Friday, August 3, 2012

Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke

This historical novel starts right before the Titanic sets sail from Ireland to England and then on to America.  Michael is a young teenager who stows away on the Titanic and runs into Owen, a young man going to America to help his aunt and uncle with their gardening business. He hopes to get his sister Annie out from under the control of their hateful aunt in England and bring her to America, but can't do that until the business is established.  He has felt responsible for her since their parents passed away a few years ago, but all of his plans change the night the Titanic sinks.  Michael ends up going to the aunt and uncle in Owen's stead and vowing to bring Annie over as soon as he can.  Annie goes into a deep depression after her brother dies and she blames Michael for a while, but they soon start writing letters to each other and eventually feel something more. Years have passed by now and she is nearing her eighteenth birthday, after which she plans to leave for America.  But her aunt has a few tricks up her sleeve and no one has anticipated the depth of the aunt's hatred for Annie or what lengths she will go to to ruin her life. World War I breaks out and Annie decides to disappear without a word to anyone in order to abide by her aunt's wishes, but that doesn't sit too well with Michael, who determines to track her down. 

My thoughts as I read this book was that it was very wordy.  It seems like the characters' emotions were explained to death.  I was also frustrated that questions were raised about what happened to Michael's sister, but were never really explained.  That felt like a possible opening for a sequel.  I like history, so I was a little disappointed with the little time her characters spend on the Titanic, but I did appreciate the section focusing on World War I.  It was interesting to learn about the nurses and ambulance drivers in France. I did like the characters, but Annie seemed extremely self-sacrificing and not quite believable.  Sometimes it seemed like she didn't do the logical and seemingly obvious thing that could have prevented these complicated situations, but I guess we wouldn't have a book then!  I felt frustrated with her, her aunt, and the whole situation the aunt creates because of her bitterness and anger.  The author does show what havoc these emotions can wreak on yourself and others, but I would have liked a little more back story as to why the aunt is this way. We are told that her father was also like this, but her sister, Owen and Annie's mother, turned out differently.  Michael was my favorite character in the story because of the amazing journey he takes, not just physically crossing oceans, but emotionally and spiritually.  He came from an abusive childhood and because of one man's brief influence, was welcomed into the first home he'd known since his parents died as a member of the family, was introduced to the Savior, and was able to help toward building a business with this new family of his. Owen was also very admirable for the brief time he was in the book. His example is something to aspire to.

Cathy Gohlke has won two Christy awards for previous books, which I will definitely check out.  Even my favorite author has had some books I just haven't liked, so that might be the case with this one.  Overall, I somewhat liked the book.  Parts of it were interesting, but a lot of parts felt long and drawn out.

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