The 1936 Tupelo-Gainesville tornado outbreak is one of the deadliest ever recorded in U.S. history. Minrose Gwin’s 2018 historical novel, Promise, is about this dangerous F5 tornado that hit Tupelo, Mississippi and surrounding areas, without warning, causing wide-spread devastation during the 16-hour rampage which resulted in the deaths of 454 people and left extensive numbers injured and most of them homeless. Strong frame houses were lifted off foundations and many living beings were carried considerable distances.
The story explores both sides of the color line, two families, one white and one black, as they struggle to reunite with their kin in the aftermath of the storm. Dovey is a laundress who works for the McNabb family. When the tornado hits, she is lifted out of her yard and finds herself blown into a nearby pond. Through the flash floods and wreckage, she manages to search for her husband, granddaughter, and great grandson, wandering through town and 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. Jo’s mother is badly injured and her baby brother has been flung out the window. Unbelievable circumstances link the two women. Jo’s fight for the baby she has found, and Dovey’s search for her great grandson baby, named Promise, connect their lives with grit, hope and promise.
Kirkus Review says “At times, Gwin’s prose is profound and Faulkner-ian in tone: Time isn’t a river, Jo thought; time is ground and dirt and the roots of ancient trees and the bones of past things. Time is underfoot”. These characters were unforgettable and will linger in your mind. Highly recommended!!
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Review by Carol McFadden, Children’s Services