Promise
In the aftermath of a devastating tornado that rips through the town of Tupelo, Mississippi, at the height of the Great Depression, two women worlds apart—one black, one white; one a great-grandmother, the other a teenager—fight for their families’ survival in this lyrical and powerful novel“Gwin’s gift shines in the complexity of her characters and their fraught relationships with each other, their capacity for courage and hope, coupled with their passion for justice.” -- Jonis Agee, bestselling author of The River WifeA few minutes after 9 p.m. on Palm Sunday, April 5, 1936, a massive funnel cloud flashing a giant fireball and roaring like a runaway train careened into the thriving cotton-mill town of Tupelo, Mississippi, killing more than 200 people, not counting an unknown number of black citizens, one-third of Tupelo’s population, who were not included in the official casualty figures.When the tornado hits, Dovey, a local laundress, is flung by the terrifying winds into a nearby lake. Bruised and nearly drowned, she makes her way across Tupelo to find her small family—her hardworking husband, Virgil, her clever sixteen-year-old granddaughter, Dreama, and Promise, Dreama’s beautiful light-skinned three-month-old son.Slowly navigating the broken streets of Tupelo, Dovey stops at the house of the despised McNabb family. Inside, she discovers that the tornado has spared no one, including Jo, the McNabbs’ dutiful teenage daughter, who has suffered a terrible head wound. When Jo later discovers a baby in the wreckage, she is certain that she’s found her baby brother, Tommy, and vows to protect him.During the harrowing hours and days of the chaos that follows, Jo and Dovey will struggle to navigate a landscape of disaster and to battle both the demons and the history that link and haunt them. Drawing on historical events, Minrose Gwin beautifully imagines natural and human destruction in the deep South of the 1930s through the experiences of two remarkable women whose lives are indelibly connected by forces beyond their control. A story of loss, hope, despair, grit, courage, and race, Promise reminds us of the transformative power and promise that come from confronting our most troubled relations with one another. 

Promise Details

TitlePromise
Author
ReleaseFeb 27th, 2018
PublisherWilliam Morrow
ISBN-139780062471734
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction

Promise Review

  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    One horrific natural disaster, two families - one black, one white, two babies thrown by the tornado and the same heartache for both families over the loss and devastation, two families connected by more than this devastation. This is more than a story based on an actual tornado in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1936, the “fourth most deadly tornado in the US” according to the author in her prologue. She also notes the undocumented fate of black people whose lives were lost because they just weren’t cou One horrific natural disaster, two families - one black, one white, two babies thrown by the tornado and the same heartache for both families over the loss and devastation, two families connected by more than this devastation. This is more than a story based on an actual tornado in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1936, the “fourth most deadly tornado in the US” according to the author in her prologue. She also notes the undocumented fate of black people whose lives were lost because they just weren’t counted - that’s right - just not counted. This is not only about the havoc and destruction, the injuries, the death but it is also a powerful reflection of the time and place, of human resilience, how people manage to dig deep into themselves to find what they need to move forward.Sixteen year old Jo carries the burden of being “tricked” by her vile brother when she was younger, trying to find herself in a household with her mother suffering from post partum depression. Dovey, who washes clothes for white people, including Jo’s family has her burdens to carry - sad memories of her childhood, her losses , remembering a man she saw hanging from a tree. In the aftermath of the tornado, the young girl and the older woman cross paths in heartbreaking and uplifting ways. A span of hours into days and then only a week - a slow burn to the end. No need to give plot details, just to say it is well written and well researched, evocative of the natural disasters of the recent past and highly recommended! I received an advanced copy of this book from William Morrow/HarperCollins through Edelweiss.
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    A work of fiction based on the true event of the April 5, 1936 Tupelo, Mississippi tornado and its devastating aftermath. The author herself heard stories of this tornado during her childhood, growing up in Tupelo.This story tells of the damage and how it was handled especially in the time of racial divides.As another author stated in her review “a compelling tale of biblical proportions good and evil, destruction and salvation, and clear moments of grace and humanity that bring hope into the mo A work of fiction based on the true event of the April 5, 1936 Tupelo, Mississippi tornado and its devastating aftermath. The author herself heard stories of this tornado during her childhood, growing up in Tupelo.This story tells of the damage and how it was handled especially in the time of racial divides.As another author stated in her review “a compelling tale of biblical proportions good and evil, destruction and salvation, and clear moments of grace and humanity that bring hope into the most desperate times.”I really enjoyed this!
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  • Jennifer
    January 1, 1970
    I hated to finish Promise because it meant leaving some incredible characters. Gwin gives the reader little chance to breathe as she takes us into the horrific terror of the historic 1936 storm in Tupelo, MS. Gut-wrenching scenes of water-logged days and nights — people wandering around looking for loved ones — tripping over bodies of neighbors and friends. Just when you think the damage is only physical, you realize Promise is also about the emotional storm that will shake apart two families.Hi I hated to finish Promise because it meant leaving some incredible characters. Gwin gives the reader little chance to breathe as she takes us into the horrific terror of the historic 1936 storm in Tupelo, MS. Gut-wrenching scenes of water-logged days and nights — people wandering around looking for loved ones — tripping over bodies of neighbors and friends. Just when you think the damage is only physical, you realize Promise is also about the emotional storm that will shake apart two families.Highly recommend.
