I received a copy of PROMISES TO KEEP by Ann Tatlock, from Bethany House. The cover is unique, an image of the back of a girl’s head, her neck bared by two braids. On the back of the book is the picture of a house. That image fits the story perfectly, for it’s the tale of a house and a family, the home important enough to be its own character.
The story is told by Roz, short for Rosalind. She is eleven-years-old and trying to come to terms with her parents’ separation. Her father, Alan Anthony, is vicious. He drinks a lot and beats her mother. He even tries to kill her brother once. Sometimes, when the whole family was in the car together, he would drive recklessly and threaten to crash if anyone cried out. Roz’s mother has had enough of Alan – she packed up the kids and moved to her father’s town. She feels sad and helpless, and struggles to provide for her family.
This house is not just any house. It used to belong to Tillie Monroe. She and her husband built it, and raised their children in it, and she’s not about to be put away into a nursing home. She wants to die in her beloved home, so she convinces Roz’s mother to allow her to live with them. While Roz’s mother works, Tillie looks after the chores and the children, Roz and her baby sister Valerie. Tillie helps the family build a new life for them. Roz still wants her daddy though, so when Alan meets her secretly, she’s excited, and wants to help him back into their lives – even though he steals, lies, still drinks, and eventually tries to shoot them.
I couldn’t put the story down. The characters are not only believable, they are likable. The writing is smooth, and there were only two predictable moments – Roz’s mother married Tillie’s son and Roz’s father turned out to be thoroughly “bad guy.” I feel like I could go to the town and meet everyone, even though the story took place during the Vietnam War. The wide range of characters ensure that there will be someone to relate to, whether it is Wally, the young man who decides to take out his anger on Alan by joining the army, or Roz’s best friend Mara, who suffers with prejudice.