YA Review: Tomorrow’s Promise by Kristi Lazzari
Posted by Anneque D. Machelle
Unfortunately Tomorrow’s Promise isn’t speculative fiction, and so misses out on being reviewed on the podcast. However, I enjoyed it so much that I thought it deserved a decent review here.
Tomorrow’s Promise by Kristi Lazzari
Young adult, novella
Summer, America, 1937. 12 year old Sarah Jane struggles to comprehend the extremities of friendship and small town cruelty.
While other kids spend their summer holidays swimming at the river and seeing movies, Sarah is busy doing chores around home and helping her single mother scrape a hand-to-mouth existence. She’s pleased to help, but Sarah’s mother doesn’t seem to care much for her at all. Her mother is abusive, beating Sarah under the slightest provocation. The young girl finds herself in constant pain and pushing away those who would be her friends, afraid they’ll discover the secret of her mother’s abuse and judge her for it. Even the affable boy next door, Billy, is unable to get much out of her.
It all changes one day when Sarah, stiff from another beating, is walking is the woods near her house. She crosses paths with the town witch, Virginia. Virginia notes Sarah’s injuries and invites the girl back to her house for something to relieve the pain. Sarah’s mother has warned her strictly against speaking to Virginia, but Sarah can see no malice in the old woman and goes along.
It turns out that Virginia isn’t a witch at all. In fact she may be the one person in town who understands Sarah rather than judging her. Virginia says that she too was flogged as a child and her homemade remedies do give Sarah some relief.
But that’s not all Virginia knows. As the days go by and Sarah sees more of the old woman, she learns that Virginia also knows many secrets about the town, even about Sarah’s mother. Those secrets may be the reason behind the rumours about Virginia – that she’s a witch who killed a baby, and that she’s responsible for the bout of petty theft going on in town.
Virginia is the first friend Sarah’s ever had. She won’t stand for the rumours, and sets out to prove them wrong. To do so she recruits Billy, and as Sarah becomes more open and active, the two become fast friends.
Yet even as Sarah forges new relationships, old ones crumble down. Sarah’s mother learns about her friendship with Virginia and beats the girl so badly she’s trapped inside for days. Worse, the mother is moody and unpredictable, and Sarah is terrified of wronging her again. Her new friendships, Virginia’s reputation (and the violence threatened against her if the thefts don’t stop), and her newfound hope are all put at risk for the sake of her mother’s foul temper.
It’s a hard story, this one. It’s incredibly moving. The way Sarah would shamble away from her house feeling like an old woman with her injuries brought me to tears; just about every interaction between Sarah and her mother did the same. I don’t usually cry in books but in this one I couldn’t stop. The great sense of injustice – this young girl having to put up with an uncaring monster as her parent, and the freedoms that are denied to her – is an overwhelming presence in this book.
But just as strong are the themes of friendship and standing up for what is right. Sarah has been afraid all her life, of her mother, of being beaten, but befriending Virginia gives her a new stance on life. She finally has something worth fighting for. She’s tired of being afraid and she’s tired of being unloved. When she changes her mind from fear to resolution, everything changes for her. That transition is so deft and believable, I can’t commend Lazzari enough for it.
A few of the characters, Virginia in particular, often refer to God when explaining their decisions. Saying such things as trust in God, wait for his plan, etc. Something I really like about the book was Sarah’s stance on this. Rather than waiting for God to help her, Sarah goes out and helps herself, and the people she can see who need help. This is really what separated Sarah from the other characters, and made it entirely her story – that she has this attitude that if there’s something that isn’t right, then it is the responsibility of those involved to go out and make a difference. I think that’s a great moral and it worked beautifully with both the book’s religious themes – that is, tomorrow’s promise – and the transition of Sarah from victim to hero.
Reading, I had the sense that this story is very personal to Lazzari, more so than most stories are personal to their authors. I think that even if it isn’t her story, it is a reflection of her strength and hope and courage. It’s a wonderful story, heart-breaking and kind, and I recommend it to anyone young or old who doesn’t mind crying like a fool.
I’m giving it 4.5 stars.
About Anneque D. MachelleAnneque "Dangerpus" Machelle (rhymes with ranger wuss) is a rebel and a rogue from way out west. Strictly banned from interactions with other human beings, she spends her days amongst molluscs, dogs and lizards, whom she counts as her closest friends.
Posted on February 17, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged book review, books, indie author, kristi lazzari, novella, review, self-published, tomorrow's promise, young adult fiction. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.