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  • KC
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars. In the height of the depression, a devastating and horrific tornado has leveled the small town of Tulepo, Mississippi. Houses are destroyed and many are killed, injured, or displaced. Two families fearfully affected; one white, one black. Jo, a teenage girl struggling to keep her mother and baby brother alive while her family's laundress, Dovey desperately searches for her missing husband, granddaughter, and grandson. Gwin has mastered such great detail throughout the pages of this sw 3.5 stars. In the height of the depression, a devastating and horrific tornado has leveled the small town of Tulepo, Mississippi. Houses are destroyed and many are killed, injured, or displaced. Two families fearfully affected; one white, one black. Jo, a teenage girl struggling to keep her mother and baby brother alive while her family's laundress, Dovey desperately searches for her missing husband, granddaughter, and grandson. Gwin has mastered such great detail throughout the pages of this sweeping story. This narrative is reminiscent of The Woman in the Photo by Mary Hogan and The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash.
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  • Anna
    January 1, 1970
    Based upon the real events that occurred when an F5 hurricane destroyed much of Tupelo, Mississippi in 1936. The records show that a couple hundred were killed and over a thousand were injured. The toll was much higher though as the losses in the African American neighborhoods were never recorded. The story is told through the voices of Dovey Grand'homme and Jo McNabb. Dovey, from a young age, had been doing the laundry of the prominent families in Tupelo, including the McNabb family. Jo is a yo Based upon the real events that occurred when an F5 hurricane destroyed much of Tupelo, Mississippi in 1936. The records show that a couple hundred were killed and over a thousand were injured. The toll was much higher though as the losses in the African American neighborhoods were never recorded. The story is told through the voices of Dovey Grand'homme and Jo McNabb. Dovey, from a young age, had been doing the laundry of the prominent families in Tupelo, including the McNabb family. Jo is a young teenager, who has been overlooked in favor of her older and baby brothers. Both of their lives are irrevocably changed by the tornado, and each must deal with the aftermath. Dovey has been separated from her family, and despite her injuries, is determined to find them. Jo finds herself having to take responsibility for her mother who has severely broken her leg while her father had disappeared in search of who knows what. The tension grows as the lives of Dovey and Jo intersect with one another.The author does a great job of intertwining the struggles of dealing with the devastation of the hurricane and how they each have been shaped by the events of the past. The novel is well paced, engrossing and told through beautifully written prose.4.5 stars
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  • Cheryl
    January 1, 1970
    At 9 o’clock in the evening on April 5, 1936 a massive tornado ripped through the town of Tupelo, Mississippi. The aftermath of this devastating event was unimaginable. Hundreds of people died as parts of the city were completely destroyed.Author Minrose Gwin’s grandparents survived this tragic event, and she grew up hearing details about the tornado which was the fourth most deadly tornado in U.S. history.Gwin’s novel brings to life the story of the events that took place in Tupelo on that fate At 9 o’clock in the evening on April 5, 1936 a massive tornado ripped through the town of Tupelo, Mississippi. The aftermath of this devastating event was unimaginable. Hundreds of people died as parts of the city were completely destroyed.Author Minrose Gwin’s grandparents survived this tragic event, and she grew up hearing details about the tornado which was the fourth most deadly tornado in U.S. history.Gwin’s novel brings to life the story of the events that took place in Tupelo on that fateful evening and the days that followed. It is told through the eyes of two characters - one African American great grandmother and one white teenager whose family relationships are drawn even closer as they struggle to put their lives back together. This unforgettable novel is a story of courage, race, perseverance, love, hope, secrets, and survival with characters that you genuinely care about and with a vivid sense of place. The issue of racism was important at that time, as, unfortunately, it still is today. Ms. Gwin, as an added bonus, has included archival photos taken shortly after the tornado struck. This novel is hard to put down -don’t pass this one up!
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  • Kristen Beverly
    January 1, 1970
    Really, really fantastic characters. Loved Jo and Dovey. I had to keep reminding myself though that this wasn’t historical fiction. It’s really just straight up fiction. Which is ok, just some inconsistencies with the time period I believe. But a really great story. Didn’t want to put it down.
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  • DeAnn
    January 1, 1970
    4 stars for Promise! This one is set in 1936 Tupelo in the aftermath of a tornado that ripped through the town. Not surprisingly, this one has racial tension, but the tornado claimed lives, property, and created devastation for just about the whole town. The author did a great job of making me feel like I was at the scene with descriptions of the debris everywhere and the terrible disasters that befall many residents of the town, either in the tornado itself or wandering around later in the dark 4 stars for Promise! This one is set in 1936 Tupelo in the aftermath of a tornado that ripped through the town. Not surprisingly, this one has racial tension, but the tornado claimed lives, property, and created devastation for just about the whole town. The author did a great job of making me feel like I was at the scene with descriptions of the debris everywhere and the terrible disasters that befall many residents of the town, either in the tornado itself or wandering around later in the dark for help or to find lost loved ones.This was a quick read for me and I enjoy Minrose Gwin's writing style. My ARC didn't have the historical photos in the back, so I'll seek those out. The author grew up in Tupelo and heard about the tornado from her family, but did a lot of research to write this book.The story is told by two characters Dovey (an African-American washwoman -- I'm reminded how lucky I am to have an automatic washer and dryer!) and Jo McNabb (a white teenager and the daughter of a judge). The two families are connected and we read about their experiences and see how they are treated differently.Dovey's granddaughter is seeking medical care for Dovey's injured foot, but is having difficulty getting her moved to the stage with better light. Here's the exchange -- "Down here we don't mix," the doctor said under his breath. The Yankee Red Cross lady says "Oh dear, that's not emergency protocol. We treat everyone by the severity of the injury." The reader also learns that during this disaster the dead in the African-American community were not counted in the official reports.I recommend this one if you are a fan of Southern fiction and/or historical fiction. I enjoyed it and liked the characters! Thank you to William Morrow and Good Reads for the advance copy.
