The Keepers of Family Histories

Book Discussion

As we discussed in our interview with Kim Edwards, The Lake of Dreams is about a whole lot of different things. I think it mostly about family and how finding out something new about our family can change everything.

Likewise, in my family, the stories never had women at the center, which was one of the reasons why the discovery of Rose -- an ancestor I'd never hear of before before -- felt so astonishing and intriguing. p.89

When Lucy finds out that she has a relative that she's never heard of before I wasn't all that surprised. Yes, we all think we know our family histories but people have a way of surprising you. In my case it was an uncle I did not know my mother had and that she had only found out about a few years previously. She thought she had told me so when she said something about her mother's brother I thought she meant one person and when it became clear it was someone else I might as well have had a cartoon conversation cloud with "?!?!?!?!!!!" floating above my head. It even turns out that this new family member went to school with my father's brothers. It really is a small world.

stack of old photographs

Credit: stack of old photographs on Shutterstock

Much like in Lucy's family, my surprise family member had largely been written out of the family history by my great-grandfather. My great-grandfather's history got passed along and it was the one that I had known. I'm glad that my grandmother and her half-brother were able to get to know each other (again) before her death in 2010. I think that meant a lot to each of them.

The way that Lucy digs into her family history made me think of one of my aunts. She's been digging into our family history and loves travelling around to see what information she can find. She's become our family history keeper. When Lucy is looking for information about her family she goes to the local church and the church secretary unearths some old documents. She says:

"It gives you chills, doesn't it, really? When you see these forms, black and white and just filed away in boxes, and then think how these people were here once, maybe standing right where we are now, having conversations, living out their lives." p. 86

I think that must be how my aunt feels whenever she makes a new discovery. Lucy finding her lost relative changed things for her family, for their future. My family's rediscovered relative I think made my grandmother's last years all the more special.

Who is the family history keeper in your family? What are you doing to preserve your own family history?

BlogHer Book Club Host Karen Ballum also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.

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