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The Mother's Promise

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A new poignant and breathtaking novel from the author of The Things We Keep and The Secrets of Midwives.

With every book, Sally Hepworth becomes more and more known for her searing emotional portraits of families—and the things that test their bonds. In The Mother’s Promise, she delivers her most powerful novel yet: the story of a single mother who is dying, the troubled teenaged daughter who is battling her own demons, and the two women who come into their lives at the most critical moment.

Alice and her daughter Zoe have been a family of two all their lives. Zoe has always struggled with crippling social anxiety and her mother has been her constant and fierce protector. With no family to speak of, and the identity of Zoe’s father shrouded in mystery, their team of two works—until it doesn’t. Until Alice gets sick and is given a grim prognosis.

Desperate to find stability for Zoe, Alice reaches out to two women who are practically strangers, but who are her only hope: Kate, her oncology nurse, and Sonja, a social worker. As the four of them come together, a chain of events is set into motion and all four of them must confront their sharpest fears and secrets—secrets about abandonment, abuse, estrangement, and the deepest longing for family. Imbued with heart and humor in even the darkest moments, The Mother’s Promise is an unforgettable novel about the power of love and forgiveness.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published February 21, 2017

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About the author

Sally Hepworth

17 books38.7k followers
Sally Hepworth is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels.

Sally's books have been heralded “enchanting” by The Herald Sun, “smart and engaging” by Publisher’s Weekly, and New York Times bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Emily Giffin have praised Sally’s novels as “women’s fiction at its finest” and “totally absorbing”.

Sally's novels are available worldwide in English and have been translated into 20 languages.

Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,018 reviews
Profile Image for Sally Hepworth.
Author 17 books38.7k followers
October 5, 2016
Dear Reader,

A couple of years ago, my brother and his wife were headed away on a vacation without their two-year old daughter. A few days before they left, at a family dinner, my brother asked me if I would be my niece's guardian if anything should happen to them while they were gone. A few years earlier, I’d asked same of my brother and his wife for my own children, so the request was no surprise to me. I was surprised, however, when my other brother suddenly piped up.

“What did you ask Sally for? I’d take (our niece)!” he exclaimed.

My Mum and Dad added, “What about us? We’d have her.”

What followed was a good-natured squabble over who would be the best choice of parent for a child whose parents were (and still are) very much alive. What I heard was a network of love and support, and an assurance that my niece would always be loved and taken care of. I know my own children have the same assurance. It's something I’ve always taken for granted.

So last year, when I read an article about a single mother, diagnosed with terminal cancer, who was searching for a guardian for her eight-year-old son, it caught my eye. Her son’s father was not in the picture, her own parents had passed away and she was an only child herself. She didn’t have any friends or colleagues who she felt she could ask.

I asked myself: how does someone become so alone?

The more I thought of it, the more I realized there are many ways a person can be alone. Some people are physically alone, others are alone in marriage or a decision. Some claim to feel alone even when people surround them. Before I knew it, I had begun a total exploration of the ways one can be alone … and the ways one can rejoin the world, even in the toughest of circumstances.

I called this exploration The Mother’s Promise.

I hope you enjoy it.

Sally xox
Profile Image for Deanna .
687 reviews12.5k followers
March 17, 2017
My reviews can also be seen at: https://deesradreadsandreviews.wordpr...

This is the first novel of Sally Hepworth's that I have read. I absolutely loved it, and now I want to read everything she has written or ever will write.

As soon as I read the description of this book I knew I was likely going to be an emotional mess while reading it. Oh and I was right. But while it was emotional and I definitely ugly cried, it's a book that I won't ever forget. Maybe part of it is because of my own circumstances and the fact that I have a teenage daughter? Possibly. But I think it's mostly because it's just that good of a read.

Alice Stanhope has a few health scares but usually it just means some tests that cost a lot of money but everything ends up being okay. So now she sits in her doctor's office waiting to be told she's in the clear. Then she can get back to work. Alice takes care of elderly people for a living, a home helper she keeps people company, drives them to appointments and other places, and cooks and cleans for them.