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  • Caryn
    January 1, 1970
    Full review & giveaway on my blog: http://www.thebookwhisperer.org/2018/...
  • Trudy
    January 1, 1970
    Minrose Gwin is quite a storyteller. Talk about characterization! She is a master! These characters are so fleshed out that I could almost hear them breathing. All of their thoughts, motives, influences, actions were laid bare here. So, why four stars instead of five? For me, the exact same reason I enjoyed it so much. At certain points my own brain became overloaded with the charcters’s thoughts. In some cases, I wanted the story to move along, but the author kept me struck in the characters’ Minrose Gwin is quite a storyteller. Talk about characterization! She is a master! These characters are so fleshed out that I could almost hear them breathing. All of their thoughts, motives, influences, actions were laid bare here. So, why four stars instead of five? For me, the exact same reason I enjoyed it so much. At certain points my own brain became overloaded with the charcters’s thoughts. In some cases, I wanted the story to move along, but the author kept me struck in the characters’ reflections. The last 20% in particular drove me a little crazy, tempting me to skip a few pages to find relief. I didn’t though. LOL!
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  • Angie
    January 1, 1970
    Originally posted @ Readaholic Zone including an interesting video I found.Minrose Gwin deserves a standing ovation for PROMISE. This is the most outstanding book based on true events that I have read. Hence, this book stands alone above all others due to so many factors which I will discuss later in the review. Gwin’s writing is powerful with the Characters jumping off the pages so as a reader, you're experiencing what it is like to walk in these individuals shoes, enduring everything that the Originally posted @ Readaholic Zone including an interesting video I found.Minrose Gwin deserves a standing ovation for PROMISE. This is the most outstanding book based on true events that I have read. Hence, this book stands alone above all others due to so many factors which I will discuss later in the review. Gwin’s writing is powerful with the Characters jumping off the pages so as a reader, you're experiencing what it is like to walk in these individuals shoes, enduring everything that they had to go through in the backward thinking of 1936. As a result of the entitlement mentality of most white individuals in that era, one of the main characters Jo, had me so riled up I wanted to rip her from the pages and pound some sense into her 16-year-old head. Obviously, this is a prime example of how first-rate the prose is since I have never had my blood pressure go up because I was so enraged by a fictional character before. Breathe… The next main character is Dovey, who is a smart, hard working black laundress for white people. I just want to mention that usually in a review I don’t mention the color of the character's skin, but due to segregation in 1936 it matters immensely. Also, my opinion of race has nothing to do with this review, this is just how it’s looked upon in the book. Back to the review… Dovey is my favorite individual in the book. She loves her family more than anything and will fight to the death to protect them. They live a taxing life just for the most meager of necessities. Furthermore, when this tornado hits (and before) to be treated like animals because of the amount of melanin in their skin. Unquestionably, PROMISE should be on the bestseller list. It transports you back to 1936, as if you had a time machine, causing you to feel like what it is to go through a natural disaster when medicine was not highly advanced, it also meant different things depending on your race. When you wake up from the storm are you on a makeshift bed with the cockroaches or in a real hospital bed off the floor? Is your family on a list of where they had been transported/dead or are you searching through the dead bodies in alleys looking for your loved ones? This book hits you at the core of your being. Definitely, get your copy and let me know what you think!There are gobs more I want to write about this book and how I felt about it. Consequently, that is not my place. My place is just to tell the bare bones and how I felt about the style and writing of the book. I hope I did that well. One last thing, the author did phenomenal research about the tornado of 1936 and at the end of the book, you will find pictures of the destruction of Tupelo, Mississippi. "Thanks, TLC Book Tours"
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  • Dustin Hood
    January 1, 1970
    Anyone from the South can tell you how terrifying and profoundly life-changing a tornado can be on your life and generations to come. When a tornado tears through Tupelo, Mississippi in 1936 the town is immediately disheveled into a landscape unrecognizable. Records indicate the tornado claimed 216 to 233 lives and 1,000 injured. What that record omits is countless of African American lives impacted by the F5 twister. Minrose Gwin's PROMISE regals the story of two families with more than just th Anyone from the South can tell you how terrifying and profoundly life-changing a tornado can be on your life and generations to come. When a tornado tears through Tupelo, Mississippi in 1936 the town is immediately disheveled into a landscape unrecognizable. Records indicate the tornado claimed 216 to 233 lives and 1,000 injured. What that record omits is countless of African American lives impacted by the F5 twister. Minrose Gwin's PROMISE regals the story of two families with more than just this tragedy in common. The McNabb Family, a well-off white family with a rambunctious (Word To Keep) son, "Son", and coming-of-age daughter, Jo, who soon finds the weight of responsibility on her own shoulders, forced to be independent while her mother lies injured and father out in the world tending to who knows what. The Grand'homme Family is an African American family who already knows the feeling of loss, of injustice. Dovey is the McNabb's washwoman, with a family of her own to care for, begins her quest to find and reunite her family after the storm.PROMISE is a book that I could not put down, I found myself engrossed by each family's circumstance and Minrose Gwin's ability to narrate each story with extraordinary pose. This historical fiction tells an important story that should have been told in 1936. Thank you Minrose for the ARC and for crafting a story that should be on everyone's reading list.
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  • Read In Colour
    January 1, 1970
    I want to rate this higher and probably would have but REASONS. In the aftermath of a tornado, whiteness is still centered. Black people were expected to delay looking for their family to assist white people. And this little white girl ordering grown ass black people around? Lawdamercy, this book didn't sit right with me for so many reasons. Was it a good story, probably. Is there a lesson to be learned in it, maybe for somebody, but not for me.
