Thursday, July 03, 2014

Review: Promise Me This

By Cathy Gohlke
Tyndale, January 2012

About the Book

Michael Dunnagan was never supposed to sail on theTitanic, nor would he have survived if not for the courage of Owen Allen. Determined to carry out his promise to care for Owen’s relatives in America and his younger sister, Annie, in England, Michael works hard to strengthen the family’s New Jersey garden and landscaping business.

Annie Allen doesn’t care what Michael promised Owen. She only knows that her brother is gone—like their mother and father—and the grief is enough to swallow her whole. As Annie struggles to navigate life without Owen, Michael reaches out to her through letters. In time, as Annie begins to lay aside her anger that Michael lived when Owen did not, a tentative friendship takes root and blossoms into something neither expected.

Just as Michael saves enough money to bring Annie to America, WWI erupts in Europe. When Annie’s letters mysteriously stop, Michael risks everything to fulfill his promise—and find the woman he’s grown to love—before she’s lost forever.

My Review

In Owen Allen, Promise Me This offers a portrait of true selflessness. Michael Dunnagan’s life would have turned out much differently if his path hadn’t intersected with Owen’s. An orphan terribly abused by the uncle who was supposed to raise him, by God’s grace, Michael meets Owen, who offers him the chance to build a new life in America. But tragedy strikes their ship, the Titanic, and Owen is lost, leaving Michael to find his way alone to Owen’s aunt and uncle. There he finds a loving home and genuine redemption as he fulfills Owen’s promise to rebuild this kindly couple’s failing business.

Owen left his sister, Annie, behind in England to finish her education, with the promise that as soon as their relatives’ business prospered, he would send for her. After Owen’s death she falls under the control of their vindictive aunt, but it is Annie’s bitter heart that rules her life even more strongly. Yet over time Michael’s letters soften that hard soil, and a tender love begins to grow between them. Through even the horrors of WWI, the selfless love Owen sowed in Annie’s heart continues to strengthen, and then flower, until at last it chokes out the evil fruit borne of her aunt’s injustice.

I found this story to be both moving and convicting. We often give lip service to the concept of selflessness, but in reality we live according to our own selfish desires. Truly selfless love—like that of Jesus—joyfully sacrifices its life for others despite the cost, and by that love hurting people are made whole. How different is our perspective from God’s!

I love the way this author creates characters who become dear friends you come to care deeply about. I love her engaging plots and moving themes that seem simple on the surface but in fact are profound. Although, for me, the last part of the story seemed to drag a bit, the ending was wonderful and well worth reading through to the end. I highly recommend Promise Me This as a tender and life-changing story with many convicting take-aways we can all benefit from.

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