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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
The Memory Keeper is a historical novel written by Larry K. Collins and Lorna Collins. It is the story of Tomas Romero, a Native American who was born in 1820 and spent his life in the San Juan Capistrano area. The reader first learns of the stories of his parents: his mother was born in the Mission, and his father was recruited by the priests to help with running it. His mother became orphaned by the great earthquake that decimated the original mission and eventually ran away and was raised by an older woman who taught her the ways of the Playanos, her own people. His parents met, fell in love and had Tomas and later on, his brother Juan. Tomas was offered a rare opportunity for an Indian when a priest offered to teach him to read and write so he could help with running the mission. This opportunity would change Tomas and his family's lives.
I wanted to read The Memory Keeper as I am very interested in the California missions and was not that familiar with the history of the Mission of San Juan Capistrano. The authors did a magnificent job of bringing that history to life. There were times when I was cheering, such as when Tomas learns to read and comes home to teach his father, and times I was angry and ashamed, as the lot of the Native Americans in Southern California was very unfair indeed. Tomas' mother's attempt to keep to the old ways gives way to an assimilation which means success and happiness for Tomas' family, but also a loss of Native American traditions. The Memory Keeper is an impressive historical novel that ties the history of Southern California with a remarkable family saga. I feel enriched for having read it, and I highly recommend it.