has produced 29 books from bestselling and award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick. She has 24 novels and five non-fiction titles to her credit. Creating stories from the lives of actual historical women or events, Jane’s focus is on telling stories that inspire. “I like helping people from the distant past step from their generation into our own to teach us and touch us with their lives.” Jane lives with her husband Jerry and two dogs near Bend in Central Oregon. Her works have sold over a million copies, been translated into foreign languages, won literary awards such as the Wrangler, WILLA Literary and Carol as well as being a New York Times bestseller. A mental health professional, she’s a lively presenter who has spoken about the power of story throughout the world. Enjoy receiving her Story Sparks newsletter by signing up at http://www.jkbooks.com/
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Adding this book to my must read list!
Sounds like a powerful story!
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Great review, looking forward to reading this one even more. Thanks!