The Promise: A Novel
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Young pianist Catherine Wainwright flees the fashionable town of Dayton, Ohio, in the wake of a terrible scandal. Heartbroken and facing destitution, she finds herself striking up correspondence with a childhood admirer, the recently widowed Oscar Williams. In desperation, she agrees to marry him, but when Catherine travels to Oscar’s farm on Galveston Island, Texas—a thousand miles from home—she finds she is little prepared for the life that awaits her. The island is remote, the weather sweltering, and Oscar’s little boy Andre is grieving hard for his lost mother. And though Oscar tries to please his new wife, the secrets of the past sit uncomfortably between them.
Meanwhile, for Nan Ogden, Oscar’s housekeeper, Catherine’s sudden arrival has come as a great shock. For not only did she promise Oscar’s first wife that she would be the one to take care of little Andre, but she has feelings for Oscar that she is struggling to suppress. And when the worst storm in a generation descends, the women will find themselves tested as never before.
The Promise, now available in paperback, received rave reviews from critics and captured the hearts of readers worldwide. Against the backdrop of the devastating Galveston hurricane of 1900, Ann Weisgarber tells a heartbreaking story with two unforgettable voices.
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curlicue script, and a Negro doorman in red uniform and white gloves stood under the canopied entrance. The brick building was painted white, the sidewalk was covered with a black carpet, and I could not remember the name of the hotel Oscar had given to the porter. I couldn’t stay there, I thought. It was too fine; I could not afford even one night. ‘Mr Williams,’ I started to say, but before I did, two women came out of the hotel. They were young, perhaps in their very early twenties.
never marry. Best you just plan on taking care of us during our coming old age.’ Ever since Bernadette died, I had stepped around Oscar, telling myself I couldn’t care for him, not overly. I had to keep him safe. Not that he’d tried to court me. Likely he hadn’t even thought about it, mourning Bernadette the way he had. And if he had thought of it, could be he figured I was still grieving for Joe Pete Conley. But now there was Catherine Williams, come from out of the blue, a woman that had lived
and knew what he was getting with her. And Mrs Williams didn’t eat but a speck; she’d get by fine. But I couldn’t let Andre go hungry. Neither could I let the three orphan boys that worked for Oscar on Sundays go without. I couldn’t live with myself, sitting in church knowing little bellies rumbled at the Williams’ house. I high-stepped over the rusty train tracks that went to the boarded-up lace factory on down the island, and I opened and closed the gate to Oscar’s back pasture. I held the
filled with details about his dairy farm. The Barn sits on a Raised up bed of Oyster Shells and dirt. It can rain hard here. It is big enough for Five more Cows. Then, My boy’s name is Andre. By the end of May the note from the hotel manager carried a different tone. I was four months in arrears. If I did not settle my account immediately, I was to vacate my rooms by the end of June. I responded to Oscar’s letter and expressed interest in his barn and in his son. I sorted through my jewelry and
few yards. He steadied himself with the pitchfork and plunged his way back. I prayed, ‘Our Father who art in heaven.’ Andre held tighter to me. My hand on his head so that I could keep him from watching, I leaned toward Oscar and urged him on with each plunge of the pitchfork, with each small step. He was almost halfway home. The water was to his chest now, and the waves were white-capped. A milk container crashed against the veranda. I flinched. My eyes closed only for an instant but it was