Sunday, October 13, 2019

Dust Bowl Novel Grim But Hopeful (With a Giveaway!)


As the daughter of a wealthy banker, Sybil Trimble is expected to act like a lady, do what she's told, and take her place in society by marrying a man worthy of her social status.  Despite a penchant for sneaking out to the local speakeasy to dance off her excess energy, the 21-year-old is ready to do her part.  She's especially mindful of the promise she made to her father to use her smarts to exact change in the world around her.  When she's pressured into marrying a rich man she doesn't love, however, Sybil stands up to her family for the first time.  Refusing to be bullied into a marriage that sounds more like a business proposal, she instead falls for a handsome hobo who's full of faith but empty of cash.  The Trimbles will never accept Fremont Pope as a suitable husband.  Worse, as long as Sibyl is tied to him she won't have the funds she needs to make a real change for the Oklahoma farmers whose hope is shriveling along with their crops.  What's a girl in love to do?

While her hometown continues to suffer the effects of the Dust Bowl and the Depression, Sibyl finds herself in trouble of her own.  Fremont assures her that God will provide, no matter what, but she isn't so sure.  What will become of her promise to her father?  What of all her big dreams?  In a time when help is needed for so many, how can Sibyl rise above her own crises to come to the aid of others, as God—and her father—clearly expect her to?  Who is Sibyl supposed to be and how, with all the challenges of life, will she become that person?

Books set in the tumultuous 1930s aren't generally warm and uplifting.  A Promise to Break by Kathryn Spurgeon is no exception, although the author's goal is clearly to show that relying on God can get people through even the toughest times.  While it might be a tad more hopeful than other novels set in this time period, it's still pretty depressing.  It doesn't help that the characters, including our heroine, are not a very likable bunch.  Sibyl is selfish, whiny, and immature.  Although she says continually that she wants to help people, she rarely actually acts on that desire.  In fact, action (or lack thereof) is probably this novel's biggest problem—nothing really happens until the end of the book when a subplot flares up to cause some drama.  Without a central conflict or a concrete story goal for Sibyl, the plot flounders, making A Promise to Break feel long and dull.  A note at the end of the book states that the novel is based on the life of the author's grandparents, which explains some of its issues.  Had it been written as a memoir, I think it would have worked a lot better for me.  So, while I appreciate the book's themes of faith, resilience, and helping the poor, on the whole I found A Promise to Break a disappointing read.

(Readalikes:  Hm, nothing is coming to mind.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for subject matter most suitable for adult readers

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of A Promise to Break from the generous folks at Memory House Publishing via those at Celebrate Lit in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

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Interested in more opinions of A Promise to Break?  Follow along on the book's blog tour by clicking the links below:

Betti Mace, October 4
Older & Smarter?, October 5
Hallie Reads, October 6
Life of Literature, October 6
Genesis 5020, October 7
Moments, October 8
Emily Yager, October 8
She Lives to Read, October 9
Pause for Tales , October 11
Connect in Fiction, October 11
Texas Book-aholic, October 12
Bigreadersite, October 12
janicesbookreviews, October 13
A Reader’s Brain, October 14
Batya’s Bits, October 14
  As part of the blog tour, Kathryn Spurgeon is hosting a giveaway:


6 comments:

  1. I am realizing more and more that I need a strong plot in order to enjoy a book.

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  2. A plot that moves AND characters you can like: two essential things in any good read. And it sounds like this book didn't have either. Think I'll pass on this one. :)

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  3. The Dust Bowl has inspired some really good fiction. This sounds like another good one - but maybe a little more of the romance novel style than I would enjoy?

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  4. It sounds like it has some promise. The 30s were not an easy time and the Dust Bowl was awful for so many. Nice, honest review Susan.

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  5. A Promise to Break sounds fascinating. Thank you for sharing.

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  6. I really enjoy historical fiction and this book sounds like a great read.

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