1900. Young pianist Catherine Wainwright flees the fashionable town of Dayton, Ohio in the wake of a terrible scandal. Heartbroken and facing destitution, she finds herself striking up correspondence with a childhood admirer, the recently widowed Oscar Williams. In desperation she agrees to marry him, but when Catherine travels to Oscar's farm on Galveston Island, Texas-a thousand miles from home-she finds she is little prepared for the life that awaits her. The island is remote, the weather sweltering, and Oscar's little boy Andre is grieving hard for his lost mother. And though Oscar tries to please his new wife, the secrets of the past sit uncomfortably between them. Meanwhile for Nan Ogden, Oscar's housekeeper, Catherine's sudden arrival has come as a great shock. For not only did she promise Oscar's first wife that she would be the one to take care of little Andre, but she has feelings for Oscar which she is struggling to suppress. And when the worst storm in a generation descends, the women will find themselves tested as never before.My Impressions:
Two women contribute to the Galveston household of Oscar Williams, a recent widower: his second wife Catherine, an accomplished pianist from his hometown of Dayton Ohio, and Nan Ogden, his housekeeper who promised his first wife that she would look after Oscar and his son Andre. Catherine arrives burdened with a secret from her past, determined to make a new life and never reveal her shame to Oscar. Nan, suffering from unrequited love, must balance her own feelings toward Oscar with her loyalty towards her dead friend. The story moves along at a breathtaking pace, while at the same time leaving the characters immersed in slow, clock-stopping chunks of terror. Weisgarden's descriptions of the barren landscape, the skies, the heavy air, the bugs, the hard work of maintaining a subsistence existence totally lacking in any trivial or unnecessary items or events, drain not only the characters but the reader. The reader is swept into the story and compelled to join in the anguish of decisions being made, memories relived, and hopes being planted only to be dashed.
The sheer joy of an untuned piano, a community dance, an inside pump for water paints the picture of how bleak life was during this time frame, how desperate people were for any chance for beauty, for love, for hope. As the storm rages across the island, each woman reviews her life, her hopes and dreams while facing life and death issues. The ending is one that speaks to the premise. It's a stunner, sad but hopeful and deserves not to be spoiled by pre-telling. Weisgarden has given us not only a historical portrait of a catastrophic event, but a beautiful narrative of two women, a man, and a child that will resonate with even the most hard-hearted.
It more than lives up to its title.
When I first agreed to serve as a review host for the blog tour, I wasn't sure I was
going to have time to do an in-depth interview with Ann, so she graciously furnished me a personal note to include for all my readers. It certainly helped me connect with her and made me even more positive about this terrific story. Here's what she sent:
I’m so pleased to part of your blog and this comes to you with my thanks for reading The Promise. While writing this note, my atlas is on my desk and it’s open to Maine. This makes me feel connected to you. It also reminds me of the time my husband and I visited Ogunquit for our fifth wedding anniversary. Rob was a student in Boston, I was a social worker in an East Boston nursing home, and we counted every penny. The bus trip to Ogunquit was a wild splurge but it was early June and the Bed & Breakfast rate was low. Many restaurants were closed and there were few tourists. This didn’t matter to us. We were in Maine, a place we’d never been before.
On Saturday afternoon, Rob and I took a walk along the cliff that overlooked the water. The wind was brisk with a distinct chill and the beach was deserted. Yet, strawberry plants grew along the path and the berries were beginning to ripen. It was a moment I’ll never forget: the cold wind paired with delicate red-tinged berries determined to thrive.
Like that long ago trip to Maine, reading a good book takes me to new places. I open it and find the wind, the plot. But beneath the plot, I sometimes find small discoveries that enrich my life and linger in my thoughts for years to come.
I hope you and other readers find these kinds of unexpected moments in The Promise.
Ann, I certainly do feel a connection since we spent part of our honeymoon at Ogunquit Maine before continuing up the coast. Living here full time now I really appreciate those cool see breezes that often put me in the mood to settle down and read. Coastal cities always fascinate me and the setting for The Promise is especially personal. We have dear friends whose once upon a time beach house in Galveston where we vacationed many years ago is no longer....a more recent hurricane claimed it. So this one was very special for me to read. I hope all my readers will hurry out and get a copy. It's definitely going to be one of the best of the year.
And now for the final treat: The publicist has given me one copy to offer to my readers. The giveaway is open only to US and Canadian readers. Leave a comment to enter, and be sure to leave your email address so I can notify you when you win. You can earn an extra entry by visiting Ann's webpage and leaving a second comment about something interesting you learned there. The giveaway ends on May 16th at 11:30 PM EDT. I'll draw the winner on the 17th.
Title: The Promise
Author: Ann Weisgarden
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing (2014), Hardcover, 320 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Subject: Galveston Hurricane of 1900
Setting: Dayton Ohio and Galveston Island Texas
Source: E-galley review copy from the publisher
Follow The Promise Blog Tour in the following days for more reviews and maybe another chance to win a copy.