PROM­ISE

Starkville Daily News - - LIFE & STYLE -

an older African-Amer­i­can woman that works as a laun­dress in town, mostly for white fam­i­lies. One of these fam­i­lies is the McNabbs, whose teenage daugh­ter Jo serves as the other pri­mary char­ac­ter in Prom­ise. Her fa­ther Mort works as a judge and her mother Al­ice is a school­teacher, and are con­sid­ered im­por­tant mem­bers of Tu­pelo so­ci­ety. The event that links these char­ac­ters is one of tragedy and pain. The el­dest McNabb child, a boy named Son, raped Dovey’s grand­daugh­ter, Dreama, which led to a preg­nancy and the even­tual birth of her great grand­son Prom­ise.

In the af­ter­math of the tor­nado, both of these fam­i­lies are scat­tered. Dovey is flung from her house and wakes up in a pond, a ter­ri­ble foot in­jury ham­per­ing her; this leaves her dis­ori­ented, as she is un­sure where ei­ther her hus­band Vir­gil or her grand­chil­dren ended up af­ter the dev­as­ta­tion. Jo suf­fers a hor­rific head in­jury and must deal with the death of her brother Son and the crip­pling of her mother, along with the fact that her younger brother Tommy, just a tod­dler, was sucked from the house and is miss­ing. Thus, both Dovey and Jo must em­bark on a painful and at times ter­ri­fy­ing jour­ney in or­der to stay alive and re­unite their re­main­ing loved ones.

The most strik­ing as­pect of Gwin’s novel is that it dis­plays both the fragility and strength of what hu­mans have cre­ated in this world. In the blink of an eye, the tor­nado de­mol­ishes homes and busi­nesses, leav­ing peo­ple wan­der­ing aim­lessly in search of any sta­bil­ity they can find. The dis­as­ter also tests the bonds that peo­ple have formed in re­la­tion­ships with each other. Jo even­tu­ally finds a baby who she be­lieves is Tommy, but is al­most im­me­di­ately aban­doned by the other mem­bers of her fam­ily in one form or an­other. Her fa­ther con­sis­tently dis­ap­pears for mys­te­ri­ous rea­sons and her mother sinks deeper within her­self af­ter los­ing her leg.

Dovey, along with search­ing for Vir­gil, Dreama, and Prom­ise, must con­stantly over­come the rank racial dis­crim­i­na­tion that is en­trenched in the small Mis­sis­sippi town. How­ever, there are in­stances where this harsh so­cial sys­tem be­gins to fray a bit as well: Dovey, as she strug­gles to sim­ply make it through the days, no longer feels ob­li­gated to kow­tow to oth­ers sim­ply be­cause they are white. We also see out­siders from around the coun­try, mem­bers of the De­pres­sion era work pro­grams, help­ing ev­ery­one, no mat­ter the color of their skin. In the end, this serves as a mi­cro­cosm of the beauty and power of this novel. Amidst the dev­as­ta­tion brought about by na­ture, we wit­ness hu­man be­ings dis­play­ing strength they never be­lieved they had, which leads to small mo­ments of ten­der­ness that brings new life to a seem­ingly ru­ined land­scape.

Prom­ise by Min­rose Gwin is cur­rently avail­able for check­out from Starkville Pub­lic Li­brary.

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