- Written by: Sally Hepworth
- Published by: St. Martin’s Press, February 21, 2017
- Source: I was sent an early finished copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way impacts my thoughts.
A new poignant and breathtaking novel from the author of The Things We Keep and The Secrets of Midwives.
With every book, Sally Hepworth becomes more and more known for her searing emotional portraits of families—and the things that test their bonds. In The Mother’s Promise, she delivers her most powerful novel yet: the story of a single mother who is dying, the troubled teenaged daughter who is battling her own demons, and the two women who come into their lives at the most critical moment.
Alice and her daughter Zoe have been a family of two all their lives. Zoe has always struggled with crippling social anxiety and her mother has been her constant and fierce protector. With no family to speak of, and the identity of Zoe’s father shrouded in mystery, their team of two works—until it doesn’t. Until Alice gets sick and is given a grim prognosis.
Desperate to find stability for Zoe, Alice reaches out to two women who are practically strangers, but who are her only hope: Kate, her oncology nurse, and Sonja, a social worker. As the four of them come together, a chain of events is set into motion and all four of them must confront their sharpest fears and secrets—secrets about abandonment, abuse, estrangement, and the deepest longing for family. Imbued with heart and humor in even the darkest moments, The Mother’s Promise is an unforgettable novel about the power of love and forgiveness.
I was eager to read this book, as I have found Sally Hepworth to be an author who can get to the heart of relationship and help the reader to feel empathy and love. (review of The Secrets of Midwives) As I began reading I will admit I thought Alice had kept her small family together a bit too tight. As a parent I’ve always been a believer in the “it takes a village” point of view. Alice on the other hand hasn’t had an extended family to help her, and she’s kept her friendships to zero. Hepworth begins to unfurl the reasons why Alice has been so protective. We learn about the loss of her mother before Zoe was born, and that her relationship with her father wasn’t the best before his passing. Her brother is an alcoholic, and isn’t dependable. Alice has moved to a small town to live with her grandmother to help her with simple things like shopping and other day to day activities. When she passes away Alice realizes there is a need for this service and begins her business, it’s been successful enough to take on part time employees. All this time she’s kept her daughter Zoe with her, no day care, baby sitters or pre-school.
Zoe at fifteen is a mass of anxiety. Hr social anxiety makes it nearly impossible for her to even make eye contact with anyone beyond her mom. She struggles with all human contact, the bus is out of the question, so she walks to school. School is a nightmare, afraid she may have to speak. She has one friend, just one, and that is imperfect.
Alice is completely unprepared when she receives her cancer diagnosis. She’s immediately worried about Zoe, so much so that she attempts to hide the real reasons for a hospital stay. In a snowballing series of events meant to be helpful, Zoe is told about the cancer and also deemed to be unable to stay by herself as her mom recovers. Alice is forced to begin to let others help her. Kate her nurse, and Sonja her social worker are in her corner, more than she realizes, and thankfully she lets them in.
There are highs and lows in The Mother’s Promise that will make you laugh and cry. As a mother I understood the emotions Alice was having, and it ripped my heart out. I wanted to wrap my arms around both she and Zoe as they had to accept a new normal. Kate and Sonya weren’t without flaws and their own issues.
I highly recommend The Mother’s Promise. I flew through this book, it’s a very quick read, but will leave you with many emotions. Thank you again to Katie Bassel and St. Martin’s Press for sending me this book. This books is available everywhere today, and I think it would make an excellent book club read.