Book Review: All She Left Behind

Jane Kirkpatrick has again done what she does best: written a well-researched, memorable novel. All She Left Behind is a compelling historical novel about a true-life woman who longs to become a doctor, rising above an intolerable domestic situation and the barriers placed on women in the mid-1800s.

Jennie and Charles Pickett were married when Jennie was only seventeen. They made their home with her sister and her family, since their husbands both worked at the Oregon State Prison. It was difficult, crowded together with so many people under one roof, but even more so when Charles becomes abusive through his excessive drinking. They have a son and eventually move into their own home, but their troubles continue.

Although she experiences difficulty in reading, Jennie is well-versed in the healing properties of herbs and oils. Finally, abandoned by her husband, left destitute and in debt, Jennie and her son Douglas move into her parents home. She manages to get a job taking care of an older woman, Elizabeth, who suffers a fatal illness. To better care for the woman, Jennie and her son eventually move into Josiah and Elizabeth Parrish’s home.

Jennie’s life takes an unusual turn with the possibility of life-long love from a man thirty years her senior. Although guilt lingers with the shame of divorce, hope begins to rise that Jennie may even have a chance to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor.

Knowing All She Left Behind is based on actual facts makes this story even more precious. In back of the book, the author has listed “Jennie’s Herbs and Oils,” with the caution that these remedies should not be used today without proper education and instructions.

Kirkpatrick’s All She Left Behind shows how love can bridge age, time, and loss.

Book Review: The Memory Weaver

The Memory WeaverJane Kirkpatrick’s latest novel, The Memory Weaver, weaves a poignant story of the mid-1800’s in Oregon and Washington Territories. Based on true events, this historical novel reveals the life of Eliza Spaulding, the daughter of missionaries who worked with Native Americans at the time of the Whitman massacre, near what is now called Walla Walla, Washington. At the age of ten, she witnessed horrifying sights during the massacre.

The story begins when Eliza Spaulding, thirteen, is grieving the death of her mother in Brownsville, Oregon. Her mother was beloved by all, whites and Indians alike, and was known for her keen mind, her ability to speak in Native tongues, and for teaching the word of God in artistic, innovative ways.

Eliza’s memories of the massacre are full of dark thoughts of death and betrayal. The mission was seized by the Cayuse and Eliza was one of several who were held hostage. At ten, she, too, could speak Sahaptin, the language of the Nez Perce and other tribes of the region, and during the siege on several occasions was asked to interpret. After the British paid a ransom for the survivors, the missionaries were ordered by the Mission Board to leave, causing great bitterness and disappointment to the Spauldings and to newly baptized Native Americans.

Throughout the novel are excerpts from Eliza’s mother’s diary, a document Eliza wouldn’t have an opportunity to read until years later.

After her mother dies, Eliza is expected to take on the role of keeping house, cooking, and caring for her younger brother and two sisters. She manages the house and family well, but is often in mental turmoil with frightening memories of the massacre, and she still suffers from her mother’s death. When, at age fifteen she leaves to marry Andrew Warren, it is without her father’s approval. The newlyweds set up a homestead in Brownsville, Oregon.

Andrew acts on a ranching opportunity in Washington, near where the massacre occurred. Eliza is torn between staying on their homestead with the children or going with her husband, which would mean returning to the land of her captivity.

Later, when details of the massacre are revealed, Eliza is shocked to learn that her recollections are only part of the story. She remembers only what a child of ten could absorb.

I loved this novel. I found myself thinking about my own memories and wondering how distorted they might be. Kirkpatrick has a way of touching the heart with words and there were times I read through tears.

Jane Kirkpatrick is the author of many historical novels. The Memory Weaver is among the finest, but I’ve probably said that about all of them.

To read more about the author, visit

Book Review: A Light in the Wilderness

A Light in the WildernessA Light in the Wilderness By Jane Kirkpatrick

For an African American woman, being free in 1844 Missouri doesn’t mean the same as it does for her employer. But Letitia IS free and, although she can’t read it herself, she has the paper to prove it. She even owns her own cow, Charity.

Letitia finds herself at odds with her employer and her plans to go to Oregon with them are abruptly changed. She seeks help from Davey Carlson, an Irish-born former mountain-man, who helps her retrieve her cow. Letitia and Davey form an understanding, and together they join a wagon train bound for Oregon.

Along the way Letitia forms a strong friendship with a fellow traveler, but many of the immigrant women treat Letitia as an inferior. Still, Letitia holds her head high, shares her supplies, acts as midwife when needed and keeps the campfires going for Davey. She’s free, and even owns a cow that gives precious, life-saving milk. The journey is long and treacherous, but Letitia sets her sights on living in a place where she’ll be truly free.

Threaded into the story is an Oregon Kalapuya woman and her grandson. The Woman teaches her grandson the Kalapuya way and watches as he becomes knowledgeable in their traditions. Soon she’ll have another to teach, a woman whose color is like burned seeds.

Once the grueling journey west is complete, Letitia and Davey find that Oregon isn’t as open-minded as they expected. There are still people who would take advantage of her status and not recognize her entitlements. Her friend from the Oregon Trail lives a short ride away, and she cherishes that friendship. Letitia and Davey work hard making a real home for themselves, but will that security endure the scrutiny of those who still see her color as inferior?

I found A Light in the Wilderness a wonderful addition to Jane Kirkpatrick’s many historical novels. The book is based on a true story. Kirkpatrick captures the strong bond between women, the stark fear of a person striped of her basic rights, and the land which holds so much promise. It’s a story of love and betrayal, of strength of character, and of courage dredged up of necessity.

