The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Friday, April 11, 2014

THE PROMISE By Ann Weisgarber

The Promise by Ann WeisgarberPublisher:  Skyhorse Publishing
Release Date:  April 1, 2014
Pages:  320
Genre:  Historical Fiction

Book Description:  From the author of The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, shortlisted for the Orange Award for New Writers and longlisted for the Orange Prize.

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.

Wanda's Thoughts - 1899 – The prologue begins with a somber scene. The air is filled with sadness at the funeral of Bernadette, Oscar’s wife. Oscar is left, widowed with a 4-year old boy, Andre, who is now a poor motherless child and grieving deeply for his mother. 

1900 - Catherine Wainswright is an accomplished pianist who has become well known in the Dayton, Ohio area. Unfortunately she makes some bad decisions and her reputation becomes ruined. Performances are canceled, piano students drop out, and gossip shatters her life. Catherine is forced to leave Dayton. She travels 1,000 miles to Galveston, Texas, leaving unpaid bills and a disgraced family behind, to marry Oscar, a childhood friend. It was the only way she could save herself from her less than honorable past and get on with her life. 

Oscar is a farmer, living about a half mile from the Gulf of Mexico. He decides that Catherine is a good choice for a wife and mother for Andre, even though their backgrounds are worlds apart, and they have very little in common. Oscar wants the best for his son – the right way to talk, good manners, and Catherine would be a good influence and the best person to teach Andre. 

Nan Ogden was Bernadette’s best friend. She had promised Bernadette, who was on her deathbed, to take care of Andre. Nan was “Strong in her opinions,” as Oscar described her, but a good woman. Nan and Catherine were like oil and water and they certainly didn’t mix. Nan’s misery over Catherine and Oscar’s marriage turned her into a bitter woman.

And the story unfolds as Catherine settles into a marriage, and life as an instant mother. And then the unexpected happens – a devastating storm develops – the worst natural disaster in the 20th century – a storm where over 6,000 people were killed. Entire families drowned and many were never found. This is a story filled with disappointments, regrets, tragedy, and loss, with a thread of romance. 

I was completely absorbed from beginning to end in this storyline that never lost momentum. The descriptive writing was beautifully crafted and the characters were vibrantly drawn. There is a crescendo of suspense during the storm that builds to a stunning conclusion. There was not an easy resolution, with the impossible situations that had developed. The Promise is truly a heartwarming and emotional story. Don’t miss this one. 5/5 stars. 
I received a complimentary copy of this book as a Goodreads First Reads winner. All opinions shared are solely my own.

Ann WeisgarberThe Author - Ann Weisgarber - Ann is the author of "The Promise" and "The Personal History of Rachel DuPree." She was nominated for England’s 2009 Orange Prize and for the 2009 Orange Award for New Writers. In the United States, she won the Stephen Turner Award for New Fiction and the Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction. She was shortlisted for the Ohioana Book Award and was a Barnes and Noble Discover New Writer. 

"The Promise" takes place in Galveston, Texas, during the time of the historic 1900 Storm that killed thousands. Ann was inspired by an abandoned, dilapidated house on the rural end of Galveston and by an interview she conducted when writing an article for a local magazine. Her debut novel, "The Personal History of Rachel DuPree," takes place in the South Dakota Badlands during 1917. It was inspired by a photograph of an unknown woman sitting in front of a sod dugout. 

Ann was born and raised in Kettering, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton. She graduated from Wright State University in Dayton with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work and earned a Master of Arts in Sociology from the University of Houston. She has been a social worker in psychiatric and nursing home facilities, and taught sociology at Wharton County Junior College in Texas. 

In addition to Ohio and Texas, Ann has lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Des Moines, Iowa. She now splits her time between Sugar Land, Texas, (home to Imperial Sugar Company), and Galveston, Texas. She and her husband, Rob, are fans of America’s national parks and visit at least one park a year. Ann is currently working on her next novel that takes place in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, during the winter of 1888.