Jan 23, 12
Read in December, 2011
Annie Allen is devastated upon learning that her older brother Owen perished when the Titanic went down. Her only remaining family in England is Aunt Eleanor, and Annie has never been close to the bitter spinster. As details unfold, Annie learns that Owen requested a favor of a young street urchin and Titanic stowaway, Michael Dunnagan. Owen asked Michael to fulfill his American dream by going to Swainton, NJ, where Owen’s aunt and uncle own and operate Allen’s Run Gardens. He also requested that Michael bring Annie to America so she could start a new life, far from Eleanor’s disapproving eyes.
As Michael struggles to begin a new life stateside, he struggles under a heavy weight of guilt that he survived and Owen did not. He reaches out to Annie via letter, but she rebuffs his correspondence at first. Eventually though, she warms to Michael’s efforts to build a friendship and letters fly back and forth across the pond.
Michael works overtime to save enough money to bring Annie to NJ, only to see World War 1 erupt, making travel to and from England dangerous. In the meantime, Annie busies herself by training with the Red Cross, and she and a friend sign up to work with the Voluntary Aid Detachment in regional hospitals. As the war drags on, Michael is restless and more concerned for Annie’s safety, and embarks on a perilous journey across the Atlantic to see her. His arrival coincides with Aunt Eleanor’s mysterious dying wish that throws a cruel wrench in Annie’s plans to go to America.
Cathy Gohlke’s stories are not your average run of the mill, predictable fare. This Christy Award winning author has several books under her belt, with tales that envelop the reader with rich descriptions and intriguing plots. Promise Me This is no exception. Just about the time I thought it safe to turn a page and take a breath, Cathy ramped up the action with exciting twists and turns. As a fan of happy endings, I was relieved to see that these seemingly impossible knots were all happily untangled.
One of my favorite aspects of this book was that it was partially set in southern NJ, just minutes from where I grew up. Allen’s Run Gardens was fashioned after a real botanical garden in Swainton that we visited on numerous occasions. Cathy captures the essence of the area and era to lend authenticity to Annie and Michael’s emotional journey through tragedy and beyond.
I seldom give a five star rating to a book, but this one earned it and then some. In my opinion, Cathy Gohlke possesses the gift of bringing stories to life in an amazing way. If you haven’t already guessed, I highly recommend this book.