Jane Kirkpatrick is a New York Times and CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) bestselling author who has won several awards for her many books. To learn more about the author, visit



Book Review: Sincerely Yours

Sincerely Yours

Sincerely Yours is a collection of four novellas with a common thread of love.


A Moonlight Promise by Laurie Alice Eakes
English born Camilla Renfrew is desperate, not only to find a new life, but to bury the old. She receives a letter from a friend that could answer her prayers. Camilla manages to hitch a ride on Nathaniel Black’s steamboat in her rush to get to Albany to meet her friend. When the steamboat is sabotaged, Camilla and Nathaniel recognize in each other what is important, what true faith is, and how it can shape their lives. A Moonlight Promise is not only a lovely story, it offers an intriguing glimpse of steamboat life on the Hudson River in the early 1800’s.

Lessons in Love by Ann Shorey
It’s 1858 and Merrie Bentley has a secret passion. More than anything, she wants to be a writer. She is of marriageable age and her aunt dutifully tries to fulfill the promise she made to Merrie’s parents that she would encourage the young woman to seek a suitable husband. When Merrie receives a letter addressed to Mr. Bentley, an invitation from a publisher to discuss her work, her joy is shattered. Confident that as a woman she won’t be published, she convinces Colin Thackery, her piano teacher, to act as Mr. Bentley for the meeting. The plan takes an unusual turn and so do social expectations of marrying within one’s station in life. Lessons in Love is a fun read and especially enlightening about social expectations in the mid-1850’s.

One Little Word by Amanda Cabot
Lorraine Caldwell was trained to be the wife of a wealthy man. Her uncle and guardian since her parents’ death has her future husband all picked out. Unfortunately she has no love for the man. When Lorraine receives a letter from her brother asking her to visit him at a resort some distance from New York City, she is thrilled, yet mystified. Arriving at the train station she is met by English-born Jonah Mann, a carousel maker. The purpose for Lorraine’s visit opens her eyes to a new kind of life. Besides the well-drawn characters in One Little Word, the story is enhanced by carousel lore, history and traditions. The story takes place in 1892.

A Saving Grace by Jane Kirkpatrick
Music teacher Grace Hathaway receives two letters in the same envelope. One, a letter from her young godchild, Carolyn, asking for help, the other from an attorney writing on behalf of Carolyn’s caretaker. Carolyn’s mother, a recent widow, is in a sanatarium and cannot be convinced to leave. Grace leaves her teaching position in Oregon’s ranch country and travels to Olalla, a small community on Puget Sound. At the hotel where she stays, Grace is attracted to another guest, Claude Millikan, a pharmacist who is temporarily working at the sanitarium. When she visits the sanatarium she’s appalled by her friend’s condition and the treatment given other patients. Grace devises a ruse to save her friend, but finds herself in danger when her plan backfires. Although fiction, the story is based on a real Olalla sanatarium that operated with questionable medical practices in 1911, when this story is set. A Saving Grace offers interesting views of health and social norms of the era.

Each of the novellas in Sincerely Yours ends with a letter from the author to the reader adding authenticity and interest to the 1800’s and early 1900’s, particularly as they pertain to women’s lives today compared to expectations in the past. The well-crafted collection of stories is highly recommended.


Book Review: Where Lilacs Still Bloom

Where Lilacs


Award winning author Jane Kirkpatrick’s historical novel, Where Lilacs Still Bloom, filled my heart. It’s a compelling story of enduring love of family and God’s earthly bounties.

The story begins in 1889 in Woodland, Washington, when German immigrant and farm wife Hulda Klager seizes an idea to improve the pie apples growing in their small orchard. She’s weary of the scrawny fruit that’s hard to peel. Her experiments with apple hybridization result in a crisp, juicy apple that’s easy to peel. Her consuming interest is questioned by those who feel she’s overstepping boundaries of a simple housewife and mother. Some even assert that she’s tampering with God’s plan.

Hulda’s father encourages her to follow her God-given talents. Even though her husband Frank teases her about her “hobby,” he encourages her to pursue her growing interest, providing there’s “bread on the table and pies in the oven.” She begins to experiment with flowers, concentrating on lilacs, with a dream of growing a creamy white lilac with twelve petals. By 1905 Hulda had created 14 new varieties of lilac, using a turkey feather to cross-pollinate, always seeking to produce “bigger blooms, hardier stalks, richer color, and finer fragrance.”

Interest in Hulda’s garden grows and she begins to hold open houses, sometimes drawing hundreds of people, even from distant communities. She resists selling cuttings, preferring instead to share God’s bounty. Her four children help in the garden, and as they leave home to begin their own families, Hulda opens her home to two young girls who need a loving home and who can help in the garden. These girls’ lives, thread throughout the book, show how tender care for plants mirrors life.

Throughout Hulda’s long life she sees tragedy in the loss of loved ones, but she endures and finds comfort in her horticultural interests. Her gardens, along with their farm and their neighbors’ property, are threatened with seasonal floods and when the Columbia and Lewis Rivers overflow in 1948, the entire community is flooded. We learn the true character of this legendary woman as she deals with this calamity.

Where Lilacs Still Bloom is filled with the richness and grace found in Jane Kirkpatrick’s work. This novel is her twenty-second book and nineteenth novel. A master storyteller, Kirkpatrick researches her subjects, then brings their story to readers in a compelling, refreshingly creative way, yet always keeping true the subject’s spirit. I highly recommend this book. It would be of special interest to garden enthusiasts, but also to anyone drawn to an inspirational story of loyalty, faith, family values and God’s bounty. For more information about the author, visit

Reviewers Note: I was especially fascinated with this book since I also live in Washington. Next spring I hope to drive to Woodland in the southwest part of the state to visit Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens. For more information, visit