Expected publication date: February 21, 2017
Alice and her daughter Zoe have been a family of two all their lives. Zoe has always struggled with crippling social anxiety and her mother has been her constant and fierce protector. With no family to speak of, and the identity of Zoe’s father shrouded in mystery, their team of two works—until it doesn’t. Until Alice gets sick and is given a grim prognosis.I received a copy of this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways.
Desperate to find stability for Zoe, Alice reaches out to two women who are practically strangers, but who are her only hope: Kate, her oncology nurse, and Sonja, a social worker. As the four of them come together, a chain of events is set into motion and all four of them must confront their sharpest fears and secrets—secrets about abandonment, abuse, estrangement, and the deepest longing for family. Imbued with heart and humor in even the darkest moments, The Mother’s Promise is an unforgettable novel about the power of love and forgiveness. - from Goodreads
Sally Hepworth's The Things We Keep was one of my favorite books from last year, so I was super excited when I found out I won an ARC of her new book, The Mother's Promise. As I was reading it, the book felt like it was written by a completely different author, and not in a good way.
What initially drew me to the story was the blurb's focus on a mother and daughter. I was really interested to see how the two of them would deal with the mother's (Alice) diagnosis of ovarian cancer. However, I had issues with the relationship between Alice and her daughter, Zoe. Alice came across as the type of person who never wants to admit she needs help, so she goes overboard in proving her independence. At this stage in her life, she basically has no one besides Zoe, who is fifteen and has severe social anxiety.
I was confused by Alice's actions after her diagnosis. She doesn't tell Zoe about the cancer, instead telling her she is having gallbladder surgery, and would rather leave Zoe at home by herself for a few days than have help. I thought that was so unfair to Zoe. When people finally offer help, Alice is resentful and angry, even though they take care of her daughter when she isn't able to (and Zoe really needs the help).
If the story had just focused on Zoe and Alice, and how Alice finally accepts help, I think this could have been a great story, but there are so many other things going on here - in addition to cancer and anxiety, Hepworth also throws in alcoholism, a social worker who won't admit she's in an abusive relationship, and infertility. It was just too much and kind of a downer. There's also a subplot focusing on the identity of Zoe's father, which I felt was totally unnecessary.
I wasn't a huge fan of the setup of the book, as well. The chapters are very short, and the focus would change from character to character almost every other page. I felt like it skipped around too much and therefore didn't go deep enough with any character. The book was readable and held my interest, but I really couldn't believe this was the same author as the one who wrote the beautiful The Things We Keep.