Everyone has a purpose in life. Some are born knowing exactly what they want to do while others struggle indefinitely to find their calling. Mallory Hammond knows her purpose: she wants to fulfill her promise to her late cousin to save another’s life. This unfulfilled goal drives everything for Mallory…until she eventually makes a rash decision that could potentially endanger many people’s lives. As Mallory struggles to find a way out of a precarious situation a world away from her family and friends, she discovers that the only promise that truly matters is the one that comes from above.
Beth Wiseman’s The Promise is a beautiful story of a young lady who wants nothing more than to give back to another. As a teenager, Mallory Hammond was stopped from donating her kidney to her terminally ill cousin. Mallory was the only match for this donation, and the subsequent termination of the operation and death of her cousin left a hole in Mallory’s heart. Wiseman’s main character has spent the ensuing years yearning to find a way to ease her guilt of being unable to save her cousin’s life. Desperation from a family in the Middle East leads Mallory to a chance encounter with a new friend that is not necessarily who he seems to be.
Simultaneously, Mallory and her boyfriend, piano-teacher Tate, struggle to maintain a balance between love and frustration as both characters navigate different futures. Against much resistance—and fueled by questions of faith and relationships—Mallory journeys to Pakistan to help save a young girl’s life. Little does Mallory know at the time of her departure that more than one person is going to need saving during her trip across the world. Tate watches with anguish as Mallory fights to understand the truth about those around her and about herself. The Promise holds multiple declarations of love and friendship—and just like Mallory, readers see that the promises that matter most are not always the ones we expect.
Wiseman’s novel excels on many levels: a unique plot, beautifully characterized secondary characters, and emotionally touching scenes, stand out as the leading reasons to read The Promise. Christian fiction—and fiction in general—falls into a few standard categories: romance, redemption, faith, and family. Wiseman bravely plunges into new territory in The Promise with a plot line set in the Middle East (instead of the United States or Europe) and a story that takes on the risky subjects of terrorism, abduction, and covert operations. Characters in The Promise experience romance, have dysfunctional families, and search for deeper faith…but all of those plot lines fall within the bigger stories of promises, identity, abuse, and terror. Readers will fall in love with a lonely little boy, laugh with a mother whose chicken enchiladas are to-die-for, and cheer for the hero as a he takes charge to save the heroine from a seemingly un-savable situation. Another positive to The Promise is that Wiseman understands readers need a break from the darker plot lines of the novel. Although just as emotional as the scenes set in the Middle East, Wiseman uses secondary characters to touch readers in a way that will break and stir hearts over the challenges presented.
At times The Promise lacks enough in storyline and structure to distract from the content of the novel. The characterization—especially for primary protagonists Tate and Mallory—needs development because the motivations and emotions do not always come across as plausible enough for the story to progress. While readers know, for example, that Mallory feels guilty for not donating her kidney to her cousin, the character’s dissatisfaction seems unrealistic because ten years have passed since her cousin’s death. It would seem that ten years is sufficient time for a healthy young woman to move forward past that sadness and find a progress to safe and positive way of saving another’s life. In addition, Mallory’s refusal to emotionally connect with Tate and give other’s credit for their opinions and information on a highly dangerous situation are unrealistic and frustrating to believe.
The Promise is an exciting novel that readers of contemporary Christian and secular books will enjoy. While a novel that falls into the Christian genre, the faith aspect of the story is plausible and mild. Christians will find the storyline relevant to everyday life and appealing for adapting to a stressful situation. Tate’s Catholic faith, in particular, is appealing because different denominations—especially Catholicism—are rarely used in Christian fiction. It should be noted that The Promise is a novel based upon true-life events that the author’s close friend experienced. After reading this novel there is no doubt that writing a story based upon such personal and tragic experiences must have been challenging and fulfilling for Wiseman. She comes out on top with a book that is both chilling in its authenticity and beautiful in its outcome. The Promise is not to be missed.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Thomas Nelson. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.
This review was originally written for The Christian Manifesto and will be published on the website on September 30th.