Friday, February 25, 2011

Promise Me by Richard Paul Evans — 352 pgs


Book CoverBethany Cartwright was living what she thought was a very happy and productive life with her husband and young daughter, when one day, the illusions of her marriage and the health of her daughter slipped away simultaneously. When Beth discovers that her husband has been having an affair during his business trips and that her daughter is seriously ill, she feels overwhelmed, frightened and inconsolable. After asking her husband to leave, she begins to deal head-on with her daughter’s illness, but discovers that she needs her husband’s help in making their daughter well again. Just when she lets him into her life again, tragedy deals her another double blow. It seems her husband is dying of pancreatic cancer, and during his last days of life, he admits to Beth that he has had several other affairs over the course of their marriage.

During this time, her daughter, Charlotte, is beset by illness again and again, and no doctor can discover what exactly is wrong with her. Soon Beth is a shell of the happy and well adjusted woman she one was. Still reeling over the death of her husband and his final betrayal, Beth feels she can’t afford to place her trust in anyone ever again and resolves to live her life as a lonely single mother, raising a daughter beset by difficulties with her health.

During a routine stop at the gas station one day, Beth notices a handsome and enigmatic man named Matthew, who approaches her and seems very interested in her. But Beth isn’t receptive to any of those kinds of attentions and quickly dismisses the man, hoping that she will never run into him again. But she does. Time and time again, Matthew finds and approaches her and asks her out, only to be met with a flat refusal. Not only does Beth have problems trusting men, Matthew is significantly younger than she is and she can see no reason why he would be attracted to her. But Matthew’s persistence finally pays off, and Beth begins to see him in a new light. Both romantic and attractive, Matthew steals Beth’s heart away and she finally believes that she will be able to love again. But there’s something mysterious and strange about Matthew. He knows things that he shouldn’t and seems always to be there for Beth in just the nick of time. When a misunderstanding occurs between the two, Matthew finally reveals his secret to Beth. Though at first she doesn’t believe it, she comes to accept that Matthew is a very important person, not only to herself in the present, but to her family in the years to come. In this realistic yet mystical tale, the story of the love affair between Matthew and Beth comes alive with intensity and clarity when the fates realign themselves in order to save a woman and her daughter from total emotional ruin.

I had a difficult time writing the summary paragraphs of this post, because one slip would have resulted in a spoiler that would have completely ruined the book for any potential reader. When I initially picked this book up, I thought it was going to be a Christmas story, which would have been strange, as it’s now the end of February. I think I was misled by the cover, which shows a bunch of mistletoe surrounded by a red and copper border. Once again, the cover of a book has led me to have quite a different expectation than what the book was ultimately about. How frustrating!

This book was mainly about relationships and the closing of a person’s heart when things have gotten too ugly to handle. Though in the beginning Beth doesn’t know her marriage is in trouble, some pretty huge secrets come to light very early on. It was sad to see that two people could live together and seem to have an idyllic life when one of them was being unfaithful to the other. And I just have to add that I’m really over-reading about infidelity as of late. You know what would be exceptional and unusual? A man who doesn’t cheat! Yes, I know it sounds jaded, but it seems all too common that people are willing to leave the bounds of their marriage to find comfort in a stranger’s arms. Okay, I’ll step off my soapbox now.

As Beth begins to deal with her husband’s betrayal, she shuts down and becomes the kind of person who is unable to focus and function. Although she eventually lets her guard down with her husband and lets him come back, the second she finds out about his other infidelities, she seems to lose whatever love she has for the man, which I can completely understand. It’s interesting that Beth decides to help ease her husband’s passing after all he’s done to her, but I could understand her reasoning for doing this, because despite what he put her through, he was still the father of her child, and the history they shared couldn't be so easily wiped away.

When Beth’s daughter gets critically ill after her husband’s confession, I could sympathize with her all the more. After taking Charlotte to doctor after doctor, the answers still didn’t come. No matter how hard Beth tried to manage what was going on with her daughter, her misery was compounded by the fact that her husband was not the man she thought he was, and this led her to be divided heart and soul between the two devastations in her life. It’s hard to describe the sense of helplessness you feel when your child is ill and there’s nothing you can do to help them. I imagine Beth was in a terrible position being the only one who could handle her ailing daughter and husband, and even though she had a staunch girlfriend to help her, she was basically alone in dealing with her issues. As her finances begin to grow tighter and tighter, Beth begins to struggle all the more with the imperfections of her life, and begins to become a bit maudlin and morose.

