Promises to Keep: A Novel

( 156 )

Overview

A New York Times bestseller and "a poignantly written novel that powerfully celebrates the power of love and friendship" (Chicago Tribune)

Over the course of twelve novels, Jane Green has established herself as one of the preeminent names in women's fiction. In Promises to Keep she weaves a profoundly moving tale that will enthrall both new and old fans.

Callie Perry lights up every room she enters, and adores her settled family life in tony ...

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Promises to Keep

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Overview

A New York Times bestseller and "a poignantly written novel that powerfully celebrates the power of love and friendship" (Chicago Tribune)

Over the course of twelve novels, Jane Green has established herself as one of the preeminent names in women's fiction. In Promises to Keep she weaves a profoundly moving tale that will enthrall both new and old fans.

Callie Perry lights up every room she enters, and adores her settled family life in tony Bedford, New York. Steffi is Callie's younger sister. At thirty, she's still a free spirit bouncing between jobs and boyfriends in Manhattan. Their long-divorced parents, Walter and Honor, share little besides their grown daughters. But when Callie receives a difficult diagnosis, the family will come together for one unforgettable and ultimately life-changing year.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452297173
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/31/2011
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 513,006
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Green

Jane Green was born and brought up in London. After abandoning a Fine Art degree and a stint in journalism, she went into public relations and worked for a time on This Morning. Jane then went back into the newspaper world and became a popular feature writer with the Daily Express, before going freelance and starting her first novel. A string of international bestsellers and marriage to an American later, Jane now lives in Connecticut – but flies home to London as often as four children and lots of animals allow.

Jane's hugely successful books include; Straight Talking, Jemima J., Mr Maybe, Bookends, Babyville, Spellbound, The Other Woman and Life Swap. Her latest novel is Second Chance.

Biography

British import Jane Green is a founding member of the genre known as "chick lit," a literary territory populated by funny, likable, underdog heroines who triumph over life's adversities and find true love in the end. If someone turned Green's life into a novel, she might emerge as a chick-lit heroine herself. She toiled for years in the trenches of entertainment journalism and public relations (two fields that sound far more glamorous than they are!) before moving up to become a popular feature writer for The Daily Express in London.

In 1996, Green took a leap in faith when she left the paper to freelance and work on a novel. Seven months later, she had a publishing deal for her first book, Straight Talking, the saga of a single career girl looking for (what else?) the right man. The novel was a hit in England, and Green was, as she admitted in a Barnes & Noble interview, an "overnight success." The success got even sweeter when her second novel, Jemima J, became an international bestseller. Cosmopolitan called this cheerful, updated Cinderella story "the kind of novel you'll gobble up in a single sitting."

Since then, Green has graduated to more complex, character-driven novels that explore the concerns of real women's lives, from marriage (The Other Woman) to motherhood (Babyville) to midlife crises (Second Chance) -- all served up with her trademark wit and warmth. Whether she has outgrown chick lit or the genre itself is growing up, one thing seems certain: The career of Jane Green is destined for a happy ending.

Good To Know

Some outtakes from our interview with Green:

"My life is actually very boring. The life of a bestselling novelist sounds like it ought to be spectacularly glamorous and fun, but in fact I spend most of my time incognito, and in fact were you to pass me in the street you would think I was just another dowdy suburban mom."

"I'm still a failed artist at heart and never happier than when I'm sitting behind an easel, painting, which is something I rarely do these days, although I have a few of my paintings around the house, competing, naturally, with far greater works."

"I am completely addicted to gossip magazines that are, I have decided, my secret shame. I know everything there is to know about who's been wearing what and where, the only problem is I have an inability to retain it, so although I enjoy it whilst flicking through the pages, as soon as I close the magazine all the information is gone."

"I am a passionate gardener and happiest when outside planting, particularly with the children, who have their own vegetable gardens."

"My favorite way to unwind is with friends, at home, with lots of laughter and lots of delicious food. I'm a horrible baker -- everything collapses and tastes awful -- but a great cook, particularly comfort food: stews and casseroles."

"I have a deep and passionate love of America. It is where I have always thought I would be happiest, and although I miss England desperately, I find that my heart definitely has its home over here."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Mummy
    2. Hometown:
      Westport, Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 31, 1968
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      "Managed to drop out of Fine Art Degree at University."
    2. Website:

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION
Promises to Keep is about the ties that bind and a circle of people united by love, who are there for one another despite sisterly differences, thirty–year–old grudges, and difficult ex–wives. Here, Jane Green has written a novel from the heart, filled with people she knows and lessons she is grateful to have learned.

