A sentimental journey: Review of Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke

The Titanic sinks. Britain enters World War I.

I promise, I’m not reviewing the first season of Downton Abbey. But my husband and I had just finished watching that when I started reading Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke. Set in the same time period but  nowhere near the same story. I was all set for the setting, and with the Olympics starting this week in London, I have England on the brain.

All of that, and the fact that this is a heartwarming, breathtaking, gut-wrenching story of sacrificial love, made for an enjoyable read. I can’t wait to pick of Gohlke’s next book, releasing in September.

Orphan and “gutter rat” Michael Dunnegan forms an unlikely friendship with Owen Allen, who is sailing for America on the Titanic. Michael stows away on the ill-fated ship and Owen saves Michael’s life — at the expense of his own — when the ship sinks. Michael makes it to America and takes up Owen’s dream of prospering the family garden business and bringing Owen’s sister Annie to America. What follows is the lengths to which the characters will go to protect family and make good on promises in light of the sacrifices of a man they all loved. It is painfully sad and joyously hopeful and even if you’re tired of Titanic-themed stories (I thought I was), check this one out. The ship’s sinking is the catalyst for the story but not the main action.

Even when I enjoy a book, it’s rare that I dog-ear a page to save a quote, but I did just that. (To my husband’s mock horror that I would “ruin” a library book.) I was moved by this:

It can’t be that easy. It can’t be that whatever happens, you  just keep going. Michael was sure of it.

“That’s all there is to it,” she said as if she’d heard his thoughts. “Each morning, when we wake — if we wake — we pick up whatever it is we’ve been given to carry for that day, with the sweet Lord Jesus in the yoke beside us to tote the load. Each night we lay it down, giving it into God’s hands. If it’s still there in the morning, we pick it up and begin again. If the burden is gone or if there is something different, we know where to start.”

Want to read more? You can find the first chapter here.

The characters in this book face some heavy burdens. Don’t we all? This story is a ray of hope in ever-increasing darkness.


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