Wednesday, 5 April 2017
Author: Sally Hepworth
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: St Martin's Press
First Published: February 21, 2017
First Line: "When the doctor gave Alice Stanhope the news, she was thinking about Zoe."
Book Description from GoodReads: 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.
My Rating: 4.5 stars
My Review: I have read Sally Hepworth's first two books (The Secrets of Midwives and The Things We Keep) and her writing and characterizations just keep getting better and better! Her latest bookish offering is an emotional, compulsive read that focuses on the bonds between women - especially the bond between mothers and their children.
Hepworth doesn't shy away from big issues and there are a few in this book. One of the main issues discussed is severe social anxiety disorder which, while important to the overall plot, wasn't overplayed. Hepworth's descriptions of living with this debilitating disorder felt authentic and sympathetic as she helps her readers to understand the effects it has on teenage Zoe's perception of the world around her, especially as it pertains to helping her ailing mother.
The chapters alternate between several of the characters so readers get a varied view of the issues raised. I was most drawn to Alice and Zoe's POVs with Kate's portion of the book still interesting but playing second fiddle. I found Sonja's role in the book quite tertiary and not as strong as it could have been but I understand why her story was included.
As a mother and a daughter myself, this book touched me deeply and is given a coveted "Made Laurie Cry" award (a rare award indeed but aptly given) as Hepworth precisely describes the love and devotion mothers have for their children and the strength women can draw from each other.
This is a powerful, emotional book that really should have a "Keep Kleenex Handy" warning on the cover. Hepworth examines several serious issues with sympathy and respect as she focuses on what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman and a friend.