The Memories We Painted by Caitlin Miller

Book Blurb:

Pennsylvania, 1936. Six-year-old Josie Carter never expects to wake up one morning in a hospital bed with a chronic health diagnosis: paralytic poliomyelitis. Being so young, Josie doesn’t understand what this means for her, but she soon discovers that she will spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair, battling for her health. While Josie reels from the bitter loss of her health, her mom helps her find something she can do despite what she now can’t. In the process, Josie discovers something she most likely wouldn’t have if not for her health diagnosis.

New York, 1951. Now a young adult, Josie sets out for a small town in New York to stay at her aunt and cousin’s unoccupied home for the summer. While there, Josie is offered two unexpected things: a job and a friendship with her neighbor’s son. But blessings and setbacks go hand in hand, and when life deals Josie a devastating blow, it brings her to another unexpected place in life—one that changes her forever.

Erin’s Review:

How do I even begin to describe this beautiful book? It is truly a work of art from the heart.

The Memories We Painted is as encouraging as it is painful at times, digging into difficult themes of suffering and grief with Gospel-fueled comfort and highlighting the value and impact of friendship.

Caitlin Miller’s writing is poetic and emotional, diving deep into Josie’s point of view with down-to-earth authenticity and introspection. It is a cozy read that depends you take it slow, processing Josie’s life with her-both the journey of her younger self and her present summer-offering a perspective of compassion and comfort in the midst of suffering. It is truly a character piece, exploring Josie’s about chronic illness and disability, pulling back the curtain to invite you into the everyday life of someone struggling to find hope in the midst of grieving the life they dreamed they’d have.

You don’t have to tell a person you love them every single day for them to know that you do. Love is fragile, but it doesn’t break that easily. And if it does, then it’s not love.

Josie, Sophie, and Will were all such inspiring characters, not because they always had the perfect answers or never hurt anyone, but because they were so relatable in their struggles, and showed how hope, forgiveness, and healing are possible, and why friendship is worth fighting for. Truly, I finished the book and almost started it over again back at the beginning just to experience their relationships all over again.

Look Up. When life overwhelms you, look up. That’s where your help comes from.

I also appreciated how Caitlin explored themes of the arts and decision making throughout the story in a more subtle way. Josie’s own discovery of art, which grew into passion, then a calling which God used to encourage and inspire others, was a huge testimony to the power and importance of the arts. Josie was also faced several times throughout the story with big decisions, decisions where there was no right or wrong answer, there was simply a choice to be made. She set a great example for what it looks like to seek God’s will and peace in times of decision making, and how God works through our choices when there is no “correct” answer.

That’s what I painted – stories that deserved a frame of their own on the mental wall of art in my memory.

On top of all of this, there were so many beautiful quotes in this book. Another reason I want to read it again: to write them all down and have them close at hand. This is truly a story of the heart that is sure to build compassion, provide comfort, and highlight hope, no matter who you are or what your situation is. Highly recommend for literally every single person alive. 6/5 stars!


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