Author: Sally Hepworth
Rating: 4 stars
Good writing and a nice twist elevate this book from this is just a Hallmark-movie-of-the-week in print status. Not that I dislike Hallmark movies. I've been known to binge watch with mom on snow days.
How well do you know your neighbors? In this story, there is more than meets the eye to all our characters. It was fun putting the pieces together and trying to figure out what was going on in this little suburban neighborhood. I thought I had it a couple of times in the beginning but was wrong. Finally, by page 172 I had figured out the big twist. BUT I thought- If Hepworth is going there, that's a nifty twist. I'm on board. Let's ride this train.
This one had great potential to be a gripping story of suspense. Unfortunately, I didn't find it particularly gripping or suspenseful. There is a bit of mystery, but even with a few red herrings thrown in, it wasn't hard to figure it out. The whole thing reads a bit like a soap opera or a bad Lifetime movie, except that there are fewer characters here likable enough to root for. I spent a good portion of this book feeling sorry for Essie's husband, Ben, who seems to be the only person on this street that has any sense. And not to belittle postpartum depression in any way, but I might've had more than a hot minute's worth of sympathy for Essie except that three years later, she has a second child who is apparently the perfect baby - until she's not and Essie isn't getting enough sleep, so starts having similar problems as she did the first time. Of course, the rest of the people living on this street aren't any better. Among the men we have one who can't keep it in his pants and another who makes a bad financial decision and goes through a rather exaggerated depression, and among the women, we have the one who gets pregnant to keep her husband, the one who's baby may or may not belong to her husband, the clingy mother/grandmother, and the mysterious single woman who's in everybody's business. A couple of these not so likable characters do redeem themselves somewhat toward the end, but it wasn't enough for me to care much about them. After glancing at the many four and five star reviews for this story, I realize I'm in the minority here, but for me, this was a rather depressing story and the mystery, which could've been a redeeming element, was just too easy to figure out.
They have never needed anyone else, Zoe and her mother have lived a secluded life and things were fine until Alice discovered she had cancer. They have no outside support, no one to help with transportation, no help with meals or just someone else to care. Alice claims they have no true friends and the only surviving family member they have is Paul, Alice’s brother who is a practicing alcoholic. I had to wonder if Alice had ever thought of this as she was raising Zoe. Did Alice ever think about Zoe’s future if something would ever happen to her? As Alice has surgery, Zoe is left at home alone. Implications arise when Kate, a nurse and Sonja, a social worker get involved in Alice’s case. I wanted someone to be with Zoe or to check on her while her mother was absent but I wasn’t sure if these women were the answer. Kate and Sonja each carry with them a secret that comes into play, a secret that they thought no one would see. As for Zoe, she cannot hide her social anxiety disorder as it affects almost everything she says and does.
After her surgery, Alice realizes that Zoe is not alone. Alice doesn’t like these new intruders in their life. Alice wants to go home and get on with life as if nothing has changed. Yet, life has changed for both Alice and Zoe. I had mixed feeling towards Alice as I read this novel. I wondered why she sheltered their lives and I wondered where their lives would be headed in the future. As the four women were introduced, I could see where their lives might intercept, the comfort and the distress that would await. They were meant to convene; these women were meant to touch each other’s lives and to make a difference.
I found myself cheering for Zoe in this novel for she is finally finding her way out. Zoe’s conversation with Harry sealed the deal with me, towards the end of the novel. The honesty and straightforward exchange that took place between them, how they exposed themselves to each other, they realized that they are not alone but are alike. I loved it! It’s the power of friendship and family, although these individuals might not be perfect, Alice finally sees that they are important and that they are needed. I really enjoyed this novel and although it was my first novel by Sally Hepworth, it will not be my last.
I won a copy of this novel in a Goodreads giveaways- thank you Goodreads. This review is my own opinion.
By: Sally Hepworth
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: 2/21/2017
My Rating: 5 Stars
Master storyteller, Sally Hepworth returns following The Things We Keep (2016) landing on my Top Books of 2016 and Secrets of Midwives (2015) all 5 stars, with an unforgettable story of courage, THE MOTHER'S PROMISE.
