Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Some bonds can never be broken
One terrible moment changes everything for teenagers Kate and David. Brought together during the darkest of times, a spark of hope is ignited between them – a hand held in the darkness, a promise whispered. Neither of them will ever forget those moments.
It’s another ten years before David and Kate meet once more, and their lives are now so different. The promise they made to each other on that fateful day still binds them, but now they have so much more to lose.
With so much at stake, have they missed their once chance at happiness? They only way they will ever know is to risk everything to be together. Is that too high a price to pay for love…?
Many thanks to Ciara from Harper Collins Ireland for my copy of The Promise to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.
Emma Heatherington has really come back on to my reading radar with her last two books. Several years ago I had read her earlier books written as Louise Jordan and, although enjoyable for me. they didn’t make the same impact as her more recent work. This new book, The Promise, along with her previous two have just been absolutely brilliant and I hope she starts to get the widespread recognition that she truly deserves as they are incredible pieces of work that deserve to be read by so many. Initially I thought how could she possibly live up the brilliance of her recent work, and to be honest I found the start of this one to be a slow burner, I kept thinking ah I can see where this is going. Is this just your typical boy meets girl love story but no Emma turned it into so much more and it just builds and builds, as she has such a deft touch with words, to the most incredible, heart stopping climax that left me gasping in shock but ultimately leaving you with a deep sense of appreciation and satisfaction for the exhilarating journey you have been on and for the captivating story you have read.
This author has such a way with words and sentiments. Time and time again, I found myself stopping, contemplating and absorbing a statement. With a few carefully chosen words designed to have maximum impact, she conveys so much and you really get a very deep insight into how the characters are feeling, what motivates them and why they wrestle with the many big decisions and life choices that they have to make. It’s a sublime read that I literally inhaled. It’s a sign of a good book when you are making dinner, stirring something with one hand and still have the book in your other hand as you are more than keen to see how things are continuing to develop.
It’s the summer of 1998 and Kate Foley is a trainee nurse living in Northern Ireland. She comes from a Catholic background and lives with her mother, who at this time is in prison for a crime she didn’t commit rather she was set up as she has strong opinions and is an ardent campaigner and vocal activist. At home are her sister Maureen and niece Shannon. Kate is strong, focused and determined to make a better life away from the small confines of her neighbourhood and the evil that seems to seep its way into her home. She loves her family very much but she has greater ambitions and feels at times she just can’t get her family out of the mire they find themselves in. The reasons for their situation soon become clear and it makes you understand why Kate can’t wait to leave.
Northern Ireland is still at the height of The Troubles and the divide between Catholics and Protestants grows ever wider. David lives with his parents. His father is a protestant Church Minister who wages his own war from the pulpit. He has little or no relationship with his son and his mother can’t stand up to her husband. She too has her own battles. Reverend Bob is strict and authoritarian, stuck in his ways and determined he can make David do what he wants not what David believes is the right thing to do or what he feels his life direction should take. David can’t wait to leave the family home and forge his own path. He doesn’t need to rely on his father, he knows his own mind and is weary of the put downs he constantly receives.
Six weeks after we are first introduced to the two main characters an event takes place that alters their lives for ever and it’s the subsequent years in which we follow them that really make the impact in this book. Of course said event is the catalyst but it’s more the fall out that become the pillars of this story. As the event approached I had a feeling as to what it would be, and it really struck home with me, because here was something that happened when I was younger but I still remember it well. It’s not like the war that I didn’t live through whereas here I lived through it. Ok maybe through the news but still I felt it was relatable.
On that day Kate and David’s path cross in a way they could never have imagined. The brutality of it and the apocalyptic nature create fear, darkness, anxiety and many demons in the pair. How can you distance your mind from what has been seen? They shared an experience that no one can ever forget, so much so that it binds them together. No one else can possibly understand why they are so bound together but it’s because of what they went through that this connection is established. One wonders if said event had not happened would they have even ever met each other? Will they let that day have the power to ruin the remainder of their lives? Will the visceral connection they established entangle them together forever or will their backgrounds, the experience they shared cause even deeper division? Can love triumph over adversity?
The book moves forward at a very good pace and the years slip by at good intervals. Ten years later and Kate is living in Dublin and in a relationship which is clear is on its last legs. David is in England working as a teacher and now has a fiancée Lesley. An occasion brings the pair back to their home town and this is where they set eyes on each other once again and so the story really picks up its pace and we are taken on a rollercoaster ride packed full of emotion that hits you deep right in the heart. Both are haunted by what they experienced although I felt David more so than Kate but that’s not to take from what she still feels. Kate had looked for David prior to this second meeting but here is where his father played his trump card and Kate knew not to pursue things.
But fate has plenty in store for them and the connection and simmering bond between them is evident. Will history hold them back like previous generations or have they the will power, strength and fortitude to follow their hearts? As David battles with the demons that always lay inside him and then they begin to come to the fore you wonder is it all too much? Can this pair keep the promise they made to each other? They are two broken souls who hook onto each other but is it for all the wrong reasons? Can they be with each other in the real world? I desperately hoped so and the journey to discover if this could happen was just mesmerising and incredible.
I was hooked on every word of this remarkable book. The plot development was superb and I was rooting for both Kate and David. Initially it was like a small seed that was planted when they met through horrific circumstances but overtime this seed grew into something more. It needed careful nurturing and it started to wither at certain points and you questioned whether there were just too many obstacles stopping their relationship blooming into full flower. The bond they shared was heartfelt, real and genuine but the author showed how the path they navigated was far from easy and the outcome was never clear cut and straight forward. They had so much going against them and it was like they were swimming against the tide which was surging towards them. So much happens over the course of the book which highlights the rawness of their shared experience. Their passion and vulnerability radiate from the pages and the topic of segregation is deftly handled.
I really couldn’t recommended The Promise highly enough. It’s an utter triumph for Emma Heatherington who always has a consistently high standard and that standard rises with each book that she writes.