Continuing to feed my obsession of all things historical fiction, I bring you the second novel from the Orange Award nominated Ann Weisgarber and her title The Promise, dealing with the 1900 Galveston Texas Hurricane.
My first introduction to Weisgarber’s name came with her Orange Award nominations: like many book reviewers, my TBR pile is out of control, so I haven’t yet opened my copy of The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, much to my embarrassment. But, rectifying that, I am pleased to have been granted early access to this title via Skyhorse Publishing through Edelweiss.
Fitting nicely into my obsession with all things historical, travel back to turn of the 20th century, prior to the depression, motorcars or the devastation of the two World Wars. Catherine is a young, unmarried woman quite popular in the social-climbing Dayton in which she lives. Facing the devastation to her reputation after a situation involving a married man, Catherine needs to find an out. She takes up correspondence with a former admirer, and believing that he is her last hope before a final fall to ruin, she travels to Galveston Texas to make a life with the recently widowed farmer, Oscar.
Catherine is a bit of a self-centered cat as the story starts, as the details of her indiscretion are revealed, readers are left to use their own judgment as to whether it was truly innocent, or there are depths that this young woman conceals from all who truly know her. Vastly different from Dayton, the remote island, climate, lack of conveniences and the adjustment to a new husband, his grieving child and the quietly competent housekeeper with an agenda of her own have Catherine set back on her heels.
Oscar is quietly kind and determined to make a life for his family, and see that Catherine manages to fit in and find happiness on the island, even as he is a traditionalist in terms of women’s issues, rights and their place that should be firmly entrenched in the home. Catherine is often frustrated, confused and feels invasive: all of these emotions are aided by Nan’s response to her and the fact of her arrival.
Nan is the housekeeper, a firm friend of Oscar’s deceased first wife, and her familiarity with the young boy Andre and her promise to his mother are only slightly overshadowed by her own feelings for Oscar. Her relationship with Catherine is contentious, even though most of the tension is subliminal and surfaces only in brief flashes of disrespect or silence. The two coexist, but are only superficially friendly, and the struggles facing the island in the days to come will change everything.
Told in alternating points of view both Nan and Catherine contribute to the story, each has a unique voice that is informed by their background, intentions and agendas. The subtle differences in description and emotional balance each speak to the women’s state of mind in what had to have been a tumultuous and stressful time. What emerges through the aftermath of the storm is the reliance that both woman come to find in one another as they face the worst possible situations after a horrific storm and its destruction.
Beautifully descriptive both in the before and after storm descriptions, this story is a delight, and brings to light the myriad of emotions and struggles the characters face. The gentle and slow development of solid relationships and connections between the characters as they proceed with their lives and learn to redefine their lives post disaster realistically present the challenges and changes that are required during a life, when nothing quite follows those childhood dreams.
Title: The Promise
Author: Ann Weisgarber
Genre: Historical Romance, Literary Fiction, Literary Fiction /Historical Setting
Published by: Sky Horse Publishing
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 9 Hours: 18 minutes
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From the author of The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, shortlisted for the Orange Award for New Writers and longlisted for the Orange Prize.
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.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.