A Promise to Remember

This is sort of a transition post. We’ve had wonderful discussions about theme and Christian fiction, stemming from a comment Andrew Peterson made in answer to a question that came up in another blog.

Ironically, I was reading in Jerry JenkinsWriting for the Soul (Writers Digest, 2006), given out to all conferees by Mount Hermon at the Christian Writers Conference. In the forward, Francine Rivers wrote “We know it is one thing to be a Christian who writes, and quite another to be a Christian writer.”

I thought, Uh, we do? And what are the differing characteristics of the two? No disrespect to Ms. Rivers, who I know little about, but I tend to believe it is a good thing, a very good thing to wrestle with what it means to be a Christian (who we are) who writes (what we do) and/or a Christian writer (a writer informed by the change Christ has made in my life)—in short, this whole “what is Christian fiction” discussion we’ve been having.

But I’m getting sidetracked. What I really want to talk about is a book that illustrates what good Christian fiction is. I’m referring to Katie Cushman‘s debut novel, A Promise to Remember. Christy Award winning author John Olson, remember, touted this book as “flat out brilliant.”

I have to be honest. I purposefully slide this one down on my to-be-read pile after reading Sharon Souza’s Every Good and Perfect Gift (a book I reviewed here.) Understand, my delay had to do completely with my wanting to be in the right frame of mind. Knowing the premise of A Promise to Remember, I expected to be crying a lot.

The back of the book gives hints: “Two wounded women,” “the accident that changes everything,” and from James Scott Bell, “A beautifully written and heartfelt novel about loss …” Well, there’s more. But I knew what caused the wound, what was the loss. As you may remember, Katie was the driver of our little carpool up to Mount Hermon from Santa Barbara these last two years. And of course we talked about our writing. So I knew.

What I was ignoring was the rest of Jim Bell’s quote: “… about loss, love and forgiveness.”

Long story short, I got home from Mount Hermon and started in on Promise. By Monday, I knew I wouldn’t do anything else until I finished the book. It was gripping, real, tragic, triumphant, hopeful, engaging.

The story begins after loss has already occurred, and this had an odd effect on me. I didn’t feel the grief I was reading about. The book wasn’t really about that. It was about the repercussions of the grief, and those I entered into with my heart as well as with my head. But it was such a tangle. There was conflict, conflict, conflict, but who was the antagonist? Lots of people to root for, but if one came out ahead, it seemed the others would lose.

Wonderful tension. Great characters. Engaging from page one. Never coming across as succumbing to the victim syndrome, though certainly that would have fit the circumstances. But these characters really were larger than life, even as they felt so shrunken by their grief.

Powerful story. Now I want to talk to Katie about her theme. I did ask which she starts with when she writes a novel (her second is in the editing process, I believe), and surprisingly she said, Plot. (Score one for Jim Bell in his debate with Nick Harrison—and I’ll tell you about that next week when I get back to the Mount Hermon Report).

Recommendation? Must read. A Promise to Remember is one of those books that can touch a reader no matter what your preferred genre. Yes, the main characters are women, but men play a prominent role. It’s not a shoot-em-up story, but it is ripe with real life drama. Men will “get” this book, too. And readers who don’t pick it up will miss out.

5 Comments

  1. “In the forward, Francine Rivers wrote “We know it is one thing to be a Christian who writes, and quite another to be a Christian writer.”

    I think this quotation reflects that Francine Rivers wrote successfully in the secular market before having/renewing a life-changing experience with Jesus Christ. Her first offering as a result of that commitment was the “anointed” Redeeming Love.

    I don’t toss out the term “anointed” to many novels, in fact, very few. This one is hands down anointed. A classic, blessed by God Himself.

    Perhaps the one you just read falls into this category . . .

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  2. How do you think it compares with something like, say, Kristin Lavransdatter? (Oh, if you haven’t read that, go to the library post-haste and get the trilogy-in-one, Undset translated by Tina Nunally.)

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  3. Thanks, Becky! I just happen to be between books now, so I just found out which one was finding its way to the top of my to-be-read pile.

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  4. […] and author of A Promise to Remember (Bethany). You can read my review, which I posted a week ago, here. Besides being a brilliant writer, Katie is a kind, funny, interesting, organized, smart woman of […]

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  5. […] Julie Carobini – Chocolate Beach Kathryn Cushman – A Promise to Remember Sharon Hinck – The Secret Life of Becky Miller; Renovating Becky Miller Kathleen Popa – To […]

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