My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the first novel of Sally Hepworth’s that I have read. I absolutely loved it, and now I want to read everything she has written or ever will write.
As soon as I read the description of this book I knew I was likely going to be an emotional mess while reading it. Oh and I was right. But while it was emotional and I definitely ugly cried, it’s a book that I won’t ever forget. Maybe part of it is because of my own circumstances and the fact that I have a teenage daughter? Possibly. But I think it’s mostly because it’s just that good of a read.
Alice Stanhope has a few health scares but usually it just means some tests that cost a lot of money but everything ends up being okay. So now she sits in her doctor’s office waiting to be told she’s in the clear. Then she can get back to work. Alice takes care of elderly people for a living, a home helper she keeps people company, drives them to appointments and other places, and cooks and cleans for them.
She isn’t really paying attention when her doctor says something about a mass, a CA 125 score, and some kind of -ectomy. She’s distracted by thoughts of her daughter, Zoe. As she left for school she told her mother she was fine, but Alice knew she was anything but fine. When the doctor has to cough to get her attention, Alice apologizes. A nurse, Kate who is also present for the appointment tells Alice that her test results were not what they had hoped for. The doctor then tells Alice she requires emergency surgery. An invasive surgery that may end with her having to stay in the hospital for up to a week.
They tell Alice she will need a support person to help her after the surgery. Alice tells them her parents are both deceased and her brother…well he wouldn’t be any help to Alice. She says that it can’t be her daughter, Zoe either and does not even want Zoe to know what is going on. They try to tell her that at age fifteen, Zoe can probably help more than Alice realizes but Alice is adamant.
“Zoe doesn’t need to be involved in this. She can’t handle this. She isn’t like a normal teenager.”
They try to get Alice to understand just how serious this is and that she is definitely going to need someone. What finally gets her attention is when they use the word “Cancer”. She can’t have cancer. She is under forty, eats well and exercises but mostly she CANNOT have cancer because she has Zoe.
Kate Littleton is a nurse. She has been delivering bad news to people for the last five years and it never gets easier. In Alice Stanhope, Kate sees an extreme case of denial. This is the first time she’s come across someone who says they don’t have a support person. Alice is going to need someone to help her through the hardest time in her life. All patients need “mothering”. Someone who will reassure them and fight for them. Kate herself wants to be a mother. She has the man of her dreams and two great step-children but she really wants to have a baby of her own as well.
Next we meet Alice’s daughter Zoe. She is at school and she’s trying very hard to follow the rules. Not the class rules….. her own set of rules. The rules are extensive and give us immediate insight into the extent of Zoe’s social anxiety. Rules like….never place both feet on the ground while sitting and never be the first or last person to take their seat. Zoe does everything to keep people from noticing her. She won’t eat in public (there is too much potential for things to go wrong) and tries her best not to talk in public either. Zoe can only be herself around her “safe people”. Her mother is the safest person of course. Another safe person is her friend, Emily. However, lately Emily has been irritated and impatient with her. Zoe is worried that Emily will move on and leave her behind.
Finally we meet the social worker, Sonja. Sonja deals with abuse cases, people who have lost a loved one as well as with patients who have cancer. She’s also dealing with some personal struggles of her own, but has gotten very good at pretending everything is just fine. Sonja is the social worker that Kate is meeting with to discuss Alice’s case.
This novel has a lot going on. So many SECRETS that are revealed as we get to know these four very different characters. All of these women are dealing with serious life issues and challenges. They also have very different ideas about each other. As the book goes on we see how these women with all of their individual struggles become integral parts of each others lives. Their relationships set off a chain of events that I NEVER saw coming.
I know I said it already but this book is AWESOME! Very well written. Lots of great characters. I could feel the emotion and anxiety at times and the connection between mother and daughter felt very real. They have been each others everything for so long and what is happening is terrifying to them both. It can be so hard to ask for the help you desperately need.
As I mentioned before, I cried a lot while reading this but in many ways my tears were cathartic. There are also many light and funny moments in the book.
There are different types of anxiety. For example, social anxiety, panic disorder, generalized anxiety and more. Everyone who suffers from an anxiety disorder is different. However, from my own experience as well as my experiences with my daughter, I feel like the author did a very good job describing social anxiety as well as how others may react to those who suffer from any of these disorders.
Sally Hepworth does a wonderful job of bringing her characters and their individual stories to life. A powerful story that got inside my head, I was invested in every one of these characters lives and HAD to know what was going to happen. Honestly, I was completely gripped from the time I started this book until I finished the last page. A story about motherhood, love, friendship, illness, forgiveness and SO MUCH MORE!
“The Mother’s Promise” is a book that’s going to stay with me for a long time. It is a great read that I highly recommend.
I would like to thank the St. Martin’s Press, Sally Hepworth, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book.