In the Night of Memory, by Linda LeGarde Grover begins on what will turn out to be the worst day in the lives of Azure Sky, Rainfall Dawn, and Loretta Gallette. It is the day, sometime before the passage of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, when Loretta surrenders her children to the county government. Lorretta, an alcoholic and a product of the foster care system herself, is unable to care for her daughters, and has had to make the heartbreaking decision to give her daughters up. For the rest of their lives, Azure and Rain will wonder what happened to their lost mother.
Azure and Rain, after being split up for a time, find themselves in two white homes before they are traced by their relatives on an unnamed Minnesota Anishinaabe reservation. The first while home was tolerable, even fun at times, before their foster mother broken under constant badgering by her husband about money and the effort spent on the two girls. The second white home is worse. The girls live with an awful women who hits them and constantly verbally abuses them. I was so relieved for the girls when they are taken in by one of their mother’s cousins and his mother.
But In the Night of Memory is not a happy story in which the right family makes these girls’ lives perfect. It’s not even a story about how learning about their heritage heals the girls (although it certainly helps). Both of them still struggle with their abandonment. Their mother disappeared after their surrender and was never seen again. Azure kept the vague hope that Loretta would some day return. Rain, however, gives up that hope. On top of her grief, Rain also struggles with mental illness and her cognitive abilities have been affected by something.
The novel is narrated in turns by Azure Sky, her adopted grandmother, Dolly, and some of her female relatives. They help fill in the gaps about why Loretta was the way she was. Unfortunately, no one knows what happened to her ultimately. Even though In the Night of Memory is not a happy book, it is a book that satisfies. At the beginning, Azure and Rain were completely cut off from family, culture, language, and security. By the end, even though they still bear physical and emotional scars from their childhoods, they are at last a part of a community that welcomes and helps them, and to which they can contribute. They are at last in the right place.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss for review consideration.