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The Promise by Emma Heatherington

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Women’s Fiction

By Swirl and Thread

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The Promise by Emma Heatherington is published with Harper Collins Ireland. Described as ‘a love story that will break your heart’The Promise is a book that is a very emotional read indeed.

Kate Foley and David Campbell, two teenagers from across the divide in Northern Ireland, share a moment of chaos and tragedy that forever binds them in the years that follow. A bomb exploding in the town centre sends shockwaves through the community and further afield. There are multiple deaths and traumatic injuries witnessed as the carnage unfolds but in the midst of all this terror Kate and David become each other’s saviour. Both are carrying injuries and both are clearly in shock. Kate is a nurse in training and puts her experience to good use, although in severe pain herself. For a time they keep each other awake and alive. As the emergency crews take over, Kate and David make a promise to look each other up in due course but life, and all its complexities, soon gets in the way.

There is a well-documented religious divide between Catholic and Protestant in the North. Growing up in the South I clearly remember the images on our TV screens and I still vividly recall the Omagh bombing in 1998. As the scenes unfolded the pure horror, the noises, the anguish came into all our lives. I was afraid that day for Ireland and what was going to happen next. For Emma Heatherington the experience was even more vivid, more real as Omagh is her hometown and Emma has very strong memories of that time.

Emma opens her book with a quote from the late John Hume. (1937 – 2020):

Difference is the essence of humanity.

“I feel it’s important to acknowledge the immense work of John and all those who worked with him, before him, and after him to pave the way for future generations in our society to live in a more integrated way where one day difference will not be a threat, where equality will be for all sections of the community, and where diversity will be respected. There is still some work to be done, but thank goodness we now live in much more peaceful times” – Emma Heatherington

Kate Foley grew up in a Catholic home, in a Catholic community, in an area where many had experienced trouble first hand. Kate’s family are known in the area, in particular her mother. Both her parents were of a generation where shootings and civil unrest were part of their life experiences and her mother was recognised as someone who was unafraid of speaking out for justice and equality.

David Campbell was the son of a Reverend, a man with very strong principles and ideals. His sermons from the pulpit were legendary but David was made of a very different cloth. David didn’t see differences in religion and class. David was of a new generation, one that was not to be silenced by a fear instilled from birth and one that would not grow up hating a section of the community. The relationship between David and his father was cracked and the fissures were widening daily.

Following the explosion, and the subsequent recovery period, Kate and David did not meet up as promised for many, many years but they were always to be in each other’s minds.

Kate moved to Dublin, making that necessary move away from the North to help her move on and move past this one event that was to mark her for ever. David, after different jobs, settled in the UK teaching science, a job he was very passionate about. Both were now adults in relationships with successful careers and prospects but life has a way of dragging us back to our past. When David and Kate bump into each other at a memorial event many years later, they both discover that the need to talk about their shared experiences is equally strong and a tentative friendship is lit.

The Promise is their story and, my word, what an absolutely heartrending tale ensues. I turned each page with trepidation, fearful of what lay ahead. My heart broke and regrouped on numerous occasions as I travelled on this very affecting journey with David and Kate. As their love for each other deepened, the obstacles seemed to always grow bigger. I was rooting for their love to conquer all. I wanted the happy ending. Did I get it? Well now that would be telling.

I expect there was something very personal for Emma Heatherington when she decided to write The Promise and, although it is a fictional read, the descriptions from the chapters dedicated to the bombing are very much based on true events. Reading this book brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion. The anger, the hatred, the destruction are all incredibly depicted throughout, bringing it very much alive for the reader.

The Promise is ultimately a love story, but it is also a tale of hope and courage, and a desire for change. Against all the odds Kate and David keep fighting for a shift in attitudes and for communities to accept differences, or at least be willing to compromise, but history is hard to shift and there will always be those who refuse to alter their opinions. There is a life long and unshakeable bond between Kate and David. They see it but can the rest of society, and their families, be so accepting?

The Promise is a gorgeous book, one that will certainly leave its mark on every reader. Emma Heatherington’s passion shines through in her writing making The Promise a very stirring and impactful novel, one that I would recommend to all looking for a thought-provoking read.

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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