As always, I’ll be completely straight with you and admit: I struggled with this book. I almost gave up on it twice early on: I found the plot a little too ‘convenient’ and formulaic. The voice that Claypole White gives to mental illness (particularly OCD) however, reeled me in and kept me reading. I had no regrets when I finished the book!
The Promise Between Us is told from 5 points of view:
Katie (mother of Maudie, suffers from OCD)
Callum (father of Maisie)
Jake (godparent to Maisie and Cal’s best friend)
Lilah (Cal’s wife and Maudie’s stepmother) and,
Maisie herself (dealing with burgeoning OCD.)
We learn early on that Katie’s OCD was triggered post-partum and she begins to suffer with intrusive thoughts about harming her daughter. These thoughts lead to a stand-off between her and Cal and, not understanding her disease, she ultimately decides to leave Maisie in order keep her safe.
Fast-forward nearly a decade and Maisie, a tween, is accidentally reintroduced to her mother (this was where I had to suspend disbelief and push on) who slowly begins to realize that Maisie has inherited and is dealing with OCD too. In her quest to save Maisie from the pain that she experiences, Katie finds herself involved in the life of her former husband, his wife and his best friend.
In bringing Katie and Maisie back together, Claypole White creates the opportunity for secrets from numerous other characters to surface and be revealed. Katie and Maisie are not the only ones troubled by their mental health concerns and it will take involvement from all parties (including Katie’s colleague, Ben and sister, Delaney) for all of those issues to come to light.
Claypole White (who, unsurprisingly has experienced OCD in her own husband and son) nails the voices in Katie’s and Maisie’s heads that try to keep them sick and afraid. It is the integrity with which she explores mental illness, trauma and blended families that kept me reading right up to the end.
The Promise Between Us is populated with some truly genuine and appealing characters. Although I felt strongly that Claypole White ‘missed’ on Maisie’s voice (too much disparity between her intelligence and her baby talk,) her portrayal of Ben (the strong, silent art studio/garage owner that Katie works with) and Lilah (Maisie’s well-intentioned but overlooked pregnant stepmom) were absolutely winning! You can’t help but want to meet Ben and admire and wish to emulate Lilah!
While I’m generally not much of one for backstory, acknowledgements, Book Club extras, etc, Claypole White’s accessories to her novel are outstanding. The acknowledgements and book club questions helped frame her intention for the book in a way that I found enlightening. She also created (as she does for all of her books, apparently) a musical playlist that you can access as accompaniment. I’d never seen that done before and found it absolutely brilliant!
Claypole White has something to say about mental health, trauma, healthcare in the US and the blended family. If you can get past the somewhat ‘hard to believe’ set up that she uses as her jumping off point, you’ll be better for having received her message and met her characters!
To get your own copy of The Promise Between Us by Barbara Claypole White (available, at the time of this writing, for free on Kindle Unlimited or for $5.99 on Kindle without,) please click the link below:
The Promise Between Us