From the author of The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, shortlisted for the Orange Award for New Writers and longlisted for the Orange Prize.
1900. 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.
The pavilion was next to St. Mary's, it being a place for the orphans to play out of the sun. It was just on the other side of the sand hills, and the surf was loud here. I sat on a stool by myself in the cleared-off place where Biff and Camp usually played. Wagons and buggies, the horses hitched to them, were parked by the inland side of the pavilion. I fixed my brown skirt, laying it so my ankles didn't show overly much. I had on my Sunday best, my shirtwaist wasn't fancy like Mrs Williams', but it was what I had.
I settled the fiddle on my shoulder. Folks milled about, the men going off toward the hills to pass the whiskey bottle while the women calmed fussy babies and put away the food that was still on the long tables. Boys had lit the kerosene lamps on the tables, getting ready for dark. Sweat rolled down my sides even though the sun was sinking fast, the pavilion didn't have walls, and the breeze stirred the air. I had never played...
The Promise is a gripping, tautly woven story of love, loss, pain and struggle. It is a fascinating hodgepodge of churning emotions and grace (or lack of it) under pressure. It leads readers to wonder if in the wake of nature's supreme power and devastation, can any of the characters ever again be what they were.
(Reviewed by Judi Sauerbrey).
Full Review (744 words).
The Galveston hurricane of September 8, 1900, is still regarded as the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, this devastating storm swept away everything in its path, left an estimated 10,000-12,000 dead and thousands more homeless. Residences and businesses were leveled; debris was tossed everywhere, and the smell of death blanketed the entire island.
At the time, Galveston was the largest city in Texas, a bustling seaport with a population of 38,000. Located on an island nestled in the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston is a mile from the mainland and approximately sixty miles from what was then the smaller city of Houston. The island itself is less than thirty miles long and only three miles across at its widest point. Then, as now, ...
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