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  • Kathryn
    January 1, 1970
    Minrose Gwin presents a story focused on two families, one white and one black as they struggle to reunite with their kin after the F5 Tornado that hit Tupelo, Mississippi on April 5, 1936. F5 are considered extremely dangerous according to more than one source, they are capable of total destruction; strong frame houses are lifted off foundations and can be carried considerable distances and have the capacity to cause them to disintegrate altogether, some sources say they pack winds over 100 mil Minrose Gwin presents a story focused on two families, one white and one black as they struggle to reunite with their kin after the F5 Tornado that hit Tupelo, Mississippi on April 5, 1936. F5 are considered extremely dangerous according to more than one source, they are capable of total destruction; strong frame houses are lifted off foundations and can be carried considerable distances and have the capacity to cause them to disintegrate altogether, some sources say they pack winds over 100 miles an hour, while others say it is 200 miles an hour. That night, there was no advanced warning to those who lived in Tupelo, nor the folks that lived in the surrounding area (those within the black community). The storm did not discriminate but ravaged the entire region leaving many dead, extensive numbers injured and most of them homeless. This is a peak at their story as they bare the emotional distress of great loss.Judge McNabb is also an attorney and well respected within the Tupelo community, his wife has recently had their third child, baby Tommy and due to his colicky nature and Alice McNabb's post-partum depression, she is not currently teaching English at the local school. Their oldest son, referred to as Son, has a secret that some of the town knows but not his mother nor his sister, Jo. Son has fathered a baby with very fair skinned Dreama Grand'homme named Promise, who is about the same age as his brother. Dreama did not consent to Son's advances and the long-time relationship between Dovey Grand'homme (their laundress) and the McNabb's has been tenuous at best as a result. Unfortunately, Jo knows another secret about her brother, it is one that she has kept to herself and never dared to confront.This story's focus shows how people face their worst nightmare. Some take advantage, while others give up and others become stuck in their grief. Dovey nearly drowns at nearby lake where many others were less fortunate. Despite a seriously injured foot and a concussion as well, she searches for her granddaughter (with whom she is soon reunited) and together they search for her great- grandson and her husband. It is through Dovey and Jo's eyes, that we see the ensuing chaos and the loss. Jo is handicapped by a broken arm and a hunk of glass in her forehead, but despite this she shines valiantly in caring for her younger brother, whom she discovers in the bushes, "just like Moses" outside their destroyed antebellum home. Her mother's injuries are so severe that she is incapacitated at a makeshift hospital at the local theater and when she and Jo are reunited, we wonder if she has lost her sanity completely when she proclaims: "That's not my Tommy," Alice hissed, "How many times do I have to tell you? That baby is not mine. You, Jo. Go get your notebook. Write it down. That is not my baby. Charlatan."Over and over we are told that the fate of the "colored" people is a mystery because no one is keeping record of their deaths, those buried, and those sent on the trains to nearby Memphis and Holly Springs for medical care. It is this lack of foresight and concern that prevents many from reuniting with their loved ones and kin. When Dovey meets up with a young man from the CCC, she asks him for information. The boy looked down at his feet. "They're putting the Negroes in the boxcars. They took some of them to the Lyric. They're using the stage to operate and the popcorn machine to clean the instruments. Chopping off arms and legs like they're chopping a load of wood, then propping folks up in a seat just like they're getting ready to run a picture show for them. Whole bunch of them arms and legs just piled up in a corner...Last I heard they ran out of ether and was using whiskey. People rowed up in there like sardines in a can, back and white together, waiting their turn at the table, screaming and hollering like the world coming to an end."We follow Dovey from her own patch up job at the theater to her assigned boxcar, where each family is alloted a jug of water, a can opener, loaf of bread, a can of meat and can of beans and a cot for each person. She and Dreama efforts are eventually rewarded but many events ensue before life has any hope of returning to normal.I want to thank William Morrow for providing me with an Advanced Reading Copy for my honest review. Ms. Gwin has written a cohesive tale of aftermath of a terrible storm and its trauma on the survivor's particularly upon those, whom society once deemed less important. As the story closed, I wondered what became of these people? Perhaps, we will be granted a follow-up?It is a story worth reading especially if you have ever struggled to cope in the aftermath of a storm or know someone who has. Living in Florida, I have endured many category 3 and 4 hurricanes (which also tend to bring tornado before and after) and I have seen heart wrenching stories. My recollection is also still vivid record breaking tornado F3, hit on July 4, 1969 that hit Central and NE Ohio up into Cleveland and Lake Erie Counties. I remember the terror on my brother's face when he called me into the house moments before that tornado passed by our home and caused a 50 ft. tree to fall directly on our house. I remember aftermath seeing the trees heaped upon one another like matchsticks and wondering where my parents were. They had gone out for the day. It was later determined that they narrowly escaped it, apparently following right behind its path. It wasn't even September, when my best friend's parents moved to AZ, they were so traumatized by the storm, they feared ever experiencing another. There were many death's that day and it is still talked about nearly 50 years later.
