Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Mother's Promise by Sally Hepworth

The Mother’s Promise is the latest novel by Sally Hepworth, whose previous works include The Secrets of Midwives and The Things We Keep. Although she is considered a writer of “women’s fiction,” to do so would be to limit both her own body of work and our perception of what a woman writing fiction can achieve.

The novel revolves around the stories of four women: Alice, whom has recently been diagnoses with cancer, her teenage daughter Zoe who suffers from crippling anxiety, as well as two hospital workers, Sonja and Kate. Although the story begins somewhat slowly, it soon builds into a satisfying journey into the ways pain can wall people off from the help they so desperately need. There is also a surprising revelation that binds these women together in a way that is tragic and yet optimistic. 

Despite the dark subject matter, there are glimmers of hope. The character Zoe, in particular, has a surprising and satisfying transformation as the story progresses. Not all of the women’s stories have happy endings, but what makes The Mother’s Promise so successful is that it finds redemption in sorrow and the resilience of women who stick together. This book will appeal not only to women but to anyone who has harbored a painful secret or has had to ask for help—which is to say, all of us. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Kalum Meyers

Monday, April 3, 2017

March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

This unforgettable final volume in Congressman John Lewis’s multi-part memoir about the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and ‘60s has rightfully won numerous major book awards. Book Three maintains the graphic novel format of the first two parts, moving back and forth in time between when Lewis was a leading member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the day of President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.

Nate Powell’s powerful illustrations, which brought to life lunch counter sit-ins and the March on Washington in the earlier books, cover the period between the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, to the signing of 1965 Voting Rights Act in this volume. Although legendary figures like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X appear, March is ultimately the story of daily heroism by everyday people. Many marchers endured beatings, arrests, and even the murder of friends, but they kept protesting until they ultimately prevailed in their quest for the vote. The whole trilogy is a sobering, but important, read for teens and adults.


Reviewed by Lynn Heitkamp