In her last 11 books, Jane Green has created friends who become family and family who become estranged. Her characters have had their hearts broken, their dreams realized and their health jeopardized. Green’s latest work, Promises to Keep, maintains her tried-and-true formula but has special meaning for the author, who says writing this novel helped her cope with the loss of a dear friend.

The characters in Promises to Keep are going about their lives, dating, raising kids and searching for meaning, when one of them, a cancer survivor, falls ill again. What follows is what Green does best: A group of people—some blood-related, some kindred spirits—rallies for Callie Perry. They take her flowers and food—establishing an important community theme in the novel—with a recipe between each chapter. They make sure her kids are loved and entertained, and her husband stable. Instead of approaching Callie’s illness from the sick woman’s perspective, Green shows the disease as she knows it best: from the standpoint of someone watching their loved one shrink away.

The reader is able to go through the grieving process without distraction, as these characters are all who they seem: Callie’s doting husband does not cheat, her best friend does not neglect her and her children don’t turn against her. By not building characters for shock value, Green creates a scene of what has become a large family drinking wine and eating chips on Callie’s bed as she dozes between bouts of laughter. The reader views the image from the doorway of a room floodlit with spirit. Promises to Keep is a thoughtful, poignant tribute to cancer victims and those who were impacted by their abbreviated, shining lives.

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