I’m not going to blast a fanfare or make any sort of grand proclamation about my return to this blog. The fact of the matter is that it took me a while to decide whether or not I wanted to and whether what I built in the months I was blogging was something I even wanted anymore. In the last couple of months, a lot has changed. I’ve changed. I’ve become stronger, more sure of myself, who I am and what I want. I’ve learned how to love myself and take care of me. I’ve reaffirmed my belief in forgiveness. And somewhere along the way I found my voice.
What I’ve been writing on this blog up to this point has been a mix of many things, but somewhere in that mix is what I THOUGHT it meant to be a “food blogger.” I wasn’t always true to myself. While I completely respect people who do this, I don’t want to take pictures of all my food. I don’t want to feel pressured to share everything that goes in my mouth or feel that if I don’t exercise every day or eat greek yogurt or oatmeal for breakfast, I’m a failure. You see, I’m flawed, but that’s what makes me me. And every single one of us is our own person, with something different and unique to offer. So, I’ll still post recipes and share some food pictures, but there are so many other things that I have to say, to talk about. And I think those are just as valid. This is still a food blog, but it’s also going to be so much more.
On that note, let’s jump right in. A few weeks ago, I had (and this is a HUGE coincidence), I had just finished reading a book by one of my favorite authors, Jane Green, when an email popped into my inbox. It was an inquiry from a publishing house asking if i’d like to review an advance copy of Jane Green’s latest novel. I really try to refrain from accepting many free products, but I JUMPED at this one. Jane Green wrote “Jemima J,” my all time favorite book. It pretty much changed my life and if you haven’t read it already, please do. It’s a MUST READ, especially if you have ever struggled with body image or your weight. Trust me on this one.
I digress. The book “Promises to Keep” arrived in my mailbox two days later and I immediately dove in headfirst. Let me start off by saying that this is by no means, a beach read. It’s an intense and serious book, but it is incredibly uplifting.
Now, I’m supposed to tell you that there are fabulous recipes- some are Jane’s originals, other are “borrowed”- at the end of every chapter. I actually haven’t tried any yet, although some of them sound quite good, such as the pumpkin gingerbread trifle, wild mushroom polenta with mascarpone and apple and almond pudding, the latter two of which I’ll be trying this weekend. I assume this is why I was offered the book, but I didn’t like this book for the recipes. I liked it for the really important content- the story itself.
What I really want to talk about is the writing. Jane wrote the book for her friend, Heidi, who died seven months after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. From what I read, they were extremely close and Jane was with Heidi through her short journey, attending treatments with her and spending time with her. While this is not the story of Heidi, it is a stunning exploration of human relationships- family, friends and the complex dynamics that can exist. As she builds the story, Jane visits each character and spends time with them, allowing the reader to really connect with and understand their personalities and their psyches’. The book continually shifts perspectives, which some people might find unnerving, but I appreciated because you get a MUCH more well- rounded and developed story when you have a greater understanding of the characters.
In the case of “Promises to Keep” this means that the reader response is intense. Although you fall hard when the characters do, the same happens when they go in the opposite direction. Jane’s ability to evoke emotion in her reader has always struck me as such a powerful talent.
This is the story of two sisters, a best friend and their respective lives. Each woman is completely different from the others- in her life situation and circumstances, but I think there’s a little of each woman in all of us, so while one may be more relatable for a particular reader, all of us can relate to each of them on some level. However, when tragedy strikes, the differences and lines that divide them seem to blur and disappear. It changes each of them fundamentally and brings a vulnerability that endears them to the reader.
I am uncertain how much I can give away with this review, but I will say that this is a truly wonderful story. I saw so much of myself in Steffi- the younger sister who is starting to find her way in life, and it was her progression throughout the book that I could relate to the most, but it was Callie, the older sister, that I could see myself becoming someday. The family dynamics were imperfect and at times, chaotic, but isn’t that the way it always is?
“Promises to Keep” deals with very difficult subject matter. It gives an intimate look at the gory details of cancer and the complications- not only what happens to your body, but what happens to the people who surround the one afflicted- pain, but also, ultimately, how one can find strength in the most dire and difficult of circumstances. Jane Green handles this with dignity.
The publishing company has graciously offered to give away one copy of “Promises to Keep.” To enter to win, just leave me a comment telling me if you’ve ever read any of Jane Green’s novels and if you haven’t, tell me your absolute MUST READ. My top choices? Well, “Promises to Keep” is a great read if you don’t mind intense subject matter, but Jemima J, also by Jane Green, and another book called “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford. I just read this last night and it’s incredible. So, what are your recs? I’m a book fiend and I’m looking for my next good fix.