Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Review: The Promised World by Lisa Tucker

While millions of people watched her brother die, Lila sat in her quiet office at the university, working on a paper about Herman Melville’s later years. Someone else might have found it ironic that, on that very afternoon, she’d been thinking about Melville’s son, who shot himself. Lila herself didn’t make the connection until much later, and by then, she was so lost she could only see it as an obvious sign that she should have known, that she’d failed Billy when he needed her most. [first paragraph]

The Promised World by Lisa Tucker
Atria Books, 2009 (ARC)
Fiction; 319 pgs

From Amazon: On a March afternoon, while Lila Cole is working in her quiet office, her twin brother Billy points an unloaded rifle out of a hotel window, closing down a city block. "Suicide by police" was obviously Billy's intended result, but the aftermath of his death brings shock after shock for Lila when she discovers that her brilliant but troubled twin - the person she revered and was closer to than anyone in the world - was not only estranged from his wife, but also charged with endangering the life of his middle child and namesake, eight-year-old William.

As Lila struggles to figure out what was truth and what was fiction in her brother's complicated past, her job, her marriage, and even her sanity will be put at risk. And when the hidden meaning behind Billy's stories comes to light, she will have to act before Billy's children are destroyed by the same heartbreaking reality that shattered her protector and twin more than twenty years ago.

In today's climate, with the news full of stories men turning to mass murder and suicide, The Promised World seems an even more fitting book for the times. Unlike the men in the news stories, however, Billy Cole had no intention of killing anyone other than himself the day he aimed his unloaded rifle at an elementary school. His pain had become too much for him to bear. Lisa Tucker offers a firsthand look at a family in crisis and the impact suicide can have on such a family.

Billy had been everything to his twin sister, Lila. Billy was her hero and her mentor. He had been her support for many years, nurturing her and rescuing her from a past she has no memory of. Billy was the person who filled in the gaps of her memory and inspired her love for books. His death shattered not only her heart, but her world as well--everything she thought she knew and believed suddenly came into question. Lila's husband could only watch his wife unravel before him, unsure of what to do and how to help her. His wife was not quite the woman he thought she was. What seemed to be a perfect marriage, suddenly was falling apart.

Billy's death left his own family, his three children and estranged wife, confused and angry. His teenage daughter, Pearl, wants to understand her father and why he would do such a terrible thing. William, Billy’s 8 year old son, continues to hang on to the promises he made to his father, wanting to make him proud even after death. Ashley had loved Billy but also been afraid of him. He was the perfect father one minute but his mood swings and secretiveness proved more than the couple could bear.

I was intrigued when I first read the description of this novel and jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the book tour. The Promised World sounded liked something I would like. And it certainly was. I was especially mesmerized by the momentum the author built as the story went along. I was caught up in the downward spiral leading up to the climax, wondering where the author would take me next. How much worse could it get for this family as they struggled to come to terms with the past and move forward in their own lives?

I went back and forth in my opinions of the characters, sometimes liking them and sometimes wondering what the heck they were thinking. Each was flawed, dealing with a catastrophic event that would scar anyone in his or her shoes. Everyone dealt with Billy's death in different ways. Still, they all felt a similar pain and anger, and even the shame. My heart especially when out to the children.

There is quite a bit to this novel. The author took on the issue of child abuse, looking at it from varying angles: from false allegations to the lasting damage and impact of long time abuse. The novel also delved into the fragility of memory--how easily it can be manipulated or colored by perception and time or forgotten all together, repressed. Secrecy also plays a role in The Promised World. Billy and Lila kept their past well hidden. They lied to those they loved. When the truth came out, was it any wonder their loved ones felt betrayed?

Lila and Billy both shared a love for books. There are many book references that will attract fellow book lovers. Lila used books as an escape from her past, and most especially to keep her memories from overwhelming her, however unconscious that may be.
“I’m a great believer in stories. I used to tell Billy I was afraid we loved stories more than real life, but he said, ‘What is life but a story we don’t know the meaning of yet?’” [pg 10]
It was not until a few hours after I had finished reading The Promised World that I could fully appreciate all the author had set out to accomplish. While on the surface, the novel is entertaining and a page turner, in its depths it is a story about lost innocence, betrayal and the complexity of relationships.

Rating: * (Very Good)

Challenge Commitment Fulfilled: ARC Challenge, New Authors Challenge & 2009 Pub Challenge

To learn more about the author, Lisa Tucker, and her books, visit her website. Visit TLC Book Tours for a list of Lisa Tucker's tour stops!

Many thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for the copy of this book and the opportunity to be a part of this book tour.

© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. Oh! I sounds heartbreaking! Which is OK now and again. I enjoy books that really make you FEEL. Awesome review Wendy!

  2. Oh wow, that sounds like an intense book. I really liked your review-- I felt it gave me a great feeling for what the book is like. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  3. Great review. It sounds like a powerful book.