She isn't really paying attention when her doctor says something about a mass, a CA 125 score, and some kind of -ectomy. She's distracted by thoughts of her daughter, Zoe. As she left for school she told her mother she was fine, but Alice knew she was anything but fine. When the doctor has to cough to get her attention, Alice apologizes. A nurse, Kate who is also present for the appointment tells Alice that her test results were not what they had hoped for. The doctor then tells Alice she requires emergency surgery. An invasive surgery that may end with her having to stay in the hospital for up to a week.

They tell Alice she will need a support person to help her after the surgery. Alice tells them her parents are both deceased and her brother...well he wouldn't be any help to Alice. She says that it can't be her daughter, Zoe either and does not even want Zoe to know what is going on. They try to tell her that at age fifteen, Zoe can probably help more than Alice realizes but Alice is adamant.

"Zoe doesn't need to be involved in this. She can't handle this. She isn't like a normal teenager."

They try to get Alice to understand just how serious this is and that she is definitely going to need someone. What finally gets her attention is when they use the word "Cancer". She can't have cancer. She is under forty, eats well and exercises but mostly she CANNOT have cancer because she has Zoe.

Kate Littleton is a nurse. She has been delivering bad news to people for the last five years and it never gets easier. In Alice Stanhope, Kate sees an extreme case of denial. This is the first time she's come across someone who says they don't have a support person. Alice is going to need someone to help her through the hardest time in her life. All patients need "mothering". Someone who will reassure them and fight for them. Kate herself wants to be a mother. She has the man of her dreams and two great step-children but she really wants to have a baby of her own as well.

Next we meet Alice's daughter Zoe. She is at school and she's trying very hard to follow the rules. Not the class rules..... her own set of rules. The rules are extensive and give us immediate insight into the extent of Zoe's social anxiety. Rules like....never place both feet on the ground while sitting and never be the first or last person to take their seat. Zoe does everything to keep people from noticing her. She won't eat in public (there is too much potential for things to go wrong) and tries her best not to talk in public either. Zoe can only be herself around her "safe people". Her mother is the safest person of course. Another safe person is her friend, Emily. However, lately Emily has been irritated and impatient with her. Zoe is worried that Emily will move on and leave her behind.

Finally we meet the social worker, Sonja. Sonja deals with abuse cases, people who have lost a loved one as well as with patients who have cancer. She's also dealing with some personal struggles of her own, but has gotten very good at pretending everything is just fine. Sonja is the social worker that Kate is meeting with to discuss Alice's case.

This novel has a lot going on. So many SECRETS that are revealed as we get to know these four very different characters. All of these women are dealing with serious life issues and challenges. They also have very different ideas about each other. As the book goes on we see how these women with all of their individual struggles become integral parts of each others lives. Their relationships set off a chain of events that I NEVER saw coming.

I know I said it already but this book is AWESOME! Very well written. Lots of great characters. I could feel the emotion and anxiety at times and the connection between mother and daughter felt very real. They have been each others everything for so long and what is happening is terrifying to them both. It can be so hard to ask for the help you desperately need.

As I mentioned before, I cried a lot while reading this but in many ways my tears were cathartic. There are also many light and funny moments in the book.

There are different types of anxiety. For example, social anxiety, panic disorder, generalized anxiety and more. Everyone who suffers from an anxiety disorder is different. However, from my own experience as well as my experiences with my daughter, I feel like the author did a very good job describing social anxiety as well as how others may react to those who suffer from any of these disorders.

Sally Hepworth does a wonderful job of bringing her characters and their individual stories to life. A powerful story that got inside my head, I was invested in every one of these characters lives and HAD to know what was going to happen. Honestly, I was completely gripped from the time I started this book until I finished the last page. A story about motherhood, love, friendship, illness, forgiveness and SO MUCH MORE!

"The Mother's Promise" is a book that's going to stay with me for a long time. It is a great read that I highly recommend.

I would like to thank the St. Martin's Press, Sally Hepworth, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book.
Profile Image for Mischenko.
1,021 reviews97 followers
May 14, 2017
To see this review and others please visit www.readrantrockandroll.com

This review may contain spoilers...

I discovered this book on Audible and had a free credit, so I added it. This is the first book I've read by Sally Hepworth. I normally like books like this as they sort of remind me of Lifetime movies. I knew it was going to be an emotional ride after reading the blurb.

