Friday, November 23, 2007

book review A Promise to Remember by Kathryn Cushman

Title: A Promise to Remember
Author: Kathryn Cushman
Publisher: Bethany House, October 2007
Genre: Contemporary fiction
ISBN: 0764203800

The story waited for her on the back page. A half-page article, complete with photo, of the boy who had taken Jeff’s life.

The muscles in her neck tightened so that breathing became difficult. She looked at the large headline beneath the photo: Phelps family donates $45,000 to scholarship fund in son’s honor.

…How dare they? The family had no right to glorify their son. He killed Jeff.

With these deft strokes from Chapter one, Kathryn Cushman leads us into the world of her first novel, A Promise to Remember.

It doesn’t take long for single mom Melanie Johnston’s wrongful death suit to reverberate around Santa Barbara’s tony Hope Ranch neighborhood. Will Blair Phelps’ Vitasoft partners be able to overlook this new financial threat? Will Andie Phelps’ fundraising committee let her stay on as president of the Old Time Fair? And how secure is Melanie’s job at Alford’s now that all Andie’s friends are shopping elsewhere as a protest against her presence there?

Characters figure large in A Promise to Remember. It is fascinating to watch the three parents deal with personal tragedy. I found the two moms, Andie and Melanie, an interesting study in opposites. Past adversity has given Melanie backbone and tipped the sympathetic character scales (for me) in favor of the feisty Melanie over the pampered and whiny Andie most of the time. But there is no real villain among the three. I empathize with all and gave the biggest cheer to Andie and Blair at the end. Many of the characters grow in their understanding of themselves and others during the story, which makes for a reading experience that is not only entertaining but also worthwhile.

The plot is lively and complex. Just when I think things can’t get worse they do, and this problem-heaped-upon-problem style makes for a captivating and fast-paced read. All the story’s loose ends are finally pulled snug, but not until the last pages.

The story’s themes of parenting, dealing with the death of a child and forgiving – oneself and others – are sure to give the book widespread appeal The Christian faith of several main characters figures large in suggesting answers to questions the plot raises about life and death. A “Questions for Conversation” section at the end of the book would make it a good book club choice.

All in all, A Promise to Remember is an impressive debut for Cushman. After this strong introduction, fans of contemporary Christian fiction will no doubt await a next book with anticipation.


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