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A Promise to Remember
by Kathryn Cushman

Reviewed by Vennessa Ng

"An author comparable to Karen Kingsbury and Jodi Picoult, Kathryn is certainly one to keep an eye on."

How does one cope with the loss of a child, and to what extent will a parent go to make sure their child will be remembered for years to come?

These are just two of the questions tackled by Kathryn Cushman in her poignant debut novel, A Promise to Remember.

When two teenage boys perish in a fatal car accident, their mother’s lives become entwined as each struggle to etch out a legacy for their child.

Artistic Andie Phelps lives a life envied by many. A beautiful home in Santa Barbara’s exclusive Hope Ranch overlooking the Pacific Ocean, a successful husband who is about to pocket millions with an impending buy-out of his company, and a loving son who shares her passion for fundraising and charity work.

Melanie Johnston leads a life few envy, or want. As a struggling single mother with two teenagers, Melanie works as a pricing coordinator at Alfords, an upscale grocery near Hope Ranch. Although her children attend the local church and are deeply involved with the youth group and missions trips, Melanie has little time for church or Christians. After all, she is more moral than many who entered the churches doors.

Everything changes the night Andie and Melanie’s sons die.

Devastated by the loss of Chad, her only child, Andie struggles to complete a painting he had asked her to create for a scholarship fundraiser. When her husband, Blair, witnesses the turmoil this causes her, he suggests that they donate $45,000 to the scholarship in their son’s name instead.

When Melanie reads about the donation, anger fuels the pain of her loss. Not only has Chad caused the death of her son Jeff, but now Chad’s name is going to be remembered and honored while Jeff will soon be forgotten. Battling the injustice of it, Melanie turns to Les Stewart, a well-known Los Angeles lawyer who recently retired to Santa Barbara and sent Melanie his phone number in a condolence note. Les reveals that Chad was driving on a suspended license, therefore his parents were liable. Suing them would send a message to other parents that such lax behavior would not be tolerated, and could also help prevent other deaths, a legacy Jeff would surely approve off. After all, it had been Jeff’s desire to make a difference in the world.

As the lawsuit builds, so does the tension in the community. Soon Melanie, Andie, and Blair find themselves embroiled in a tangled mess which threatens all of their futures.

Kathryn Cushman does an excellent job of portraying the journey of two women fighting their way through the pain of grief to find forgiveness, reconciliation, and hope. Kathryn’s attention to characterization draws the reader into the story. A supporting cast, each with their own idiosyncrasies, enhances her multifaceted lead characters. Although the main storyline deals with Andie and Melanie’s struggles over the loss of their sons and the lawsuit, several subplots add further layers by revealing a deeper understanding of a couple of the supporting characters.

For lovers of inspirational fiction, A Promise to Remember is a must read. As an author comparable to Karen Kingsbury and Jodi Picoult, Kathryn is certainly one to keep an eye on. If her debut novel is anything to go by, we will certainly be seeing a lot more from this talented new author.

Vennessa NgVennessa Ng lives in New Zealand with her husband and three children. As an avid reader with a passion for Christian worldview fiction, she works to help authors improve their craft through her freelance editing service, Aotearoa Editorial Services (www.aotearoaeditorial.com), and helps publicize books and authors via her review site, Illuminating Fiction (www.illuminatingfiction.com). She has also reviewed for Focus On Fiction, Infuze Magazine, Novel Reviews, 1340 Magazine, and now TitleTrakk. In her spare time she pursues her own passion for writing and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.