The Memory Weaver by Jane Kirkpatrick is the story of Eliza Spalding Warren, the second white child born in Oregon, the first to live past infancy. Eliza was the oldest child of Reverend Henry H. Spalding and Eliza Spalding, Presbyterian missionaries who with Dr. and Mrs. Whitman established a mission to bring the love of God to the Nez Perce Indians. Eliza and her brother and sisters grew up loving the Indian ways, learning their language, riding bare back, the Nez Perce people their friends and family.
In a conflict with other Indian tribes, Eliza was witness to a massacre that killed most everyone she knew. Eliza was taken and held hostage, forced to witness additional rape and murders, until a French group finally paid the demanded ransom. The church that had sponsored the mission had refused to pay, completely abandoning the Spalding family.
The Story of The Memory Weaver picks up when Eliza is 14 years old, first meeting the man she would spend her life with, and covers her life through 1913, when she is finally able to put all the pieces of her past to rest.
The author notes at the end of the book do a great job of clarifying which parts of the story are factual and which the author filled in as fiction – I always appreciate when this is done in a historical fiction novel. Even in those stories when it is majority fiction simply based on a historical moment or figure, I am able to enjoy the story when that is made clear.
Author Jane Kirkpatrick has a touch for bringing the unsettled west to life, allowing the reader to experience the joys and hardships of life for female settlers – who at that time had little to no rights, yet were largely responsible for the success or failure of any family claiming land; as well as illustrating the kindness and brutality of the native Indians.
I enjoyed this book and recommend for anyone who liked One Thousand White Women by Jim Ferus, or the pioneer/wagon train/settling the west setting in general and our interaction with Indians along the way.