2017 Reviews · contemporary fiction · Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday Book Review: The Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth


Welcome to a weekly post, Throwback Thursday. This weekly book review post is a way to share some old favourites, books that were published over a year ago and most importantly those books that have been languishing on the to be read pile for far too long!

Synopsis:the mothers promise small

Three women, one girl and the vow that binds them.

Alice and her daughter Zoe have been a team of two all their lives. They’ve never needed anyone else – until Alice gets sick.

Alice reaches out to two near-strangers: Kate, her oncology nurse, and Sonja, her social worker. As the lives of the three women become inextricably tied, a chain of events is set into motion, forcing them to confront their deepest fears and secrets.

My review:

Sally Hepworth is one of those authors that I just adore. I keep coming back for more! I have read and loved both Hepworth’s previous novels, The Secrets of Midwives and The Things We Keep. I know tissues are always an essential accompaniment to Hepworth’s novels, but it is worth the emotional strain! This time around Hepworth presents her readers with an intense story, centered on the lives of four different women, who are thrown together through the treatment of Alice Stanhope’s ovarian cancer diagnosis.

Alice and Zoe Stanhope have a special and unbreakable bond. All they have is each other. With no family, friends or father figure in their lives, they have managed with only each other to lean on. Times have been tough for this little family unit, Zoe has struggled with social anxiety since beginning school and Alice has worked tirelessly to support her daughter as a single parent. Things get even tougher for the two when Alice gets very sick and is soon diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer.  Suddenly, life changes in an instant for sheltered Zoe. She is thrust into the care of strangers, while her mother undergoes the battle of her life. It is a situation that brings strangers into Alice and Zoe’s solitary life. Through the help of oncology nurse Kate and social worker Sonja, this mother and daughter receive the support they need at this time of crisis. It is an experience that forces Alice and Zoe, along with those helping them, to confront the personal demons they have kept at bay for too long. The Mother’s Promise is a beautiful and touching testament to a mother’s love, as well as the strength of the human spirit in a critical situation.

The Mother’s Promise, the third book by Australian author Sally Hepworth, had me simultaneously reaching for the tissues to laugh and cry. Hepworth carefully balances a very emotional story with moments of poignancy and humour which touched my soul. It is another fine effort from an author that I have very much come to love.

Hepworth’s latest very neatly spins the tale of four different women’s lives into one cohesive and unforgettable tale. Main character Alice, who receives the worst news imaginable, that she has terminal ovarian cancer is the glue that holds all these characters together. Alice’s story is closely linked to her daughter’s Zoe, who not only experiences a huge growth in character as the novel progresses, but it helps readers appreciate the difficult world a person suffering from social anxiety must deal with. Running alongside Alice and Zoe’s story is Kate, the oncology nurse who Alice turns to in her time of need. Kate’s story is also not a straightforward one. Kate suffers from infertility and the heartbreaking experiences she has while trying to conceive form a noteworthy chunk of this novel. Rounding off the four perspectives covered in The Mother’s Promise is that of Sonja, the social worker assigned to oversee Alice’s case. Sonja’s story explores issues of family violence, abuse and rape, also difficult areas. Hepworth is extremely mindful of treating all these strenuous subjects with the respect and understanding they deserve.

An area that really hit home for me in The Mother’s Promise was the scenario Alice and Zoe found themselves in. A seriously ill mother and dependent child, with no support network to call on in a time of need shocked me. It was quite the wake-up call and allowed me to view the fact that I take for granted the wonderful army of people I have surrounded myself with. It is hard to imagine a family unit, or an individual literally having no one to turn to when a time of crisis occurs, but The Mother’s Promise helped me to see that this may well be a reality for some.

Hepworth covers a lot of ground in her third novel. She competently explores social anxiety, infertility, ovarian cancer and family violence. I came away from the novel feeling both better educated and attached the stories of the people experiencing these issues in their lives. In a way, it could be said that Hepworth works to subtly raise our awareness of some of these issues through her compelling narrative and character set.

As I mentioned above, this is the story of four women in the one beautifully rendered narrative. I will say that the youngest protagonist Zoe shines bright in this novel. It is Zoe’s story that seems to have the biggest impact and I relished watching her metamorphosis from a scared little girl crippled by social anxiety, into a young woman who is able to take control of her life. The sections of the narrative involving Zoe were Hepworth’s best.

Well, I sobbed a lot, laughed, learnt about some important health issues.  I had my heart torn in two more than once, but I thank Sally Hepworth for writing and sharing The Mother’s Promise with her readers. This is one of those novels I will be recommending to anyone who will listen!

The Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth was published on 28th February 2017. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of The Mother’s Promise, Sally Hepworth, visit here.



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