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  • Gaele
    January 1, 1970
    Gwin tells the tale of the 1936 Tupelo tornado from two perspectives: Dovey, an African-American laundress and Jo, a young white girl and daughter of a Judge and schoolteacher. Simply surviving the storm when so many didn’t, then holding on to hope and determination to survive and find family and help become the skeleton of this tale – allowing readers in to lives and situations that feel plausible and probable, even as some of the underlying discrimination and unfairness persist. Working from a Gwin tells the tale of the 1936 Tupelo tornado from two perspectives: Dovey, an African-American laundress and Jo, a young white girl and daughter of a Judge and schoolteacher. Simply surviving the storm when so many didn’t, then holding on to hope and determination to survive and find family and help become the skeleton of this tale – allowing readers in to lives and situations that feel plausible and probable, even as some of the underlying discrimination and unfairness persist. Working from actual accounts, guessing at numbers of affected (African Americans and their names and numbers weren’t counted), and managing to bring a story of intersected lives through proximity and abuse to life. The devastation and shock from the two survivors when they see just how the landscape has changed: rain, hail, wind and mud, all concealed in darkness that hides other dangers, human and topographical. The unending scenes of death and featherless chickens, lack of potable water and food, dry clothing, and no shoes, we see the ‘make-do’ personal caretaking as Dovey continues to put one foot forward in her search for husband, granddaughter and great-grandbaby. As part of the government’s efforts to alleviate the depression, dispatches of relief arrive reasonably quickly: from medical staff and medicines to food, water, undertakers to care for the dead and the Red Cross: making lists of dead, survivors and proving intermediate and triage care for the citizens. And to be clear – the lists were of white citizens, even as the black citizens were provided minimal assistance as well. Through Dovey’s story we see a life of struggle and tumult: yet full of love of family- and her story unfolds with tragedies and emotion, tying us to her search and finding light in her simple belief that she will find her family alive and well. Through Jo’s story, we see a young woman who is fanciful and often unrealistic, unable to remember (and it feels more like she doesn’t see it as important) Dovey’s name, even as she demands, orders and lastly cajoles her to send someone back to help. More of Jo’s upbringing (and callous disregard – if recognized as a hateful thing later) show as she demands (often imperiously) action from others, black and white, action to care for her needs and that of the brother she found dangling in the bushes at the front of her house. From horrific injuries, fears and the simple struggle to survive: the emotional intensity of the story never quite leaves, coming to a head when Jo with her little brother (much changed from the fractious and colicky child she’d known the past months) finally come face to face with Dovey, now in boxcar housing arranged by the Red Cross – and secrets and realities are revealed – in ways that only time could show if effects were long-lasting for Jo. Family secrets and shames unearthed, families of privilege brought low and unable to exhibit even the most basic of survival skills, and the ever-present separation between the races: in medical care, housing, basic necessities and even casual encounters on the street stand out shockingly: that such an unimportant affectation should be so integral to the society as to be adhered to in times when simple necessities become luxuries is a testament to the stupidity and ignorance that is integral in racism. Unfortunately, the systematic complicity of that racism extended to record-keeping by the government: historic accounts of this story are lily-white, and from the author’s notes, the settlements and people were relocated and or lost to recorded history. The book is beautifully readable: both Jo and Dovey bring their families and lives to life in their recollections and memories, the three characters that are ever-present from the early chapters (Dovey, Jo and the baby) are clearly present in each word and scene. The horrific aftermath of a devastating storm, the strange focus on what is important at that moment, and the faith that Dovey caries like a sword in her search for her people is striking and heartfelt. A tale that feels so plausible and possible as to be a memoir from two survivors of the tornado: this needs to be a part of your upcoming reads. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. Review first appeared at I am, Indeed
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  • Alison Hardtmann
    January 1, 1970
    Minrose Gwin explores the aftermath of a tornado that struck Tupelo, Mississippi on April 5, 1936, through the experiences of two women. Jo McNabb is the sixteen-year-old daughter of a local judge living in a comfortable brick house and Dovey Grand'homme is a grandmother and a laundress who works for the McNabbs. As their paths intersect, the connections and divisions between them become clear and what the path forward might be. This novel is a straightforward historical account based on the sto Minrose Gwin explores the aftermath of a tornado that struck Tupelo, Mississippi on April 5, 1936, through the experiences of two women. Jo McNabb is the sixteen-year-old daughter of a local judge living in a comfortable brick house and Dovey Grand'homme is a grandmother and a laundress who works for the McNabbs. As their paths intersect, the connections and divisions between them become clear and what the path forward might be. This novel is a straightforward historical account based on the stories the author was told by family still living in Tupelo, as well as meticulous research. Gwin has done her homework. There are two very different stories being told here; a coming of age story of a girl who finds her strength in getting her injured mother and infant brother through the crisis and figuring out where the truth lies, and the much grittier story of Dovey and her family and their survival despite the callous indifference and sometime hostility from the white half of town.He fired a second shot. She felt it whizz by her head. The first shot hadn't much to say except get the hell out of Dodge, but this second one sang in her left ear, over the drumbeat in her head, over the sound of the train whistle no signaling the arrival of another Frisco, over all the shouting and crying out in the streets. It sang to her like an opera singer. It sang to her like a blues singer. It sang all the nastiness of white folk, all the ugliness of the world. It sang of dirty linen, the spots that won't come out, the tears in the fabric.While Promise was often predictable and sometimes smoothed over the rougher events, it was nevertheless a highly readable novel about an event I'd known nothing about.
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  • Thelma Fountain
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book in a goodreads giveaway. I had a difficult getting into this one. The concept of the events of a tornado and the aftermath interested me since I have personally lived through two tornado's but that may have also been the reason I had difficulty. Tornado's are traumatizing especially if people you know are killed. I believe this book just wasn't a good fit for me.