  4. Hi Wendy, great review!! It sounds like a really intense book.

    Just wanted you to know that I emailed you with the Q & A.

    Thank you so much for reading and reviewing The Promised World!

  5. I can see why Lila used books to escape! It sounds like there's a lot going on in this book.

  6. It sounds like you really "got" the book, Wendy. I know sometimes it takes me a while to figure out what the author set out to accomplish, and if I'm given some guidance as to what the author was trying to do (such as in a review like yours), then it makes reading the book even more rewarding.

  7. http://lauragerold.blogspot.com/2009/08/august-awards.html

    I have an award for you on my blog!

  8. Your rwevieqw of this book is terrific, thank you! I like books that make you think about them long after you finish reading the story. I also like books with characters that you like and don't like, it seems more real to me. Books that stick with me that make me think about the story, remember it, see it from different sides, those are good books I think! They're different than the books that entertain, but just as valuable.
    Again, thank you for such a thoughtful review.

    ~ A

  9. Great review Wendy. I agree with some of the other commenters who said it seems like you really got the book, which is wonderful. Sometimes I feel like I am missing out on some books because of this. I am going to be on the lookout for this one!

  10. I was mesmerized by this one, too, at times feeling so worried for the children in the story that I actually felt physical symptoms of anxiety! Great review.

  11. Great review, Wendy!
    This sounds like a great read to me!

  12. I could have sworn I'd read a book by this author before but none of the books listed by her sound familiar. Still. . .I did find one to add to my TBR list along with this one. Great review.

  13. Excellent review. I was waiting to read your thoughts. I do plan to read this sometime in Sept. Thanks so much

  14. This is a great review Wendy. I'm on the tour for later this month and now I'm really looking forward to reading this one!

  15. This sounds like it would be a great one for my book club.

  16. Sounds like a compelling read, Wendy. I'd love to keep this in my wish list. Thanks!

  17. great review...i really sympathize with pearl...trying to figure out the WHY of suicide. the horror.

    a difficult subject, but from your review it sounds as if it's handled quite adroitly. thanks for the review.

  18. Great review and thanks for the interview with the author too. This one is going on my TBR pile.

  19. Sandy - Thank you. It was heartbreaking--and then it kept getting worse for this family with one thing right after the other. I felt so bad for those kids.

    Laura - Thanks so much! Yes, it definitely was intense.

    Stacy - Thanks! There certainly was a lot to it. :-)

    LisaMM - Thank you, Lisa! For your kind words and the Q&A. :-)

    Kathy - It really was no wonder Lila turned to books. They do make a great escape when needed.

    Trish - What a nice thing to say! Thank you, Trish. This was one of those books that really didn't strike me as one that would hit me after I finished it the way it did.

  20. Laura (Laura Reviews) - Thank you!

    Amy - Thank you, Amy! I like books that stay with me long after I read them too. And I agree with you about characters. Some of the best ones are the hardest to like and yet they still endear us to them.

    Kristie - Thanks, Kristie! I've felt that way about some books too. Try as I might, I just can't quite connect with some books.

    Carrie (B&M) - Thank you. I know exactly what you mean. Those poor kids!

    Melody - Thanks, Melody!

    Framed - That's funny because I had the same feeling, but I'm pretty sure this is the first book I've read by Lisa Tucker after looking over her books.

  21. Diane - Thank you. I look forward to reading your thoughts on it.

    Jill - Thanks! I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

    Lit and Life - It would definitely make a good one for a book club.

    Alice - It really was, Alice. I am glad I decided to read it.

    Nat (Booklineandsinker) - Thank you. Pearl went through such a range of emotions. And really no wonder given all she went through. She was one of my favorite characters.

    Kathleen - Thank you! I hope you enjoy it when you read it, Kathleen.

  22. Wonderful book review, Wendy. I haven't tried any of Lisa Tucker's books but this sounds like a good one to start with. Especially as you pointed out, given what happens in this day and age it seems like it'd be fitting read.

  23. Iliana - Thank you! This was my first by this author. I'm looking forward to trying her other books now.

  24. I just finished writing my review, so I had to come back to mention how much I loved this book. You did a fantastic job with the review...Tucker really does build the suspense (only suspense isn't quite the right word, is it?). And New Grandma??? Ack!!!!! She's still creeping me out.

  25. It sounds like this story could be downright depressing but I just adore the quote you included.

  26. Jill (Softdrink) - Your review was so well written, Jill. It makes mine seem like it's all over the place. That new Grandma was definitely scary. I'm glad you enjoyed this book too!

    Jen - It was definitely tragic, but also hopeful.

  27. Catching up on reading the reviews for this tour (since I've finally read and reviewed the book myself). You did a great job on this review, Wendy...I agree with you (and rated it the same as you) re: the depth of the novel. I was also intrigued by this one!

  28. Wendy - Thank you, Wendy! You're review was so well written and insightful. I'm so glad you liked it too.


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