Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Memory Weaver

Fiction / Historical
352 pages
5 Stars

Eliza Spalding Warren was a young girl of ten years, newly arrived at the Whitman mission from her home in Lapwai where her parents were missionaries to the Nez Perce, and where she grew up playing with children of The People, and loved and was loved in return, by The People. Shortly after her arrival at the Whitman's mission, a few of the Cayuse, cousins of the Nez Perce, attacked and killed several people, including the Whitmans. Young Eliza was the only one who spoke fluent Sahaptin and was called upon by both the Cayuse and the whites to act as interpreter. The nightmare of those days as a captive, of not knowing if she would live, if her parents lived, if her siblings lived, of being treated roughly by people she didn't know but had been raised to respect and even to love, affected her for the rest of her life.

Ms. Kirkpatrick, a lover of history of the Oregon Country and it's people, took the facts as she found them, filled in the gaps as she could, and wove a delightful story of a young girl who suffers from what today we'd call PTSD, as this child matures, marries against her father's will, questions herself, and eventually questions her memories of that fateful time and place known as Waiilatpu. As young Eliza says in one place, "I had returned to a time, a reunion, that didn't happen where I'd thought. I was discovering that the past I remembered wasn't always the past that was."

Because Eliza's parents were missionaries (Henry Harmon and Eliza Hart Spalding) there is much mention of faith in this book. It is necessary to the story, and beautifully done. Faith was important to those people who made the perilous journey across the mountains and deserts to a vast, unknown, and often unwelcoming, country called Oregon. Young Eliza is credited with being the first white child born and raised in the Oregon Country. Alice Clarissa was born first, but did not live. (Marie and Pierre Dorion's child, considered white at the time, was born even earlier, but again, did not live.)

This is an excellent book by an excellent author who knows how to weave a story into a gorgeous tapestry. I highly recommend this to any lover of history.

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