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  • Tammy
    January 1, 1970
    Wow! Minrose Gwin has crafted a gruesomely descriptive story in Promise! I live in the Midwest and tornadoes are one of my biggest fears. I felt as if I was actually there experiencing the aftermath. Once I started reading, I didn’t want to stop!
  • Megan C.
    January 1, 1970
    Solid read, but didn't blow me away. I had stylistic issues with dialogue and also with the narrator. (I'm really picky about narrators, which I will fully admit.) I don't like it when accents feel overly exaggerated - the southern accents and the affect from the narrator at times felt almost like a caricature, and it was really hard for me to get past that. I felt like some of the plot connections were forced just to move the story arc along and keep the pace up. Even so, an enjoyable listen th Solid read, but didn't blow me away. I had stylistic issues with dialogue and also with the narrator. (I'm really picky about narrators, which I will fully admit.) I don't like it when accents feel overly exaggerated - the southern accents and the affect from the narrator at times felt almost like a caricature, and it was really hard for me to get past that. I felt like some of the plot connections were forced just to move the story arc along and keep the pace up. Even so, an enjoyable listen that took me away for a while!
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  • Susie | Novel Visits
    January 1, 1970
    {My Thoughts}What Worked For MeRealities of a Natural Disaster in the 1930’s – We all know what it’s like when tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes strike today. We often times witness the devastation as it’s happening and we see how quickly people respond and aid arrives. Now go back 80 years and think how different it would be, especially for the people of that time. The tornado at the heart of Promise actually happened and the people had NO warning that it was coming. Minrose Gwin did a wonde {My Thoughts}What Worked For MeRealities of a Natural Disaster in the 1930’s – We all know what it’s like when tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes strike today. We often times witness the devastation as it’s happening and we see how quickly people respond and aid arrives. Now go back 80 years and think how different it would be, especially for the people of that time. The tornado at the heart of Promise actually happened and the people had NO warning that it was coming. Minrose Gwin did a wonderful job combining historical facts with fiction to share what that experience might have been like. Buildings, cars, animals and people were sucked up into the air. At the heart of Promise are two babies plucked from their mothers’ arms. As in disasters today, people were quick to help, but the quality of help was limited and much slower. I found the historical aspect of Promise fascinating.A Study of Casual Racism – There can be no doubt that 1930’s Mississippi abounded with racism, and Gwin addressed this in ways both big and small. The differences in the homes of whites and blacks also made a difference in survival rates. The bigger, sturdier homes of whites offered so much more protection. After the disaster, Dovey was expected to help out a white family even as she was searching for her own family. A hospital for whites sprung up much quicker than the one for blacks. White citizens were taken by train to Memphis, while blacks were poured into boxcars. Different morgues were set up. Even with a storm that saw no color boundaries, boundaries were everywhere.What Didn’tS.L.O.W. – I don’t mean to be dramatic, but Promise was often just too slow. There was a lot of repetition that just wasn’t necessary and I felt like the author often went off on tangents that added little to the story. I skimmed quite a bit and that’s never a good sign.Repetitive Events – A couple of similar events running throughout a story can be the cornerstone of what makes it great. I felt like there were too many in Promise: girls being “bothered” by boys, confused identities, dreams that made no sense, women fainting, being unable to find family. The fact that repetition happened so often, took away from the events that were truly important to the story.Bird Imagery – Gwin used a lot of bird references and bird imagery in her novel. I felt like she was hitting me over the head with it, but more than that, it added nothing to the heart of her story. I could have easily done without all of it.“That morning the flutter had taken up residence in her upper thigh; she had watched the skin jump with it. Was she becoming a bird? Since the storm, she flew through her dreams. She flew without fear, with a steady heedless curiosity; nothing could hold her down, not the sweet dear earth, not the people who held her life in place. She wondered if she were getting ready to die.”{The Final Assessment}While I enjoyed much of the heart of the story that was Promise, overall I cannot recommend it without serious reservations. I think the book would have been much more interesting had it been more selectively edited, and had it stayed focused on the heart of Dovey’s and Jo’s stories. Grade: CNote: I received a copy of this book from the publisher (via Edelweiss) in exchange for my honest review.Original Source: https://novelvisits.com/promise-minro...
