The Memory Weaver by Jane Kirkpatrick
Revell, September 2015
Review copy provided in exchange for review for Historical Novels Review
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Eliza Spalding Warren was just a child when she was taken hostage by the Cayuse Indians during a massacre in 1847. Now the young mother of two children, Eliza faces a different kind of dislocation; her impulsive husband wants them to make a new start in another territory, which will mean leaving her beloved home and her departed mother's grave--and returning to the land of her captivity. Eliza longs to know how her mother, an early missionary to the Nez Perce Indians, dealt with the challenges of life with a sometimes difficult husband and with her daughter's captivity.
When Eliza is finally given her mother's diary, she is stunned to find that her own memories are not necessarily the whole story of what happened. Can she lay the dark past to rest and move on? Or will her childhood memories always hold her hostage?
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 historical novels re-imagine a period of time many have forgotten, usually featuring important members of society of that particular time. The Memory Weaver brings us the story of Eliza Spalding growing up among the wilderness of the Oregon Trail in the mid 1800's and how she and her family dealt with the tragic event of the Indian Massacre of 1847. The Spalding family is a missionary family that traveled with the Whitman family in order to bring the "Book of Heaven" to the Indians across the Rockies.
At age ten, Eliza witnesses the horrible tragedy when the Whitmans were killed along with about a dozen others spurred on by a measles outbreak among the Cayuse Indians. Eliza's life is portrayed as reliving certain memories and how she eventually learns to interpret the memories from what she eventually believed happened and reality. Her tenacity, loyalty, strength and devotion to her family are all traits that we come to admire about Eliza, and the struggles between the Indians and pioneers are just one of the themes interlaced throughout the story. Eliza's relationships with her stubborn father, her sisters, and husband carry the story forward as we marvel at the hardships of the pioneer families.
Since the novel is written to closely mirror actual events, the final push towards the end of the novel focused more on Eliza's need to find peace and understanding with her memories, which stalled the enjoyment of the novel. Even still, the novel imparts an intriguing slice of America's history with several tear-jerking moments as we recount Eliza's steps as the first white baby to survive adulthood in the Oregon Territory.