Book Review: The Promise Between Us by Barbara Claypole White
This past October, I flew to New Mexico for a writers’ retreat (thanks Women’s Fiction Writers’ Association) and the first person I met at the airport was Barbara Claypole White. We were waiting for our shuttle to the hotel and she was as warm and cheerful as the Albuquerque sunshine. We easily chatted from curb to curb and throughout our five days together. I am so happy to be given the opportunity to review The Promise Between Us, Barbara’s fifth novel, for TLC Book Tours.
In reading The Promise Between Us, I realize that I really had a limited grasp of the ongoing suffering and pain that people with OCD experience and battle daily, hourly, minute by minute. This book, for me, was eye opening and pulled me into the thoughts and incessant voice of OCD. I have a much greater understanding and compassion for people struggling with mental illness.
In my work as a birth and postpartum doula for years, I had hours and hours of training, read hundreds of pages of information on postpartum mood disorders from baby blues to postpartum anxiety and OCD, but not until reading The Promise Between Us did I fully comprehend the stronghold it has on a person. Claypole White shines a spotlight on anxiety disorder, pulling the reader right into the thick of things. We see anxiety as a result of trauma as compared to anxiety as mental illness and how both affect not only the person struggling, but the families and friends surrounding them.
“Why were these horrid thoughts taking up a whole room in her brain? No, multiple rooms!”
“… closed her eyes as tight as she could and willed the very weird thoughts to vanish. But when she opened her eyes, those thoughts were worse. Stronger. Bigger. And she didn’t want any of them.”
As the story unfolds, I felt secrets bubbling and wonderful tension. I cared about this flawed and hurt and loving cast of characters and really liked how the ending was satisfying without being too neat and tidy, without being expected.
The Promise Between Us explores motherhood: the deepest of loves, the fears, the messes and the joys. We see a step mother figuring out how to parent a child this isn’t her own, and a mother trying to mother a child she didn’t think she could adequately care for. As readers, as mothers, we can empathize with, and root for, them both as they grow and support each other for the child’s benefit.
Art and sculpture are important in the story and in managing OCD. It made me think about a friend who founded an organization in Rhode Island, Peace Love Studios, which uses painting and art as a tool for coping with mental health disorders like OCD. The performing arts also have an important role in this book touching on acting as a career but also for survival. Do OCD and anxiety require sufferers to pretend, to play act? Is that the best way to handle things or is honesty and openness better?
Layered and thought-provoking, The Promise Between Us is a powerful story of coping with mental illness and how love prevails for one unconventional family.
About The Promise Between Us:
From the bestselling author of The Perfect Son comes a hopeful tale of redemption, renewal, and the promise of love.
Metal artist Katie Mack is living a lie. Nine years ago she ran away from her family in Raleigh, North Carolina, consumed by the irrational fear that she would harm Maisie, her newborn daughter. Over time she’s come to grips with the mental illness that nearly destroyed her, and now funnels her pain into her art. Despite longing for Maisie, Katie honors an agreement with the husband she left behind—to change her name and never return.
But when she and Maisie accidentally reunite, Katie can’t ignore the familiarity of her child’s compulsive behavior. Worse, Maisie worries obsessively about bad things happening to her pregnant stepmom. Katie has the power to help, but can she reconnect with the family she abandoned?
To protect Maisie, Katie must face the fears that drove her from home, accept the possibility of love, and risk exposing her heart-wrenching secret.
About Barbara Claypole White
Bestselling author Barbara Claypole White creates hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Originally from England, she writes and gardens in the forests of North Carolina where she lives with her beloved OCD family. Her novels include The Unfinished Garden, The In-Between Hour, The Perfect Son, andEchoes of Family. The Promise Between Us, a story of redemption, sacrifice, and OCD, has a publication date of January 16th, 2018. She is also an OCD Advocate for the A2A Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes advocacy over adversity. To connect with Barbara, please visit www.barbaraclaypolewhite.com, or follow her on Facebook. She’s always on Facebook.