The Promise

( 3 )

Overview


From the author of The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, shortlisted for the Orange Award for New Writers and longlisted for the Orange Prize.

1900. Young pianist Catherine Wainwright flees the fashionable town of Dayton, Ohio in the wake of a terrible scandal. Heartbroken and facing destitution, she finds herself striking up correspondence with a childhood admirer, the recently widowed Oscar Williams. In desperation she agrees to marry him, but when Catherine travels to ...

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The Promise

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Overview


From the author of The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, shortlisted for the Orange Award for New Writers and longlisted for the Orange Prize.

1900. Young pianist Catherine Wainwright flees the fashionable town of Dayton, Ohio in the wake of a terrible scandal. Heartbroken and facing destitution, she finds herself striking up correspondence with a childhood admirer, the recently widowed Oscar Williams. In desperation she agrees to marry him, but when Catherine travels to Oscar's farm on Galveston Island, Texas—a thousand miles from home—she finds she is little prepared for the life that awaits her. The island is remote, the weather sweltering, and Oscar's little boy Andre is grieving hard for his lost mother. And though Oscar tries to please his new wife, the secrets of the past sit uncomfortably between them. Meanwhile for Nan Ogden, Oscar’s housekeeper, Catherine’s sudden arrival has come as a great shock. For not only did she promise Oscar’s first wife that she would be the one to take care of little Andre, but she has feelings for Oscar which she is struggling to suppress. And when the worst storm in a generation descends, the women will find themselves tested as never before.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 01/20/2014
This second engaging novel from Weisgarber (The Personal History of Rachel DuPree) might have been written a century ago. Set in 1900, the story follows a young bride named Catherine Wainwright, who faces an array of challenges after impulsively leaving her Dayton, Ohio home and heading west to wed. The story has shades of Willa Cather, Sinclair Lewis, and Conrad Richter, and the prose has a streak of formality that gives the book a period flavor, but Catherine’s first-person narration (and later that of Nan Ogden, the housekeeper at Catherine’s new home) is also appealingly immediate. Catherine received acclaim and gained a bit of regional celebrity as a pianist in Dayton. But a casual friendship with a married man causes provincial tongues to wag, and the gossip leads to canceled concerts and lost teaching opportunities. When Oscar Williams, a childhood friend and prosperous rancher in Texas who has recently become a widower, sends Catherine a marriage proposal, she immediately accepts. It’s a wonderful setup for solid storytelling: the city girl learns to do all the hard work of a farm wife and, in the process, gets to know her instant husband and his son, Andre. At first, Catherine and Oscar are less than completely honest with each other, and as truths are revealed, the plot thickens. Warm and winning. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

“This second engaging novel from Weisgarber . . . has shades of Willa Cather, Sinclair Lewis, and Conrad Richter, and the prose has a streak of formality that gives the book a period flavor, but Catherine’s first-person narration (and later that of Nan Ogden, the housekeeper at Catherine’s new home) is also appealingly immediate. It’s a wonderful setup for solid storytelling . . . warm and winning.”— Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Excellent use of historical detail and strong character development mark this second novel by Weisgarber, whose 2010 debut, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, was long-listed for the Orange Prize, and it should attract wide readership.” —Library Journal

“Based on the true story of one of the deadliest storms in American history, The Promise is the work of a skilled storyteller. Weisgarber (The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, 2010) has written a beautiful, deeply engaging story about love, loss, and the power of secrets to change our lives.” —Booklist

“Weisgarber has delivered a second novel of finely drawn characters anchored by historical events. It’s the sort of tale that you find yourself staying up late at night to finish.”—Dallas Morning News

"A gripping, beautiful story of loyalties and hidden loves. Ann Weisgarber's pitch-perfect characters will break your heart and keep you guessing right to the very end." —Carol Rifka Brunt, New York Times bestselling author of Tell The Wolves I’m Home