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  • Asheley
    January 1, 1970
    4.5/5Promise by Minrose Gwin is a historical fiction story that is based on the F-5 tornado that tore thru Tupelo, Mississippi on April 5, 1936 at around 9:00 p.m. History says that over two hundred people died in this tornado — it was actually more than that, but only the white population was counted in the casualty reports. I was astounded as I read this, based on Minrose Gwin’s extensive research.Promise isn’t only about casualties and the inaccurate numbers. This is the story of two families 4.5/5Promise by Minrose Gwin is a historical fiction story that is based on the F-5 tornado that tore thru Tupelo, Mississippi on April 5, 1936 at around 9:00 p.m. History says that over two hundred people died in this tornado — it was actually more than that, but only the white population was counted in the casualty reports. I was astounded as I read this, based on Minrose Gwin’s extensive research.Promise isn’t only about casualties and the inaccurate numbers. This is the story of two families and how their lives are connected before this event and by this event. There are two main female POVs: Jo and Dovey. Young Jo suffers a head injury during the tornado, but manages to take care of her mother and the infant that she finds in a bush in the yard by her house – her brother, Tommy. The way Jo’s entire family is changed by the tornado is heartbreaking, but Jo’s reaction to her family’s fate is even more heartbreaking; there is so much loss here, in ways that may not be what you’re thinking.Dovey has worked as Jo’s family’s laundress for many years. While this work pays the bills, she isn’t partciularly connected this this family and there is certainly no love lost there. This is because of Jo’s brother, who is essentially a snake (my word, not Dovey’s – she has another word for him). He has caused a great harm to Dovey’s granddaughter, and even though she tries to think good thoughts generally, Dovey does not forget these things. She is no stranger to loss. When the tornado comes, it literally picks her up and flings her into a nearby lake. Making her way out of the water and far from home, she is determined to find her way back to her family – every one of them – no matter what.On her way home, Dovey finds herself smack-dab in the home of Jo McNabb. Tragic actions have meshed their families together before, and all of that is about to come full circle.I don’t know why, but I had created this assumption that Promise by Minrose Gwin would be about Dovey and Jo working together to find all of the missing members of their collective families. Why did I think that? That would have been way too easy, especially for the Deep South in the 1930’s. Good grief, how naive of me. Promise tells of two women from entirely different worlds navigating an Act of Nature that did not discriminate based on race or socioeconomic status. Here, these two women should have been on entirely equal ground, even during the 1930’s in Mississippi, when people came to help out and clean up and save lives, right? Well. There were several points in reading this book that I honestly felt sick – not because of anything in the narrative, certainly nothing gratuitous, but because I’m sometimes still taken aback when I encounter certain levels of horrifying behavior. In this case, denying people (including children) access to treatment and recovery and aid after a natural disaster.Although Jo’s family and Dovey’s family suffered similar fates (complete destruction of their homes, major injuries, missing persons), Dovey’s family was treated differently because of their skin color. Further, non-white people were not counted in the casualty numbers. So it was very difficult for Dovey’s family and other people to determine if friends or family members had been found or not, buried or not, etc. (Even now, is there any way to go back and adequately rectify this and correct the number of casualties from Tupelo on this night? I can’t see how. History just bears this as is, without an entire group of people accounted for.)I knew from the synopsis that Jo finds a baby in the debris and wreckage, and from the story leading up to this point, I had suspicions about how this would steer the plot and play out toward the end. I WAS WRONG, I WAS SO WRONG. This turned out being, in my opinion, the driving point of the book and the center point of so many discussable, intersecting plot points.This story is so good. SO GOOD. It is possible that some readers will say it is slow, but I say it is very character-driven. There is a lot of time spent setting up these characters. I think this is time well-spent, because as the story nears the middle and end, it pays to know them pretty well in order to understand their thought processes and actions. Especially Jo and Dovey. I felt like I understood them very well and I also felt connected to both women as I approached the latter third of the book, when things started to pick up.I also think with something like a tornado, there is an assumption that the tornado will make the story action-driven, but it really doesn’t. The tornado and its aftermath is very much there, like a huge, hulking thing. But it really like more of a vehicle to drive the story along: the tornado, the search and rescue, the recovery effort, the treatment of the injuries – all of these things felt like the curtain hanging directly behind these characters — if that makes sense. It made the main plotline stand out to me. What we are looking at here is how these characters are dealing with the merging of their families, the crossing of paths. How do they navigate something like that when one is black and one is white? Everything becomes one woman’s word against another.I could keep talking for a long time about this book, but I am afraid I would be spoilery, and I believe that uncovering the parts that I didn’t expect is what made it extra excellent to me. I recommend picking this one up and spending some time with it. (It is BEAUTIFUL on the bookshelf and there are real historical photos in the back, a bonus!) Get to know Dovey and get to know Jo. Pay attention to the setting in terms of time and in terms of how things were in the Deep South in the 1930’s. THEN. Then, it makes the story so much more compelling when things start to happen with the family members finally receiving the help they need with their injuries and with this little baby that was found.ALSO: What did disaster relief look like in a racially-divided 1930’s?What a great story, not only because Promise is excellent, but because I appreciated the opportunity to put myself in this place at this time in this way.I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. Thank you, William Morrow Books!Find this review and more like it on my blog, Into the Hall of Books!
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  • Elisha (lishie)
    January 1, 1970
    Well-done account of what is usually the "other side"... The intertwined stories of two families, one black, one white during the 1936 Tornado of Tupelo, Mississippi. And to be sure, the black folks' account was not registered for the books. The dead's names were not written down, not accounted for in the newspapers and it will never be known how many fatalities were the true count. It was also difficult the find the sick from the black community as well. This story is one of hope and promise in Well-done account of what is usually the "other side"... The intertwined stories of two families, one black, one white during the 1936 Tornado of Tupelo, Mississippi. And to be sure, the black folks' account was not registered for the books. The dead's names were not written down, not accounted for in the newspapers and it will never be known how many fatalities were the true count. It was also difficult the find the sick from the black community as well. This story is one of hope and promise in divided community during a horrible natural disaster. It was bleak at times but a good read that kept me mesmerized.
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  • Rikke
    January 1, 1970
    2.5 stars. Sadly I didn't like it as much as I had hoped.
