Sarah's Promise: Country Road Chronicles #4
SARAH'S PROMISE is the final book in Leisha Kelly's Country Road Chronicles, the story of Depression Era families and the struggles they face in an attempt to rebuild their lives. It's also a love story involving Sarah Wortham and Frank Hammond and the roadblocks to their relationship.
This sequel to RACHEL'S PRAYER opens with another potential obstacle to their wedding day. Frank is leaving town on a 230-mile trip in the snow to help his brother Sam move. Sarah is distraught on two counts: She's worried about Frank making such a long drive on unfamiliar roads (this is the 1940s, when 200-plus miles would have been a long trip, and a potentially dangerous one in winter), and Frank wants to check out a business prospect that would force him and Sarah to move far from their hometown once they are married.
Frank's expected return to the Hammond family farm near Dearing, Illinois, is delayed at first by several days and then by several months; Frank, a woodworker, has discovered a far more fulfilling prospect than the business he had set out to investigate. Though she misses him, Sarah agrees that he needs to stay in Camp Point, the small town where Sam had lived before he moved.
But missing Frank isn't Sarah's only concern. Knowing that Frank is out of town, Donald Mueller steps up his pursuit of Sarah. Today he'd be accused of stalking and hit with a restraining order, but this is the 1940s, and about all Sarah can do is burn his daily letters and make sure her father is nearby whenever she goes to town. But even that situation gets complicated, as Frank's absence starts to wear on Sarah. And in the middle of all this, Sarah is trying to plan her wedding.
All along, the story of the Worthams and Hammonds is believable and satisfying. Kelly's thorough research of the era she's writing about is evident throughout, and with a few exceptions, she conveys the atmosphere of the times seamlessly. And she clearly has an ear for dialect and linguistic distinctions; in particular, Frank's mannerisms, speaking style and colloquialisms ring true and enhance the sense of time and place that Kelly is so good at establishing.
For any reader who is not familiar with the previous books in this series, the first few pages of SARAH'S PROMISE will be both bewildering and frustrating. The opening assumes that the reader knows the backstory; in what may have been an attempt to compensate for that, no less than a dozen characters are mentioned or introduced in the first three pages alone, creating a dizzying experience for newcomers to the series. But thing settle down soon enough, and even though unfamiliar names occasionally pop up without an explanation of who they are or which family they belong to, it's easy enough to make an educated guess and move on.
Readers of the series will no doubt hate to see it end, but Kelly has given them a rewarding finale. And as long as they can ignore the confusion in the opening scene, newcomers will get their reward as well.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on September 1, 2008