Friday, November 16, 2018
Book Review: 'The Mother's Promise' by Sally Hepworth
The angst-ridden characters in Sally Hepworth's "The Mother's Promise" include fifteen-year-old Zoe Stanhope, who is so debilitated by anxiety that she cannot look people in the eye, is frequently tongue-tied, and believes that everyone is judging her. Adding to her woes is the fact that her forty-year-old single mom, Alice, is seriously ill. When she finds out that she will undergo major surgery and follow-up treatment, Alice is concerned that Zoe will not have the support that she needs. Alice's nurse, Kate, and her social worker, Sonja, both have personal problems, but they are professionals who try to smooth Alice's path. As the novel progresses, still more challenges arise. As Shakespeare wrote, “When sorrows come, they come not single spies. But in battalions!"
The author's prose is involving and fast-paced enough to keep us invested in the contrived and overwrought plot. In spite of flashes of dark humor, this is melancholy tale of individuals in crisis. Although each event could conceivably happen in real life, this work of fiction is weighed down by excessive anguish involving domestic violence, psychological and physical ailments, and troubled relationships. Fortunately, there are also moments of grace, when caregivers reach out to offer a kind word and a helping hand.
Hepworth shows how durable the ties that bind a mother to her child can be. However, can these bonds prevent a youngster from maturing and functioning independently? Most of the cast members have ample reasons to be distressed, but because she is so young and isolated, Zoe's plight is particularly upsetting. By the time the book concludes, we are wrung out from having endured so much misery. At least there are hopeful signs that some of the heroines are taking steps to insure that the future will be less agonizing than the past.
Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.