|Promises to Keep |
By Ann Tatlock / Bethany House
Eleven-year-old Roz (Rosalind) Anthony and her family have just moved to Mills River, Illinois, to escape an abusive situation. Only days after settling into their new home, they are surprised to find the previous owner, Tillie Monroe, on their front porch reading the newspaper. Though her sons have sold the house and sent her to a facility for the aged, she is determined to die in the place she lived her life and somehow manages to find her way "home" day after day. Feeling sympathy for the elderly woman, Roz's mother allows Tillie to move back in.
Mara Nightingale becomes Roz's first friend in Mills River. In spite of their many differences, the girls discover they have something in common that binds them together-both are hiding secrets. So they make a promise -"cross my heart and hope to die"-never to tell anyone else.
Set in the late 1960's, this is the story of a mother and her three children who flee Minnesota and an alcholic, abusive husband in the hopes of a better life ~ or just a safe one ~ in her hometown of Mills River, Illinois. Told from the perspective of the 11-year-old daughter, this story is one that had me smiling, laughing, and almost crying at times.
Roz's childhood innocence and perspective are wonderfully displayed and had me hurting for her at times and wanting to reach out and help her make sense of her world when those around her are unable to do so. I could empathize with her older brother, Wally, and the anger and frustration he was dealing with from enduring years of watching helplessly as his mother was abused, and then, he as well in later years. As a mother, I found myself feeling for Janis, doing her best to provide for her family and make a new life.....while trying to heal and move on from her abusive past.
And then, there's Tillie. The family's unexpected "houseguest", at first considered a nuisance.....and then proven to be the family's rock. Tillie gives Roz and her little sister Valerie, the security they need, the solid figure on which to lean when everything seems unstable. As Roz especially journeys through a time of confusion and upheaval, Tillie is there. She subtly points Roz and her family to faith in God during a time where they are all learning how to cope with the loss of innocence, love and trust ~ and how to learn to love and trust again. The unexpected intrusion of Tillie into their lives is just what they needed and with her age-earned wisdom, eccentricities, gentle kindness and iron will, they learn how to find their Father....and learn what a true family is.
This is the first book I have read by Ann Tatlock and I found it to be very well crafted. The characters were well developed and ones that I could easily identify with. I love her use of words and phrases....tugging at your heartstrings, bringing a smile to your face, sometimes a giggle from within, and often a moment of reflection at the power of the written word. Although it is the first I've read, it will not be the last.
Many thanks to Bethany House, who provided this book in exchange for my honest review.