Richly told. Memorable and poignant. An emotionally-charged portrayal of motherhood friendship, and love — in the midst of tragedy. Hepworth digs deeply into the ties of love, between both family and strangers. Mixed with humor, the author knows how to grab you by the heartstrings and never let's go.
“With what price we pay for the glory of motherhood.” – Isadora Duncan
Set in Atherton, CA, a twenty-minute drive from Silicon Valley, Alice Stanhope is a giving and caring single mom. Barely forty. Her her job has been taking care of others.
Alice has her own business, taking care of elders. She is not a nurse; however, she offers in-home help to the elderly. She keeps them company, cleans and runs errands. Her daughter Zoe is now fifteen. They are extremely close. The dad is not in the picture and we later learn the details. Let me say, the twist surprise at 90% was an added bonus surprise, a shocker.
As the book opens, Alice receives some devastating news. She has ovarian cancer. She seemed to have a knack for attracting illnesses and ailments that required just enough investigation to be financially and emotionally draining. It was happening again. She exercises and eats well. How could she have cancer?
Both her parents have passed away. Her brother, Paul is an alcoholic. Her mother died of ovarian cancer. She has no one, except for Zoe. She has lived her life alone. Just mother and daughter. Zoe is not a normal teenager, so she has to protect her. She needs to keep the surgery, and cancer news to herself. Zoe cannot be a support person for her. Alice wasn’t going to need someone. Zoe was.
How would she get to her appointments, chemo, the surgery? How can she die? What will happen to Zoe? She could not turn to her brother since he was drunk most of the time. She did not have a single person she felt she could nominate to walk beside her in what was going to be the hardest journey of her life.
Now she has met her nurse, Kate. Kate knew there was one thing that a patient needed more than a doctor, more than a nurse, even more than medicine, and that was a mother. Someone had to fight for them. Kate had a mother only when she was a toddler, and she recalled her mom’s nurse. Now she had to be a mother to her patients.
Kate in her mid-thirties, has her own issues. From one miscarriage after another. Her husband, David, and his two children her stepchildren—of his own (Jake and Scarlett). She longed for a baby. She fantasized about the day she would have a child of her own. She currently is pregnant again; however, will she be able to carry it to term?
Zoe, age fifteen has the normal teenage issues; however, her situation is magnified. She has Social Anxiety Disorder. No one understands. Like being anchored to damp sand. Like waiting for the next wave. You want to turn and look, to see what’s coming, but you can’t move. You don’t know. You wait helplessly, envisioning the worst. She yearns to be invisible. Everyone thought she was weird. Every day is a struggle to deal with her anxiety.
Currently, due to her circumstances, the hospital is bringing in a social worker, Sonja. Sonja is not the normal social worker. She gets Botox, she is married to a wealthy man. He is abusive. However, she stays with him. She should know better. After all, she works with women in this same situation. Happiness was something you shared, chatted about, asked after. "Suffering was something that you had to do behind closed doors, in silence, all alone."
How will Zoe survive without Alice? Alice is Zoe’s safe place. How will all these characters connect? What will they learn from one another? Will Alice’s past catch up with her during the worst possible time?
An entertaining tale of parental love, motherhood, friendship, loss. Piercing and uplifting at the same time. Well-researched, suspenseful, thought-provoking and character-driven, this cast of resilient heroines will inspire readers and renew their faith in humanity.
Even though I had to re-live some of the painful and loving times with my mom and her three- year battle with cancer (she passed away in Aug 2016), her bravery reminded me a lot of Alice. What great characters: Kate, Alice, Zoe and even Sonja. A beautifully written story –the unbreakable bonds, and characters which remain with you long after the book ends. A beautiful book for Mother’s Day and an ideal choice for books clubs and further discussions.
The author has a rare talent of taking wounded souls and pairing them with just the right person. Fans of Catherine Ryan Hyde, Diane Chamberlain, Lisa Genova and Jodi Picoult will find a lot to love here.
Highly recommend the author and all her books. Loved the inspiration behind the book. Sally is "tops" when it comes to writing about Mothers. A rare gift. She has a special way of making you fall in love with her characters.
I also listened to the audiobook, narrated by Barrie Kreinik for an outstanding performance.
A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for a complimentary reading copy in exchange for an honest review.