4+ of 5 stars to Sally Hepworth‘s The Mother’s Promise, a touching story that will give you a tremendous amount to consider. I received this ARC from St. Martin’s Press as a giveaway through Goodreads, choosing it because it had a gripping summary and a similar sentiment as the book I’d recently written. It definitely was worth the read: a ride through your emotions with several eye-opening questions to ponder.
Alice and her 15-year-old daughter, Zoe, have lived on their own in California most of their lives. Alice assists the elderly with day-to-day errands and health matters while Zoe battles her social anxiety disorder. When Alice discovers she needs to have a tumor removed, and then learns the cancer will need extensive chemo and radiation, she’s at a loss as to who will help take care of her daughter during the recovery period. Enter Kate, a 30ish patient advocate / social worker who’s trying to have her own baby but has had several miscarriages. Kate realizes Alice has no one to help care for her and brings in another aide, Sonja, to help find a solution. Sonja’s got her own problems with a husband who has increasingly become combative and potentially abusive. Each of the 4 women figure out how to face their problems, working on their own and together at different times. Each suffers a major blow to their future and doesn’t know where to turn. Will they come together somehow in the end to help each other out, or is it too late?
1. I could clearly picture each of the 4 women in my mind and felt connected to their plight. They were strong and weak, tragic and flawed, beautiful and hopeful. I watched them take 2 steps forward and then 1 awful step backward. And thru each mini-journey, I wished I could be there to help them figure out how to find a connection.
2. I expected this to be a tale of emotional sorrow. I expected this to be full of questions and a push for me to decide how I’d handle such a situation. But two little bombs are dropped along the way (no spoilers here) in such light, easy fashion, I literally dropped the book from shock. I didn’t expect those 2 moments to hit when they actually hit. It wasn’t as though everything was going well and suddenly something bad happened… I was already sad / worried for the character and then the carpet was ripped out… with no notice. Was a fantastic trick on Hepworth’s part, and I won’t say more because every reader should feel that sucker punch I felt.
I think the book ended a little too quickly and was possibly a little too wrapped up. I would have liked to see some of the final drama drawn out a bit more, a reflection on what happens afterwards, a glimmering hope for something positive beyond the immediate ending (which may or may not have been painful — I am not saying right now).
I will absolutely read other books by this author. It was humming along for the first 30 to 40 percent, and I liked it, but I was fine putting it down to read another book at the same time. I can only take so many emotional roller-coaster stories at one time, so incorporating a cozy mystery or a happy book is often necessary. Then I hit chapter 48 (note, they are short chapters) and I filled with rage, angst and fear… I read for 2 hours non-stop, putting it down only for 30 seconds to post another update on Goodreads to say “What???? A second gut punch… I can’t…” And that’s exactly how it happened. That said… the questions to ponder:
It’s great to know there are people in the medical field so willing to help and connect with their patients on a personal level. Is it really common?
I had many memories of losing my godmother to cancer when I was about 20. My mom was her caregiver, and I saw lots of pain… but I cannot imagine what it is like to be that person helping the patient who knows they only have a short time left. They are the heroes and heroines of the world.
Who would you trust to raise your child if you had no one in your life and were about to die?
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