In A Promise Kept by Robin Lee Hatcher, Allison Kavanagh moves into her aunt’s cabin in the woods of Idaho after a divorce that she did not want, prayed against, and was certain that God would prevent. In fact, she had been fairly sure that God had impressed upon her that He would heal her marriage. Tony was an alcoholic and his drinking had grown more out of control until it threatened the safety of their family, particularly their daughter. Allison had issued an ultimatum – and Tony had left. Now Allison’s not certain whether she knows how to ascertain His voice and leading at all, and she feels like a failure as a wife and a Christian.
Allison discovers a hope chest with photos, her aunt’s journals, and a wedding dress. She decides to pass the long winter nights by organizing the photos and reading the journals. A number of photos of her single aunt show her in close company with a handsome young man when they were both in their twenties. Did Aunt Emma have a beau that no one had known about?
As Allison settles into small town life and her “new normal,” she begins to heal emotionally and spiritually. Getting to know a new friend and getting back into church and her Bible help along those lines. Thanks largely to her daughter, she has several encounters with Tony and notices apparent changes in him, but after the numerous cycles they went through in their marriage, she is wary of trusting that the changes are permanent. And then when she least expects it, God shows her that His way and timing of keeping His promises may be different from hers, but He does keep them.
This story was largely based on author Robin Lee Hatcher’s own life. It’s not an exact replication, and there are differences between the circumstances and personalities of all involved. Oddly, some of the points of the story that some have criticized as “fairy-taleish” are the most true parts. I appreciated Robin’s note to readers at the end with a bit of a window into her own story, and I am thankful she and her husband were willing to share their story with others.
I wanted to read this book because I enjoy Robin’s books, especially her contemporary stories; because her stories are usually set in Idaho, and my husband is from ID; and because my own father was an alcoholic. My own parents’ story was closer to Emma’s than Allison’s or Robin’s; their marriage was not healed, but I am thankful God did heal my father of his alcoholism and save him, also in a time and way totally unexpected but shining forth with His grace. And I am thankful for the reminder Allison’s mother gave to her that while “God hated divorce, He did not hate the divorced. God loved her and wanted His best for her. Her life was not over. God still had a purpose and a plan for her. All she had to do was trust Him.”
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)