The book starts out with Alice, a mom of a teenage daughter named Zoe. Zoe has social anxiety disorder and up until this moment it's pretty much been her and her mom-no father involved. There's no other family besides Alice's alcoholic brother, Paul, who hasn't even been in their lives. Alice now learns that she has stage 3 ovarian cancer and is being told by her doctor that she's going to need some help getting through this. At this point I was hooked into the story. I couldn't help but be pulled into it. As a mom and coming from a family full of cancer, this is a nightmare. It's something I can't imagine having to go through. Of course the first thought in your mind is, "Who is going to care for my child?" With Alice, her first thought was, "How is Zoe going to handle this?"

As denial kicks in, Alice moves forward with her surgery and the story moves on to the other characters including Kate, Alice's nurse, and Sonya the hospital social worker. At first I didn't like Sonya's character and wasn't happy with what she was doing with her own life and the controls she was putting on Zoe, but she gets better as the story moves on and her presence becomes critical. With Alice's condition including Zoe's extreme anxiety issues, Kate and Sonya are all they have to help. It's certain that somehow or in some way these characters are going to come together.

I was happy with the few twists the author put in, one that was completely unexpected but didn't really amount to much with Zoe's dad. It still added depth to the story.

I managed to make it through the majority of the story without bawling my eyes out. I'm pretty sure I was spared from about 75% of the emotion in the book because I listened to the audio rather than read the book. The narrator, Barrie Kreinik, was amazing and she did a wonderful job toggling between character voices.

Overall, I'm going to rate it 4****. I felt like the ending came fairly quickly and I was hoping the author would've elaborated on the characters live's into the future, especially Zoe. This is certainly a heart-wrenching story about love, courage, and the strength it takes to overcome our worst fears.

Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews598 followers
May 2, 2017
This is one of those books with many 'hot-topics' to discuss.
Perhaps a 'women's book- group would be best. I'm sure a few 'men' might take to this novel....but my husband wouldn't be one of them. He wonders why I read it.

Gotta call a spade a spade: This is definitely 'Women's Fiction'.

It seems Cancer is not interesting 'enough' any longer in which to build a story. The more physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual struggles that can be added to the storyline - the greater possibility there for a community bleeding heart pow-wow.

Sally Hepworth adds social anxiety disorder, OCD, alcoholism, infertility, foster care, bullying, abuse, abandonment, and rape....adding more spice to the already .....
Sad Story of a Single Dying Mother!

Alice is the dying mother .... with little to no support structure-----until Kate, her oncologist-nurse offers her and her 15 year old daughter needed support.

Cranky - strong women battle it out - they have their difference - they also have each other's back-- with 15 year old Zoe being their prime purpose.
A 15 year old girl needs as much support as possible - if the only parent, and family she has in her entire life is about to die.

This is the 2nd book I've read this month - "Our Short History", by Lauren Grodstein, where the mother ( who is dying of Cancer), is not particularly a likable character.... and doesn't particularly make the best choices for her child.
God help us ... if the mother was absolutely wonderful AND dying.
However, in BOTH stories .... what I'm left with is THE CHILD IS GOING TO HAVE A STRONG SUPPORTIVE FAMILY!!!!

I feel about the same - with this book as I do "Our Short History". 3.5-3.7

I debated about reading this in the first place. I chose to read because of its location.
I've taken friends to Stanford for chemotherapy. I have friends who live in Atherton.
Given I live in this general area - I decided to read it.
I can see where it would pull on people's heart strings -- but I felt removed emotionally most of the time: interested 'enough'.... but rolling my eyes a few times also.

Biggest 'personal' irritation. ( just not my style). Every time Alice called her daughter,
"Mouse" .... her given nickname, instead of 'Zoe', I wanted to gag! If I was a 15-year-old girl, even with anxiety disorder, even if I was shy, I would no longer let my mother call me 'Mouse', than I would let her spoon feed me my meals.

The worse line in the book: "I wish you the best", >>>> The doctor says to Alice, after telling her that the cancer is terminal and that she is being transferred to palliative care. YUCK! I wanted to say. ..."I wish you the best, asshole"... STUPID LINE!!!
It was the first place in the book where my emotions got stirred!

I admit being a little cynical to this novel - yet -- I'm still going to color in 4 stars....I KNOW IT COMES FROM A GOOD PLACE. I still 'reacted' with some snootiness which I take full responsibility for. Little things irked me.
I think many women will hook right into this story as easy as an IV is inserted into a vein.

