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