When Matthew comes into Beth’s life, she is completely unable to grant him entrance into her heart. I also found it strange that the much younger man would be interested in her, especially because he knew next to nothing about her. But there was something exceptional and special about Matthew that both Beth and the reader couldn’t ignore. As Beth lets him in, she begins to trust again and her life becomes transformed. But a crucial event puts Beth’s trust for Matthew on the line, and even I thought that there was a possibility he could be a villain. When he finally tells Beth the truth about himself, there was a curious sense of disbelief, and at that point I began to realize that for this book to work for me, I would have to suspend a portion of my sense of disbelief and just go with it. The background to Matthew’s conundrum was never explained, but that’s okay because it really didn’t need to be. He was there for a purpose, and though eventually Beth had to let him go, his intervention changed the course of her and Charlotte’s lives. Matthew’s appearance in Beth’s life was not only critical to Beth’s healing, but it also ended up shaping the destiny of all whose lives he touched.

It’s hard to fully explain this book or the impact it had on me without giving too may spoilers, but I think readers who have been intrigued by this review would really be in for a treat if they picked this book up. There’s a lot that’s unexpected and riveting about this story, and if you’re the type of person who loves stories that push the envelope and/or crave a thrill that will warm your heart, then this is the book for you. At its core it’s a bittersweet read, but it’s one that I found completely moving and ultimately uplifting. A very interesting read. Recommended.


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

14 comments:

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I've enjoyed many of Evan's books in the past, but avoided this one since my mom and brother died of pancreatic cancer, but I may just give it a go after seeing how much you liked it. Thanks for the great review.

Care said...

Sounds like too much bad news and negativity! I don't think this book would be a good fit for me. However, I could recommend Sugar Queen for a few good men but a few rotten apples, too and one husband who slipped but might deserve the attempt of forgiveness. I loved it. (by Sarah Addison Allen)

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Oh, oh, I want to know the secret of Matthew! :--) Actually it sounds like a bit like the NON-fiction memoir, Perfection. But that one didn't have a mysterious secret attached to it. I may have to look this one up! Great review by the way - you told so much and yet did not spoil!!!

bermudaonion said...

I thought this was a Christmas book too, so I was rather surprised to see you reviewing it on your blog. I have to admit that it's not a book I would expect to "push the envelope." I have a copy of this I need to dig out.

Suko said...

Wow! Amazing review of what sounds like a complicated and complex book about relationships. Poor Beth! She has my sympathy already.

Marie said...

Sounds a little overwhelming but I'm glad you enjoyed it so much :-)

Mystica said...

Thank you for a lovely review.

TheBookGirl said...

I have to confess to assuming that this author's work was of the schmaltzy, Hallmark variety, but given your review I will definitely reconsider. It sounds like there is a real depth to this one. Great review!

Darlene said...

Great review. I do have this book on my shelf but, like you, I assumed it was a Christmas book because of the cover. At least I'll be more prepared than you were. lol.

Jenners said...

I'll confess: I kind of associate this author with "schlock" -- despite never having read any of his books. That is probably unfair, and you have me intrigued as to what is up with Matthew but I'm not sure I actually want to find out. (He's an angel isn't he? That is my guess. )

Aarti said...

I get the impression Matthew is an angel, but I don't need you to confirm or deny that in case of spoilers- though if you want to do so in an email, that's fine :-)

I can completely understand where you got the Christmas idea. I think anyone would!

I also agree with you about infidelity. I know that it happens a lot, but I don't see why it somehow makes it into almost EVERY story about marriage. It's quite depressing.

I owe you an email and will send you one this week, I promise!

Zibilee said...

Surprisingly, Matthew is not an angel! I was sort of flabbergasted to find out what he really was, that's for sure!

Stacy at A Novel Source said...

I too thought this one was a Christmas story and reviewed it in early December; however I could not have summarized any better than you did! WOW! How you tiptoed around the storyline without giving away any spoilers is a feat in itself! I sure do hope you have your own novel underway because you write beautifully!

Amy said...

I've seen this book and thought it was a Christmas story too! I'm glad I read your wonderful review because I think it I had read the book summary I would have figured it to be a story that's been done too many times. And I would have missed a powerful, touching story which I am quite intrigued about now!

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