Callie Perry seems to have figured it all out. She's a wonderful mother of two, wife of a great guy, friend to many, and big sister settled in Bedford, New York, making a good living as a family photographer. Her free–spirited younger sister, Steffi, finally seems to be settling down a bit herself—at least when she discovers that house sitting a big dog in a country house really can compete with a life of ne'er–do–well rocker boyfriends and cramped Manhattan apartments.

Callie's best friend, Lila, is also riding a wave of good fortune. She's finally met the man of her dreams, Ed, a lovable Brit with a wonderful son from a previous marriage. The only problems: Ed comes with a horrific ex–wife and the desire to have more kids, and Lila had long ago decided that kids weren't in her future. But maybe, for such a special guy…

Honor and Walter are Callie's divorced parents who haven't spoken in thirty years. So Callie and Steffi couldn't be more shocked when they learn the truth of what's really going on between them.

At Callie's birthday celebration, her friends gather around her, and her husband, Reece, gives a toast to Callie's four cancer–free years. But when Callie's headaches start up again with fierce intensity, it's hard not to notice that her usual radiance is gone. She is readmitted to the hospital, and the outlook isn't good. The cancer she fought so hard to beat years before has returned in a rare but deadly form called leptomeningeal carcinomatosis. Everyone receives the news nobody wants to hear: If she's lucky, Callie has one year left to enjoy the wonderful life she created, the life she so deserves.

Based in part on Jane Green's experience with losing her dear friend Heidi to cancer, Promises to Keep is her most personal and powerful novel yet. It is about loving and letting go, but it's also about finding one's authentic self, having courage, and living fully a life filled with love.

ABOUT JANE GREEN

Jane Green Warburg has written eleven previous novels as Jane Green, several of which were New York Times bestsellers. A native Londoner, she lives, writes, and cooks in Connecticut with her husband, Ian Warburg, and their blended family of six children.

A CONVERSATION WITH JANE GREEN
Q. "Heidi's Story" reveals that this novel emerged from your personal experience of losing one of your best friends to cancer. How did that affect your writing process? Do you consider this novel more autobiographical than other books you've written?

This isn't Heidi's story, although I hope I have captured something of her spirit, nor is it autobiographical. What it is, however, is the most personal book I have ever written, because I wanted it to be a worthy tribute, and I wrote most of it when I was in the depths of grief. I put a little of me in all my characters, and certainly draw upon the themes of my life for inspiration, but the characters are all very much their own people.

Q. Promises to Keep centers on a profoundly emotional journey for Callie and her loved ones. What kind of emotional journey did you go through while writing the book?

I wrote some of the book while Heidi was ill, and we'd talk about it. I'd tell her about the characters, and it felt easy and fun. Then, as Heidi became sicker, I didn't have the emotional reserves to keep writing, and I didn't start again until after she died. I wrote the book, as I write all of them, at the local library, and found myself regularly stopping to bury my head in my hands and sob. It was draining, and cathartic. I needed to write about it to process my feelings, but it didn't make the loss any easier.

Q. The characters in this novel represent a wide range of parenting styles, shaped in part by gender, generation, and socioeconomic status. What observations or reflections do you have about current parenting trends?

I heard someone say recently that they grew up in a time when adults were the boss, and they are now living in a time when children are the boss, so when is it going to be their turn? It made me laugh and has a familiar ring of truth. Parenting, and particularly other people's parenting, tends to bring out the worst in us—never have I experienced more judgment than at the hands of other mothers, particularly of babies. Thankfully I am now older, and wiser, as are my children, and I think we are all doing the best we can. I like to think that I am raising my children to be adults, to exist as good people in the world, to recognize boundaries, to have good manners, and to respect others.

Q. Why did you decide to include recipes at the end of every chapter?

I am a huge foodie and a cook. I gather easy recipes from all over, create my own, and spend my life showing the people I love that I love them by cooking for them. When I started to write about Steffi and found myself including lavish descriptions of the food, it suddenly seemed obvious to include the recipes.

Q. As Lila prepares for Clay's recital, she thinks: "What on earth is she going to wear? Who, more importantly, does she want to be tonight?" [p. 144]. In this and other sections, the book takes up the question of how appearance and image relate to identity. Why is this theme especially important in a book about contemporary women?

Insecurity seems to be the curse of modern times, and too often we use the external as a form of armor, hoping the right stuff will make us feel good enough, will have others recognize us as being good enough. I don't think this applies to all modern women, but living in an affluent community brings with it a level of competition and brings out our worst insecurities.

Q. While you were writing, did you ever consider rewriting Heidi's history by having Callie survive her second fight with cancer? What made you decide that her death was a necessary part of the story?

