The Memory of Us by Camille Di Maio


Book Blurb from

Julianne Westcott was living the kind of life that other Protestant girls in prewar Liverpool could only dream about: old money, silk ball gowns, and prominent young men lining up to escort her. But when she learns of a blind-and-deaf brother, institutionalized since birth, the illusion of her perfect life and family shatters around her.

While visiting her brother in secret, Julianne meets and befriends Kyle McCarthy, an Irish Catholic groundskeeper studying to become a priest. Caught between her family’s expectations, Kyle’s devotion to the church, and the intense new feelings that the forbidden courtship has awakened in her, Julianne must make a choice: uphold the life she’s always known or follow the difficult path toward love.

But as war ripples through the world and the Blitz decimates England, a tragic accident forces Julianne to leave everything behind and forge a new life built on lies she’s told to protect the ones she loves. Now, after twenty years of hiding from her past, the truth finds her—will she be brave enough to face it?

My Review:

It is 1961 in England and we meet a sad lonely woman who is about to give up on her life.  She is a midwife, and her life ending action is interrupted by an urgent call from a neighbor to deliver a baby. The mother of the baby is in distress and a priest has been called for last rites. She recognizes the priest’s name from the past; a life that she has erased.

Twenty four years earlier, we are presented with the younger version of this woman named Julianne.  She is being raised in a wealthy family surrounded by the luxuries of servants, social events, charity commitments and status. At a young age she uncovered a family secret about an unknown brother named Charles who has been institutionalized since his birth. Unknown to her family, she has been visiting her brother since finding out about his existence.

During one of her visits to see Charles, she meets a young gardener at the institution, who in his free time has friended her brother. She is attracted to the gardener whose name is Kyle. Time passes and they both go away to pursue their studies; Julianne for nursing and Kyle to seminary. Julianne has not forgotten what she felt for Kyle but does not want to come between him and his future obligation.

During a break from their schooling they are reunited and a romance develops. Kyle who has fought the attraction towards Julianne, will no longer pursue his intention of becoming a priest. He asks Julianne’s parents for her hand in marriage and they strongly oppose.  This will be the first of many obstacles Julianne and Kyle will face as the novel progresses.

Julianne’s independence and emotions helped me connect to her character.  There is an easy flow to this story while it alternates between current and previous years.  This debut novel by this author has a nice mix of historical fiction and romance.