“In this superb novel, Ann Weisgarber has created voices so convincing it is as if the dead themselves have arisen to tell their story. The Promise is a novel that, once started, few readers will be able to put down.”
— Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena

"Ann Weisgarber's The Promise is set against the backdrop of the worst natural disaster of the 20th century in the U.S., but the weather is no match for [this] story of two women's love for the same man. The coastal isolation of Galveston shows Weisgarber's ability to make a place come alive, and the real storm in the book is the demand of family, the hope of love, and the impossibility of reinvention. Fans of A Reliable Wife will find The Promise to be a book they can latch onto." —Alexi Zentner, author of Touch and The Lobster Kings

"Set against the worst natural disaster in twentieth century American history, The Promise is a riveting tale, told in lean luminous prose, of the power of love and the frailty of the human condition. Weisgarber knows storms, those that devastate the land and those that rage in the human heart. Her characters will live in your imagination long after you’ve turned the last deeply moving page." —Ellen Feldman, author of Next to Love and Scottsboro

"Weisgarber's conjuring of Galveston Island at the turn of the 20th century is miraculous--a sensory feast. Narrated by a pair of compellingly divergent female voices, The Promise is at once an American story of second chances, an achingly felt love triangle, and a psychological tour de force. I am stunned. Rarely do novelists so happily marry depth of insight to unflagging suspense." —Lin Enger, author of Undiscovered Country

"The Promise is a gripping drama, at once personal and macrocosmic, a powerful recreation of the hurricane that devastates Galveston in 1900--and the fragile but hopeful life that a young woman is rebuilding there after fleeing from a scandalous past. I was captivated by Weisgarber's deft use of voices, her careful delineation of character, and her ability to pull the reader into a different time and place." —Chitra Divakaruni, author of Mistress of Spices and Oleander Girl

"The Promise is a thrilling and heartbreaking novel. Told in alternating voices, with perfect pitch, it brings the past alive with a vivid sense of place and time. This is a story of the enduring bonds between people, of shame and redemption, of promises kept. No one has ever dramatized a cataclysmic storm better, the fury and aftermath. It is a novel of the struggle, the work, and the power of love." —Robert Morgan, author of The Road From Gap Creek

"The Promise takes a historical premise, the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, but makes the story of two women and the way they try to live and love in a hard hard world as affecting and evocative as any storm." —Susan Straight, author of Between Heaven and Here and Highwire Moon

Library Journal
02/01/2014
At the turn of the 20th century, ostracized by society following a scandalous romantic affair, pianist Catherine Wainright knows she must leave Dayton. There will be no more money coming in from her parents or musical engagements. In desperation, she accepts a proposal of marriage from a childhood friend, Oscar Williams, now a farmer on the island of Galveston, TX. Oscar had lost his wife to malaria, and his young son had become attached to their housekeeper, Nan. When Catherine arrives, Nan decides this new wife is far too highfalutin and hopes Oscar and Catherine's hasty marriage won't take. Yet when Catherine plays the piano, everyone in the household is enchanted. Though she is filled with doubts, Catherine begins to fall for Oscar. Then when a hurricane hits Galveston, matters of survival become paramount. VERDICT Excellent use of historical detail and strong character development mark this second novel by Weisgarber, whose 2010 debut, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, was long-listed for the Orange Prize, and it should attract wide readership.—Keddy Ann Outlaw, Houston
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781629142364
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
  • Publication date: 4/1/2014
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 130,774
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Ann Weisgarber

Ann Weisgarber was born and raised in Kettering, Ohio. She has lived in Boston, Massachusetts, and Des Moines, Iowa, but now splits her time between Sugar Land, Texas, and Galveston, Texas. Her first novel The Personal History of Rachel DuPree was longlisted for the Orange Prize and shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

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(2)

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(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 21, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I read Ann Weisgarber's debut novel, The Personal History of Ra

    I read Ann Weisgarber's debut novel, The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, in 2011 and was immediately captured by her storytelling.

