Title: Promises to Keep
Author: Jane Green
Genre: Contemporary fiction
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.