I had to deal with my own grief, and this was the only way I knew how. And from the beginning, whatever had happened to Heidi, I knew that Callie wasn't going to make it. I wanted to look at grief, at how it changes things, how it brings people together.

Q. What words or images would you offer to someone whose loved one has been diagnosed with cancer?

I have to say that what happens to Callie occurs in less than 1 percent of cancer sufferers. It is extremely rare, and women reading this book should not be worrying that this will happen to them or those they love. Second, I would say that what I learned throughout my journey with my friend was that love is a verb. Anyone can say the words "I love you," but loving someone requires Acts. Of. Love. It is about putting that person first, making time for her, thinking of what you can do for her to make her happy before she has even had a chance to think about what that might be. And do it now. Not tomorrow. Or next week. Today is really all we have.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • As readers, we get to glimpse the emotional dynamics of several close relationships: Callie and Reece's, Callie and Steffi,'s Ed and Lila's, Honor and Steffi,'s among others. In this way, Promises to Keep reveals various versions of intimacy. Which relationships did you find most intriguing? Which relationship dynamics resonate with your personal experiences?
  • Several characters in this novel grapple with social expectations, trying to balance their authentic selves with what family members and others expect of them. Hoping to be the kind of woman who will be attractive to a handsome Jewish man, Lila "even bought a Goyard bag, except it was from a street vendor in Chinatown and if you look closely you will see it says Coyerd. She didn't think anyone would notice, but when she passed the identikit princesses, she saw their eyes flick disdainfully over the bag, and she knew they knew" [p. 66]. Where else in the book do characters resist or respond to societal expectations?
  • At Callie's birthday party, Reece mentions her struggle with breast cancer four years before, which is when readers first learn of this aspect of her history. By this point in the novel, we already care about Callie and her loved ones. How does knowing about Callie's experience with breast cancer shed new light on her character?
  • Why do you think Jane Green chose the name Honor for Callie and Steffi's mother?
  • Describing Callie getting ready to host her book club, Green writes, "As with so many book clubs, it is less about the book and almost entirely about camaraderie…. Tonight, as with every other Book Club night, the women will dress up, put on makeup, sparkle just a little bit more. Not for their husbands, but for the other women" [p. 36]. How does this description compare with your experience being in a book club?
  • What do the recipes at the end of each chapter add to the novel? Do you like when authors choose to include recipes in novels?
  • Early in her marriage to Walter, Honor "would accompany Mrs. Tollemache on a tour to see how the disadvantaged lived, smiling and shaking gloved hands with those less fortunate, who seemed utterly shell–shocked at the arrival of these perfumed, bejeweled visitors" [p. 179]. Including a detail like "gloved hands" underscores the tensions around class difference. What other details or situations in the book echo this theme?
  • How does the return of Callie's cancer ultimately affect Steffi? Honor? Other characters?
  • "Upstairs, Eliza and Jack are fast asleep in their beds, Eliza with a cashmere sweater of Callie's wrapped around her, which she now refuses to sleep without" [p. 313]. Such small details can be strikingly poignant, even heartbreaking. Do any other sections of the novel stand out to you as especially moving? What coping mechanisms do you rely on to get you through difficult times?
  • As Callie's illness progresses, she begins to talk with her family and friends about death; she requests that they live life for her, that they continue to experience joy even when she cannot. Is this a fair request for Callie to make? Is it possible to live joyfully while grieving a devastating loss?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 156 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(47)

4 Star

(49)

3 Star

(29)

2 Star

(17)

1 Star

(14)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 157 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2010

    yawn....

    I have read every book by Jane Green and loved them. This one-not so much. The story line was not original and it was very weird to have recipes in between the chapters.Even if this book was a homage to her friend who passed away-it still was not a good read
    Don't waste your money

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 20, 2010

    I cried and laughed out loud on the same page.

    I really enjoyed this book. I did find it a little slow to get the sisters straight, at first, but as I got into a couple of chapters, I found myself into their lives; the characters developed as real people.

    I held my 2 year old daughter a little closer after I read it, but I did turn Mickey Mouse on for her,so I could finish the book.

    Very heartwrenching - as life is - good job writing, Jane.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    So-So

    I've read all of Jane Green's books and this was not one of my favorites. The plot line rambles on between too many characters, from too many perspectives and it becomes a little boring to try to keep up. The outcome was predictable and anti climactic. It is honorable that this was written as a tribute to her friend, but she's definitely done better.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2010

    Jane Green's best yet!!

