Book Review: Promises to Keep by Jane Green

Title: Promises to Keep
Author: Jane Green
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: Plume
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the publisher
First line: Steffi elbows her hair out of her eyes before grabbing a frying pan, splashing olive oil liberally into it and scraping the finely chopped onion into the oil.

Callie Perry is happy. She adores her husband and children and is content with her life. Her younger sister, Steffi, is a wanderer. In her thirties, she hasn’t settled down – and is ready to move yet again. This time, her move takes her closer to Callie, and she’s surprised by how much she’s enjoying having an actual house, living by herself, without a boyfriend for the first time in a long time. Callie’s and Steffi’s parents, Honor and Walter, haven’t spoken since the divorce, and the only thing they have left in common is their fierce love for their daughters. Lila, Callie’s best friend is finally in an adult relationship, happily in love, in spite of having to deal with her boyfriend’s demanding ex-wife. No matter how much they have going on their lives, though, Steffi, Lila, Walter, and Honor will all drop everything to help take care of Callie when she is diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer.

This is my second experience with Jane Green’s work, after giving up on The Beach House last year because the characters were so shallow. After finishing Promises to Keep, I think this will probably be my last Jane Green novel. If I gave half-stars, I would probably give this two-and-a-half stars, but I fell on the side of generosity.

My issue is the characters. They all seem unreal and their lives a bit sanitized. Take Callie, for instance. Her husband, Reece, travels for work. A lot. And even when he’s not traveling, he spends a ton of time at the office. And yet, Callie is soooooooooooooo in love with him, and everyone oohs and ahs over their marriage. It takes her cancer coming back to get her to tell him he needs to step up in the parenting department. It just doesn’t seem real.

Steffi, Callie’s sister, has gone from one job to another, and one dead-end relationship to another, usually with rocker-types. She’s just fine with that. She’s not unhappy, or restless. She doesn’t seem to have a moment of doubt – until moving into a friend’s cottage with a big dog and a long, cotton nightgown sparks a “Eureka!” experience and she’s ready to settle down.

Then there is Callie’s best friend, Lila. She is deeply in love with her new boyfriend, Ed, who seems to be constantly at the beck and call of his ex-wife, the mother of his child, Clay. When Lila gets fed up, she tells him he needs to be there for her – and Ed says, “Okay, you’re right.” And Boom! Their problems are over. The issue with the ex-wife never comes up again, even though in real life, this is not a situation that would simply resolve itself because Ed decided to stand up to her.

(Minor spoiler alert!)

I could go on. Callie and Steffi’s parents haven’t spoken for years, and yet easily fall back into a relationship because their daughter is sick. After Steffi has her revelation, the man she’s renting the house from ends up separated and they fall into a relationship. All of this just seems way too easy – and not at all the way life actually happens.

(End of spoiler alert.)

Bottom line? I only finished the book to see what happened with Callie’s cancer. And even with such emotional subject matter (sister relationships, mother issues, marriage), I didn’t shed a single tear. To give you just a bit of comparison – I recently cried over an episode of Scrubs. I’ve also been known to cry over commercials. And so, I don’t think I will be reading any more books by this author.

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11 Responses to Book Review: Promises to Keep by Jane Green

  1. irene says:

    thanks for your honest review.

  2. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion
    says:

    I’m sorry to see you didn’t like this. I just read my first Jane Green novel – Another Piece of My Heart – and really enjoyed it. I was hoping her backlist would be good too.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathy – this may just be me – I know Green has quite a following.

  3. Sim Carter
    Twitter: simcarter
    says:

    Your review made me laugh out loud. I haven’t read any Jane Green and I think your review has saved me the trouble. (I cry at commercials too). Then again, I see Kathy at Bermuda Onion liked Another Piece of My Heart so maybe I’ll give that one a try!

    • Sim Carter
      Twitter: simcarter
      says:

      Wrong twitter name. it’s simcarter, one word BUT looking at you all maybe I should change it to my blog’s name Chapter1-take1 … kind of a mouthful though.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sim – well, hopefully I helped you avoid one you wouldn’t like! You might try one of her other books, though – I know a lot of people really like her writing.

      • Sim Carter
        Twitter: simcarter
        says:

        Yes, I plan on it. By the way Carrie, if you have time, please check out my blog today. I am trying to encourage book bloggers to post a picture of an indie bookstore in their area and to ask their readers to buy a book from a local bookstore too.

  4. Elisabeth says:

    I, too have a husband who works out of town all the time and when he works locally works very long hours. He does step up with our kids, we have 4 and we do have a great marriage. It is not unrealistic but many marriages do fall apart with this lifestyle. I haven’t read this book but venture to guess that maybe Green went overboard a little? I did read Dune Road which I enjoyed but consider to be a beach book.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Elizabeth – I may have given the wrong impression – it’s not that I don’t think a marriage with that working arrangement can be successful, it’s that I found it unrealistic that she never experienced a moment of frustration with it. The marriage was portrayed as “perfect” – I’d have trouble finding any marriage portrayed that way as realistic! Marriage is wonderful, but very hard work, in my opinion. πŸ™‚

  5. Pingback: The Sunday Salon – April 1, 2012 (wrapping up March’s reading) | BOOKS AND MOVIES