I had two favorite characters:
1- Henry.... A high school student. It was refreshing to see a guy in this novel. A COOL GUY!
2- Kate.... The oncologist nurse was endearing right down to her tennis shoes!
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,168 reviews37.3k followers
February 18, 2017
4 Stars.
Is it possible to rely solely on someone else and have it be to both of your detriments? Even if you have the tightest bond imaginable and can't imagine hurting the other? What if, in relying solely on each other, you end up enabling each other's behaviors and realize it a little to late to pick up the pieces?

In A Mother's Promise by Sally Hepworth, Alice Stanhope and her fifteen year old daughter, Zoe, are thick as thieves, the best of friends, loners. Alice successfully runs her own business, her daughter Zoe is a high school student, who suffers from a crippling case of social anxiety disorder. The only person that Zoe can even talk besides her mom is her friend Emily and even that has its disastrous moments. As soon as Zoe feels afraid, is given attention, is laughed at or smiled at, she does the only thing that makes her feel safe, she runs home to her mother. This, make Alice feel needed. It has always been the two of them against the world, so when Alice gets a devastating cancer diagnosis, she isn't afraid for herself, she fears for Zoe. And for Zoe, who can barely speak to anyone but Alice, her life will never be the same. She must be strong for her mother and find something within herself that's worth fighting for.

What they learn, is that they can't go it alone anymore and that comes in two forms: in Kate, a nurse at the hospital, who cares for Alice, and also takes Zoe under her wing, giving her advice and acting as a friend; and in Harry, a young teenage boy at Zoe's school, who, as it turns out has a few secrets of his own. All of this, aides Zoe in coming out of her shell like a small tiny butterfly, which her mother Alice witnesses and which gives her the peace she needs.

A Mother's Promise is about gathering a support system, of family, friends, acquaintances, whoever; to be around you when you need it most. It's about learning to love people for who they are, not judging them for who they aren't and allowing them to grow as people no matter how much it hurts, even if sometimes you get left behind.

Sally Hepworth wrote a sweet, endearing, easy to read novel, filled with characters who I couldn't help but love: Zoe; Kate; and even Harry. They grabbed my heart from the start and wouldn't let go. The storyline tied up nicely in the end and I could have walked away, happy - yet there were a few core elements of the story that I struggled with including: Alice's decision to reject treatment for her socially anxiety ridden daughter in her grade school years, and thereby enabling and perpetuating a full fledged social anxiety disorder in a teenaged Zoe. At first, I thought this was a huge oversight, but then I felt that in not making those choices, Ms. Hepworth chose for to Zoe struggle more later in life, allowing her to blossom at the end. This allowed her mother Alice to see the transformation, when little else was left.

All in all, a job well done for a lovely, heartfelt, easy read.

Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin's Press and Sally Hepworth for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Published on NetGalley and Goodreads on 2.18.17.

*Will be published on Amazon on 2.21.17
Profile Image for James.
Author 20 books3,720 followers
August 3, 2022
4+ of 5 stars to Sally Hepworth's The Mother's Promise, a touching story that will give you a tremendous amount to consider. I received this ARC from St. Martin's Press as a giveaway through Goodreads, choosing it because it had a gripping summary and a similar sentiment as the book I'd recently written. It definitely was worth the read: a ride through your emotions with several eye-opening questions to ponder.

Alice and her 15-year-old daughter, Zoe, have lived on their own in California most of their life. Alice assists the elderly with day-to-day errands and health matters while Zoe battles her social anxiety disorder. When Alice discovers she needs to have a tumor removed, and then learns the cancer will need extensive chemo and radiation, she's at a loss as to who will help take care of her daughter during the recovery period. Enter Kate, a 30ish patient advocate / social worker who's trying to have her own baby but has had several miscarriages. Kate realizes Alice has no one to help care for her and brings in another aide, Sonja, to help find a solution. Sonja's got her own problems with a husband who has increasingly become combative and potentially abusive. Each of the 4 women figure out how to face their problems, working on their own and together at different times. Each suffers a major blow to their future and doesn't know where to turn. Will they come together somehow in the end to help each other out, or is it too late?