    I've read all of Jane Green's books and this is the best yet!! The story is so touching and made me cry. If you love chit lit as much as do, this is one to add to your list!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2010

    I cried

    This was a great read. My only compliant is that product's were mentioned a lot in this book - made me feel like I was being advertised to...

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2014

    Rjum

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    n nriunfmjnjun nikun jnuo

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2014

    Enjoyable

    A story about family and new beginings.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2013

    good book

    good read but tearjerker...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    My favorite novel by Jane Green!

    This was one of my favorite books by Jane Green! A very inspiring story of cancer, and as always, Cassandra Campbell is exceptional as the audio performer. However, would love to have a print copy of the book or e-book in order to dive into all the divine recipes. I found myself wanting to record them all – as sounded wonderful!

    Jane did an incredible job writing this story, as motivation from her own friendship of a dear friend with cancer. This was truly a love story of family, friends, love and loss. I loved the characters and the different personalities ---the vegan tidbits, cooking, recipes, and the cottage in the country, the sisters bond, Steffi, the best friend, parents reuniting, and most of all… Callie and her love for her family, and even maintaining her humor even during her sickness. A must read!

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  • Posted February 1, 2013

    A pleasant book to read, heartfelt, and I enjoyed the recipes. I

    A pleasant book to read, heartfelt, and I enjoyed the recipes. It was a little bit slow, but I didn't mind at all. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2012

    Ok

    Liked her other books more. This book seem to drag



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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2012

    Good, but like earlier works better

    I agree with the points of many of the reviewers here - recipes were a little misplaced - the main character was not a chef or restaurant owner - but they looked good! The story was good, although I did not understand what seemed to be an attack on mothers without children (when writing about the best friend) that seemed to come out of nowhere...seemed like the author wanted to stick it to anyone who ever found her children annoying perhaps-? Anyway, it took a lot of courage to write a story like this about a close friend dying of cancer. This was probably a very difficult story for the author to tell, and for that I applaud her (not that she should care if any one of us gives our approval or not). The story was heart-wrenching, and told well.

    I really loved Bookends. That has been my very favorite novel of hers. I hope she can write a book like that again. But maybe with life's shifts and changes, novels like this one are the direction. But we won't know unless we keep reading her work. :)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2012

    I would say its my fav

    I really enjoyed this book because of the intertwined charachters (a Green staple, so I am unsure of why people are complaining). It really foxused on the life and struggles people deal with watching it end. Very sad for me. I creid my eyes out,as I knew I would. The recipies were so so but they did not bother me - just skip past if they do. The only complaint I have is that I yerned for more story at the end. I LOVE Green, but I wont re-read this one .... it just tore me up. Babyville, now that one is my fav. Enjoy Jane,as she is FABULOUS!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2012

    not as good as the older novels

    I love Jane Green, have read most of her novels. I find that her newer novels seem to lack that witty British humor that I truly loved about her style. If you want to read some really good novels by Jane Green, pick up the older ones like Jemima J, Mr. Maybe, Babyville, Bookends, To Have and To Hold. I just found this novel to be a bit boring at times.

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  • Posted November 8, 2011

    This book was rushed!

    Very cool that she wrote it to remember her friend. Not so cool that no one bothered to read or edit it before it went to print. There are meaningless characters that are in the beginning of the book that you never hear anything about. To be fair the end of the book was well written and emotional. But you could probably just read the last 50 pages and not waste your time on the beginning. Read something, ANYTHING else by Green. This is a HUGE waste of time and money.

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  • Posted November 2, 2011

    Highly Recommended - Jane Green is always a must read!!

    Jane Green never disappoints her readers, each of her books are as compelling as the last. She creates lovable characters that feel like part of your family...you just want to keep reading more about them!

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  • Posted October 30, 2011

    Very Emotional Read

    This book was fabulous. I stayed up about 3 hours past my bedtime to read it. It's very emotional and has a lot of characters, but worth every minute. I still catch myself thinking about this book, even after finishing it a month ago. I don't want to give anything away, but get a box of tissues ready. I have recommended this book to ALL my friends.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2011

    Couldn't put it down!

    Loved this book! Stayed up entirely too late in order to finish it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Boring

    This book was definitely a waste of time and money. It's boring, takes a long time to actually get into it, and basically has no plot. My favorite part of the book were the recipes scattered throughout. I liked the fact that it alternated between a lot of characters with different personalities, however the book all in all was really boring.

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  • Posted April 27, 2011

    love this book!!!

    I just recently stumbled upon Jane Green. This book made me laugh and cry, and i became so attached to the characters....something very hard for me to do! Jane Green really knows how to grab the reader's attention!

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