Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Promise You Will Want to Savour

Grab your coziest sweater, your slippers and a cup of tea, then curl up for the weekend with Ann Tatlock's Promises To Keep. This is a comfortable slightly familiar story with an extremely endearing child narrator named Roz, a plot that never quits moving and a great cast of characters. It conjures up moments of nostalgia and sad truths about adults and their weaknesses. This is my first experience with author Ann Tatlock and I was hooked almost before I even cracked the spine of the novel. Promises to Keep is the story of a mother who flees her abusive alcoholic husband, after many years of his empty promises to sober up and make it upto his family. Told from the point of view of Roz, his 11-year-old daughter, it is a story of domestic violence and love and the limits of dreams. The story begins with Roz and her family moving into a new home in a tiny city far from their old life. When an older woman named Tillie shows up on their doorstep and refuses to leave they find themselves in a bit of a strange predicament.
Tillie presents a plot complication, as the former owner of the house, which she argues is still hers. Her sons have moved her into an old age home against her wishes and every now and then she wanders back to the place that holds her heart and her memories. Roz's older brother, Wally, a bitter young man about to turn 18 right at the time of the war in Viet Nam, is rigid in his beliefs and angry at yet another intrusion forced upon his tiny healing family. He wants Tillie gone. He was the man in his family that stood upto the father and on the occasion of one final big fight nearly ended up beaten to death for it. Wally was Janis's first child from a different relationship and the very volatile stepfather seemed to hate Wally from the start, referring to him only as the boy and refusing to adopt him. After that initial visit in chapter one Tillie keeps returning and she makes the argument that the home will always be hers in sweat equity. It is clear that the house will not be big enough for both Tillie and Wally. One will have to go. Janis has three children and the youngest is a toddler. When Janis takes on a job in sales to support her family Tillie becomes invaluable helping out around the home and acting as grandmother to the girls Roz and Valerie. Although she is safe in this new home, Roz finds herself tortured by the vision of her father crying when they drove away and she is unable to move forward. She believes his final words that he will change and she needs to remember the good about him for fear there might not be anything good or loveable about her. Roz begins seeing her Dad everywhere and cannot tell if it is her imagination playing tricks or not. Roz, the newcomer at school, meets a lonely bright creative girl named Mara who dreams of being a writer, but whose skin colour makes her a bit of an outcast. Together they form a friendship and a bond, as they both have been harbouring secrets about their fathers. Their pact to get their fathers back leads them into dangerous territory and threatens more than one family's fate. Slowly Roz glimpses tiny memories of the violent and sadistic moments they've endured at the hands of her father, but she is a guarder of secrets and refuses to share her pain or her misgivings with anyone. Her memories are revealed in an organic manner that flows and is somehow just perfectly in keeping with the timing and the characterization throughout the book. It is an amazing and artistic trick that proves the talent of the author. The reader is never jarred from the plot by a flashback. Ann Tatlock is the author of eight novels, including The Returning. She has won The Christy Award for her novel All The Way Home and the Mid-West Independent Booksellers Association Book of The Year for All The Way Home and I'll Watch The Moon. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her family. In the beginning Promises to Keep is a powerful story about domestic violence and it packs an explosive punch at the end. But there is a great deal here about the nature of family and love and friendship that is every bit as uplifting as well. This is a truly beautiful story and Roz is a dynamite choice for narrator. Even the cover image is a gorgeous artistic shot of a girl's pigtails. This is one I will keep on my bookshelf for a long time, so I can return to it and study the writer's technique. Promises To Keep is the total package.

Promises to Keep, by Ann Tatlock, Bethany House, US $14.99, Feb. 1, 2011, 348 pages.
This one gets a 4 and a half rating out of five. It was a charming pageturner and a comfortable read with great characters.and 1/2

My only criticism is the title. There must be 90 books on with the same title and I think it might have been a tiny bit more original.

This book was provided for free courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications House. The opinion on this blog is all my own and is in no way impacted by this. This book is available from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

1 comment:

Rumtruffle said...

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Thanks for stopping by my blog and becoming a follower, I am now following you too.
Helen x