    Weisgarber's latest book, The Promise, did the same, holding me from first page to last.

    Catherine Wainwright is a talented pianist, making her own way in 1899 Ohio. But she makes the mistake of believing a man's interest in her is true. She is marked as a fallen woman and shunned by her family, friends and acquaintances. The man has no intention of leaving his wife. With no one willing to hire or work with her and her debts mounting, Catherine's plight grows increasingly desperate. She casts about for a man that has not heard of her background, sending out letters to renew ties. One man replies - Oscar Williams. Oscar left Ohio as a young man and eventually landed in Galveston, Texas where he makes his living as a farmer. His wife Bernadette has just died, leaving him to raise their four year old son Andre. A local girl, Nan Ogden made Bernadette a promise - to look after Andre. But when Oscar brings home Catherine as his new wife, worlds, emotions and more collide.

    Weisgarber has again created very strong, but different, female characters in Catherine and Nan. Both are well drawn, but I found myself drawn more to Nan. Her down to earth, practical attitude belies a caring heart. She is astute enough to sense the attraction between Catherine and Oscar and realize what is inevitable. I had a harder time with Catherine. Although her character transforms as the relationships between the three main characters evolve, I still had a difficult time accepting her.

    "Oscar ate with the neighbour men and danced with the women, rural unrefined people, but that hadn't mattered to him. He enjoyed their company. He was without pretense and this, I realized, was what drew me to him."

    She, howeve,r is pretending, hiding her past and the desperate need to flee circumstances of her own making.

    The narrative is alternated between Catherine and Nan, giving us an insider's view of each woman's thoughts. Interestingly, Oscar is never given a voice of his own. Rather we learn of and about him from each woman's point of view.

    Weisgarber again draws on historical events to set the backdrop for her novel. I was unaware of the geography and history of Galveston Island. (I did, of course, have to Google it after I finished the book. ) 1900 Galveston was home to one of the US's greatest natural disasters. A hurricane inundated the island and city, killing 6,000 people in the span of a few hours. And this event is pivotal to Weisgarber's story.

    The setting is a character in the book as well, the heat and the storm almost tangible in Weisgarber's beautifully descriptive passages. Weisgarber has written a story rich with emotion, detail and history - definitely a recommended read.

    The Promise has been shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2014

    Excellent!!!!!!

    If I could give 10 stars, I would. Wonderful characters, a gripping plot, unususal setting, and very well written. This book should win a prize. It is not for the faint hearted because this is a gripping story based on an actual occurrance. Another great book based on history is "The Partisan" by William Jarvis. Both deserve A++++++++

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  • Posted April 8, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    This is a rare book. The author is outstanding and the story is

    This is a rare book. The author is outstanding and the story is captivating. I was swept up in the telling of it and with the very distinct characters that inhabit the pages. Truly one of those "you can't put it down" books of the season. It's luminous and heart-rending.

    I don't know much about Galveston, Texas, having never been there, but Ms Weisgarber brings it to life vividly. She sharpens our senses to the salty air of the beach, the weathered landscape and the beaten habitations of Oscar's farm. I became anxious as Catherine first crossed the waters in her train and throughout her trip there. And I felt the anxiety and terror throughout the storm the whole family faced...both real and psychological. Matchless writing that garnered many visceral and emotional reactions from me!

    The characterization is strong here. I truly felt the isolation of Catherine as she faced first her deceptions, and then her personal fears and love. I struggled with Oscar as he tried to understand and find a heart's balance. And I sensed the longing and pain in Nan. The confusion in little Andre. And much more. Ann Weisgarber is a master at rendering the perfect beat needed for each character in their settings.

    This is a beautiful book full of longing, love, heart-breaking reality and a sense of lost life regained. I loved it. I hope you'll give it a try. It's the perfect book group book...lots of meat here...lots of situations to discuss.

    5 stars Deborah/TheBookishDame

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