  • Patty
    January 1, 1970
    I have a love of historical fiction and a fascination with weather so this book caught me on two levels. Promise is a fictional tale about the very real F5 tornado that hit Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1936. Ms. Gwin’s grandparents lived in the area at the time and survived the event. She includes a slew of photos in the afterward from the news coverage of the day and from the historical society that allows the reader to fully appreciate the fury of the storm.The book focuses on two families; one wea I have a love of historical fiction and a fascination with weather so this book caught me on two levels. Promise is a fictional tale about the very real F5 tornado that hit Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1936. Ms. Gwin’s grandparents lived in the area at the time and survived the event. She includes a slew of photos in the afterward from the news coverage of the day and from the historical society that allows the reader to fully appreciate the fury of the storm.The book focuses on two families; one wealthy and white and one poor and black. The white family includes the Judge, his wife, son and daughter Jo. The black family story is centered on Dovey the matriarch but it also features her husband, grandaughter and great grandson who is the book’s namesake. Dovey is the laundress in town and she works for the Judge’s family. It’s a tortured history for a number of reasons. I don’t want to delve into too deeply for the sake of not spoiling plot points.This is a book that forces you to think and to read slowly. It doesn’t read like a typical book and it some ways it’s a bit scattered but these peoples’ world was just blown apart by winds that probably reached over 250mph. The book takes place right after the Depression so race relations place a big role in the story. For example – as Dovey is searching for her family after the tornado she is directed to a certain area but she is warned that no one is writing down the names of “the coloreds” nor are they counting the number of colored dead.Just think about that for a minute. The black people that died LITERALLY didn’t count. To this day they do not have an accurate death toll due to this.White women do not fare much better in the tale. Their purpose seems to be to satisfy the needs and wants of white men. Aaaaah, the good ‘ole days. As I noted, it’s a thought provoking books and some thoughts provoke more than others.I found that the mood was set from the first page and Ms. Gwin carried the mood through the to last page. I can’t say that all of my questions were satisfactorily answered but I don’t think they were meant to be. This was a time that just was not fair to people of color or to women for that matter. I was left with a semblance of hope for the future for the characters which is what a reader wants when they become as invested in them as you do with a book as compelling as this one is. I find myself still thinking about it well over a week after I finished it. Ms. Gwin built her world well and populated it with memorable characters. I can’t wait to read what she writes next.
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  • Phyllis Krall
    January 1, 1970
    A historical novel about the deadly tornado that hit Tupelo, Mississippi in 1936 causing devastation and death to many. Two families are linked through horrifying circumstances and struggle to recover.Dovey is a laundress who works for the McNabb family . When the tornado hits she is lifted out of her yard and finds herself bliwn into Gum Pond. She manages to make her way back home to search for her husband, granddaughter, and great grandson. She wanders through town, stopping at the McNabb home A historical novel about the deadly tornado that hit Tupelo, Mississippi in 1936 causing devastation and death to many. Two families are linked through horrifying circumstances and struggle to recover.Dovey is a laundress who works for the McNabb family . When the tornado hits she is lifted out of her yard and finds herself bliwn into Gum Pond. She manages to make her way back home to search for her husband, granddaughter, and great grandson. She wanders through town, stopping at the McNabb home where she finds more destruction. The oldest son has been killed, and Jo, the teenage daughter has a terrible head wound. Her Mother is badly injured, and her baby brother has been flung out the window. Unbelievable circumstances link the two women who are of different races and upbringings.Jo’s fight for the baby she has found, and Dovey’s search for her greatgrandson connect their lives and show the strength they both have.I received this beautifully book from Goodreads in exchange for an honest review. The vivid descriptions of the tornado devastation were realistic and hard to believe. I was not aware of the effects of this disaster especially in the African American community. The characters were unforgettable and will linger in my mind. Highly recommended!!
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  • Regina Spiker
    January 1, 1970
    Quotes: • "Down here we don't mix," the doctor said under his breath. The Yankee Red Cross lady says "Oh dear, that's not emergency protocol. We treat everyone by the severity of the injury."• “Because sometimes evil didn’t show its ugly self; it could put on the clothes of an ordinary boy. The boy could sit across the table from you, a stray lock of hair hanging in his eyes. He could be doing all the regular things boys do, shoveling in the mashed potatoes, pushing the peas around on his plate, Quotes: • "Down here we don't mix," the doctor said under his breath. The Yankee Red Cross lady says "Oh dear, that's not emergency protocol. We treat everyone by the severity of the injury."• “Because sometimes evil didn’t show its ugly self; it could put on the clothes of an ordinary boy. The boy could sit across the table from you, a stray lock of hair hanging in his eyes. He could be doing all the regular things boys do, shoveling in the mashed potatoes, pushing the peas around on his plate, preferring peach cobbler over rhubarb in the late summer while the wasps batted the window screen and the fan on the sideboard rotated.”• “Had the girl stashed away a piece of herself, because that’s what mothers must do—hold something back just in case—but of course the answer was no, of course she hadn’t because, and Dovey knew this for a fact, it’s not possible to hold anything back with a baby; everything has already been opened up, everything yawns toward hunger and need, everything says, Take me, use me, this is my body and my blood and no one else’s will do. Dreama was just a piece of water going to the sea.”
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  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    With all the weather-related warnings we have today, it's hard to imagine a time when F-5 tornados could sneak up on communities. The author did a wonderful job of describing the total devastation this 1936 tornado did to the town (and black and white citizens) of Tupelo, Mississippi. A heart-wrenching story of families looking for their loved ones in the aftermath.
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  • Jane
    January 1, 1970
    Gwin's fictional tale of two families during the 1936 tornado in Tupelo, Mississippi is a definite read even though a good editing could have reduced its page length by approximately twenty pages. While they search for loved ones through the rubble of the destroyed buildings and decaying corpses, both Dovey and Jo remember their past and then discover the truth in what is most precious to them.
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  • Pat
    January 1, 1970
    I thought the book was interesting and I liked the story. The beginning of the book describing the tornado was very good. There were too many repetitive details that I found to be distracting or I would have rated it higher.
  • Deb Darling
    January 1, 1970
    Compelling book of love and loss, in a period of 1930's bigotry in Mississippi, from the viewpoint of both whites and blacks. I think the reason for 4 stars instead of 5, is that it mostly made me sad.
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