1. I could clearly picture each of the 4 women in my mind and felt connected to their plight. They were strong and weak, tragic and flawed, beautiful and hopeful. I watched them take 2 steps forward and then 1 awful step backward. And thru each mini-journey, I wished I could be there to help them figure out how to find a connection.

2. I expected this to be a tale of emotional sorrow. I expected this to be full of questions and a push for me to decide how I'd handle such a situation. But two little bombs are dropped along the way (no spoilers here) in such light, easy fashion, I literally dropped the book from shock. I didn't expect those 2 moments to hit when they actually hit. It wasn't as though everything was going well and suddenly something bad happened... I was already sad / worried for the character and then the carpet was ripped out... with no notice. Was a fantastic trick on Hepworth's part, and I won't say more because every reader should feel that sucker punch I felt.

I think the book ended a little too quickly and was possibly a little too wrapped up. I would have liked to see some of the final drama drawn out a bit more, a reflection on what happens afterwards, a glimmering hope for something positive beyond the immediate ending (which may or may not have been painful -- I am not saying right now).

Final Thoughts
I will absolutely read other books by this author. It was humming along for the first 30 to 40 percent, and I liked it, but I was fine putting it down to read another book at the same time. I can only take so many emotional roller-coaster stories at one time, so incorporating a cozy mystery or a happy book is often necessary. Then I hit chapter 48 (note, they are short chapters) and I filled with rage, angst and fear... I read for 2 hours non-stop, putting it down only for 30 seconds to post another update on Goodreads to say "What???? A second gut punch... I can't..." And that's exactly how it happened. That said... the questions to ponder:

It's great to know there are people in the medical field so willing to help and connect with their patients on a personal level. Is it really common?

I had many memories of losing my godmother to cancer when I was about 20. My mom was her caregiver, and I saw lots of pain... but I cannot imagine what it is like to be that person helping the patient who knows they only have a short time left. They are the heroes and heroines of the world.

Who would you trust to raise your child if you had no one in your life and were about to die?
Profile Image for  Li'l Owl.
398 reviews238 followers
May 3, 2019
Beautifully written. A heart-breaking and heart-warming story of the inconceivable courage it takes for a mother to face death and for a daughter who must face life.

Zoe hated being alone by herself, even during the day. It was one of the ironies of social anxiety disorder. Zoe didn't like being by herself; in fact, she wanted nothing more than to be with people and in places surrounded by chatter and noise. Problem was, when she was in that kind of situation, she became so caught up in what everyone thought about her, she either had a panic attack or had to leave.

"Alice," Dr. Brooks said, "I always like to be optimistic. But you must know that only about twenty percent of women with stage-three ovarian cancer survive five years."

Single mothers, she realized, did have superpowers. Ovarian cancer might have been the silent killer, but the silent killer hadn't banked on the superpowers of a single mother.

"Good," she said "I plan on being one of those twenty percent."

The Mother's Promise by Sally Hepworth is a powerful, emotional story about a mother who must find the courage to not only face her own death, but to also find someone whom she trusts to love and care for her fifteen year old daughter, Zoe, in a very short period of time. Despite the tremendous emotional impact of the story it doesn't read like a punch to the soul but rather in a beautiful, almost gentle way. I'm not certain that this makes sense now but I think you will understand what I mean if you choose to read it.

On a personal note:
As many of my friends here know that I lost my mom just a little over one year ago to the number one silent killer cancer, pancreatic cancer. While I knew that this story was about a mother with end stage cancer, what I wasn't prepared for that the type of silent killer cancer this mom was facing mirrored what my mom and our family went through so recently.
In my case, it stole my mom, my best friend, from me in nine short months. From diagnosis to the very end.

Of course, it's not the same as what Alice and Zoe were facing as they didn't have the support that we had and I can't imagine what it would be like in their situation.

The Mother's Promise evoked so many emotions in me that I questioned whether I could read it all the way through to the end.
But I couldn't find it in my heart to abandon Alice and Zoe. How could I?

