Lisa's Reviews > Keeping Promise Rock

Keeping Promise Rock by Amy Lane
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's review
Aug 26, 10

really liked it

** spoiler alert ** This book is larger than its length. It feels huge in its compassion, its ability to understand the dimensions of the heart. It is a book I will remember, one I will return to again when I long for the poignant ache of a story that leaves tears like a breadcrumb trail on the path to fulfillment. This is a tale of a journey through love.

Lane does so many things beautifully. She handles the story's time span deftly and weaves together the narratives of her characters in a way that is deeply satisfying. Her writing is engaging and compelling - you want to slowly savour each page and race on at the same time. She has a well-developed feel for the pulse of a scene and the integrity of dialogue. Most of all, she has an amazing ability to create not only primary, but also secondary characters that capture your heart and refuse to let go.

At the center of this involved story is a love that is powerful and enduring. Of all the things life throws at these characters (and they throw at themselves), the love between Crick and Deacon burns like an eternal flame, a guiding beacon. It is a love that is accepting, forgiving, strengthening, honouring, giving, passionate and built on a foundation of mutual attraction and friendship that extends across their years together. Crick and Deacon may be flawed, they make regrettable decisions, but never once does the core of their love for each other fail. Not once! Lane is at her eloquent, soul-wrenching best when she evokes what lives between these two. We expect love when we read a romance. Lane serves us a love that is painfully, beautifully human. I honestly haven't seen it done better!

Lane then takes this love and threads it around those who become part of Crick and Deacon's family of choice (and in this she makes a great case for the value of families of choice). We see love that enlarges others, offers safety and identity. It's downright magical and hugely affirming.

This is the first time I've had such a tough time rating a book. I really want to give this five stars, but there are three reasons holding me back. I've tried arguing with them, but they're not going away.

First. Is there anyone out there who's angry with Deacon - like fuming angry - for his role in Crick's rash decision to join the military? In his thoughts Deacon admits Crick might have had a lifetime of justification for making the choice he did, but so much of the time Crick is away, and even after he returns, everyone is "bad Crick to hurt poor, saintly Deacon so much." Crick was supposed to understand Deacon's subtext; why didn't the same apply to Deacon? Crick's decision was insanely stupid, but never once does anyone dare to question Deacon might have been equally the ass ... and Deacon never goes out of his way to represent things fairly or man up to his role in a decision that transformed many lives. Deacon routinely told Crick he should get away, make something of his life (bad move number one), and when Deacon can't give Crick the answer he needs when they first begin acknowledging their love (bad move number two), it's really not hard to imagine how an impulsive, abused kid might react. In the end, how is Crick exonerated in the eyes of all? He transfers all his money to Deacon's account to help save the ranch; only then can his 'family' start to let go their anger over his decision to leave. (Sigh. This is just so wrong.) To the bitter end of the book, I kept waiting for Deacon, anyone, to acknowledge Deacon's blame in spoken words, in any small way. It never happened, and that left me with a big empty hole.

Second. While Deacon has every appearance of being a strong, confident person in his younger years, the foundations of that melt away after Crick leaves for Iraq. Deacon still cares and fights to provide for his 'family', but it's as if his spirit took a gut wound and won't stop bleeding. I understand that ... been there. But then Lane throws an unbelievable array of serial tragedies at Deacon. At some point it gets numbing and ludicrous. Think he's had enough? Nope, next he's got to shoot Crick's horse and then get sucked into its makeshift grave (where he can finally express his anger at Crick). Think you're over yet? Nope, there are legal fights, broken hands, failing finances, and more. After Crick leaves, Deacon's life suddenly turns pear-shaped and bellies up through a plague of traumatic events, many of which were out of his control, when it was already bellying up over his fear of losing Crick. I really, really see no reason to force characters to suffer without purpose. Who needed the metaphoric cleansing by fire here? How much suffering adequately qualifies one for martyrdom?

Third. This is less a problem, but it follows on the heels of #2. Developing the level of alcoholic dependence and physical damage that would leave someone facing death takes time. Even if you are a child of an alcoholic. Even if you were in possession of a profound predisposition to substance dependence. Deacon goes from first drink to life in the balance, passing through a 'functional drunk' stage, in the space of three months. I could buy he might have had a drinking binge that put him in the arms of alcohol poisoning, but three months constitute a relative few stepping stones on the alcoholic's Yellow Brick Road. For it's lack of credibility, then, Deacon's descent into drink just becomes another strategy to lay the suffering on thick.

Even taking these into account, I would have found resolution had both characters been able to affirm that for all their separation challenged them, individually and jointly, in profoundly difficult ways, it also brought them together with a level of commitment and certainty I'm not sure they otherwise would have found. Deacon will continue to heal past the end of this story, and there are probably wounds in both that will never fully mend. There is an honesty in this that is refreshing. But relationships are strengthened by adversity in ways no other path can forge, and I would have liked Crick and Deacon to lay at least one flower at this particular altar.

I've gone on about the negatives. They were problems for me (I really did carry a flag for Crick). But they did not keep me from inhaling this book, nor from wishing that the final words only led to the next chapter. I sincerely applaud Ms Lane. Brava!

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