Eliza Spalding Warren was just a child when she was taken hostage by the Cayuse Indians during a massacre in 1847. Now a mother of two, 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 dealt with the trauma of their ordeal. 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. Get 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.
There have been many novels written about life on and at the end of the Oregon Trail. People made the arduous journey for multiple reasons, including being missionaries to the Indians in the west. Jane Kirkpatrick’s latest release, The Memory Weaver, focuses on the life of a daughter of one of those missionaries. Henry Spalding and his wife made the trip with the more well-known Walter and Narcissa Whitman. (For a good novel about the crossing from the Whitman perspective, read The Doctor’s Lady by Jody Hedlund.) Eliza was born after their arrival. Nothing much is known about her life until the Whitman massacre of 1847. She wrote a biography in later life, but there are substantial omissions. For this reason, Kirkpatrick used her imagination to fill in the gaps. The focus was on how memories aren’t always accurate.
It sounds an interesting premise, but I didn’t enjoy this novel as much as I’d hoped. I was only a couple of pages into it when I had to start over. A passage confused me. Young Eliza was walking into town when she meets up with her future husband. But then she was suddenly planting bulbs, while they continued the conversation begun on the path. Then they’re back to walking, and then “I wiped sweat where my bonnet met my forehead, finished our digging.” There’s a similar situation later on. These aren’t errors in Eliza’s memories; these are errors in editing. If the error is mine, I’ve read the passage more than three times and I’m still confused.
To be honest, I didn’t care much for the book. I thought it dragged in parts and I did look at the back to see where it ended. I felt it lacked momentum and there wasn’t any build up to the conclusion. I knew when I’d reached the pivotal scene at the end, but I couldn’t get excited or emotional over it. I didn’t know anything about Eliza and her family before reading this, and I’m not sure how much I know now. Her father came across as unfeeling and her stepmother useless. The Whitmans received a very negative treatment, different from other material I’d read about them. I believe the mother’s diary made her the most sympathetic character, because I couldn’t even come to care about Eliza.
One positive of the book is the addition of a list of characters at the start. Most are historical, including young Eliza’s family and Nez Perce community members. I got a kick out of the fact that the family dogs were the only “fully imagined characters.” I do wish more books would include such lists. They’re so useful.
Thank you to Revell for my complimentary copy of The Memory Weaver, which I received in exchange for my honest review.
Have you read The Memory Weaver? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.
Publisher: Revell (a division of Baker Publishing)
Publication Date: 01 September 2015
Page Count: 352