In the end, I'm very glad I read this in it's entirety and I definitely recommend it.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,182 reviews30.5k followers
May 20, 2017
This was my first book by Sally Hepworth, and I was instantly struck by her character development. The characters were the center of this book, and each had a life struggle to battle. There were a number of issues tying these sympathetic women together, and isn't that how life is? I can't think of a friend who isn't going through "something" currently. It's life, and it's very real. One question mark for me was that I wasn't so sure about a direction the book took towards the end. It became a little Lifetime-movie-ish for me, but it didn't impact my love for this story and its characters. Overall, I was invested in this deeply emotional, well-written novel, and I definitely recommend it. Thanks to the author, publisher, and blogger at Always With a Book, I won a complimentary copy, and this was my unsolicited review.
Profile Image for Cathrine ☯️ .
632 reviews349 followers
February 10, 2017
A single mother with a life threatening illness and no support community of family or friends is at the heart of this story. Where does she, or any person so alone turn for help? A real life event was the author’s inspiration for choosing this topic. Children or not, I believe this is going to be more of an issue for society in the years ahead and was interested to see where her writing would take it.

This is a very easy, comfortable read about problems that are not. Because each of the four characters is dealing with serious personal issues, each is dealt with on a topical level as the story jumps around to cover them all and connect the threads; I prefer a less is more approach. Overall an honest and balanced rendering. A bit too much from the daughter’s POV for my tastes but I like how she finished. The overall presentation could fit in the time slot of an inspired by true events Lifetime movie. Nothing wrong with that, I need a quick feel-good rubdown myself every so often with predictable and guaranteed results. If that sounds appealing, you will enjoy these intertwining dramas. I generally prefer my reading material to be more in-depth and personally demanding—I’m definitely lighthearted-challenged (no light beer for me). Perhaps I read these hoping to bring more of it out in me or feel more like one of the girls? Wine does that. I should stick with the Cabernet.

Thanks to NetGalley & St. Martin's Press for this digital ARC.
Profile Image for John Gilbert.
929 reviews104 followers
July 8, 2023
Wow, this is my sixth book by Sally Hepworth. This is the earliest one I have read by her and the first not taking place in Australia, but north of San Francisco. This was by far the most powerful and emotional book of hers I've read so far. It's about so many things, but the core is the relationship between a mother and daughter.

Zoe is 15 and has social anxiety disorder, she and her mum Alice have been totally on their own for a long while. But Alice is diagnosed with cancer and soon others become involved in their lives to the dismay of them both. So many other issues including domestic violence, failure of IVF and miscarriage are also in the mix.

This one got to me, tissues a must. So powerful and moving by the end. 5 stars for me. Library ebook.

A few notable quotes: 'Alice chuckled at her own joke. It was hard to believe that sex had once been her drug, something that had never been far from her mind. Now sex was like a childhood friend that she remembered vaguely, a friend she had no intention of reconnecting with.'

'(Once Mrs Featherstone had said to Alice, "I do love my children, but I wonder, as a mother, if my job will ever be done.")'

'I lie to myself all the time. But I never believe me.'

Good stuff.
Profile Image for Karen R.
847 reviews498 followers
February 21, 2017
Single mom Alice Stanhope is dying of ovarian cancer. She is raising teenage daughter, Zoe, a girl with a debilitating and chronic anxiety disorder. After Alice receives her grim medical diagnosis, she is forced to make plans for Zoe’s future without her. An emotional and difficult task as Alice never had a support system, no family other than an unreliable alcoholic brother.

Enter the caregivers and school friends who become a godsend in Alice’s and Zoe’s lives as Alice grows more incapacitated.Kate in particular is a shining star, her interrelationships with Alice and Zoe combined with a challenging issue impacting her own life made for powerful dynamics. I would have to say my favorite character was Zoe though, her dedication to her dying mother, her growing independence, determination and courage.

There is some predictability here but it was never tedious. An interesting surprise that I didn’t see coming.Well done once again, Sally Hepworth, this latest novel was a good one!
Profile Image for Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews.
1,081 reviews1,412 followers
February 21, 2017

A mother's love is constant no matter what, and Alice definitely has a mother's never-ending love for her daughter Zoe.

Alice and Zoe are close and even closer than a mother and daughter normally are because Alice does not have a husband or any family, and obviously Zoe has no father.

Zoe ​along with the absence of family and friends ​has a social anxiety disorder​ that causes more worry for Alice and deeply affects Zoe. When Alice finds out she has ovarian cancer, the exact cancer that caused her mother's death, her worry about Zoe is even more stressful.

We follow Alice and Zoe as they struggle through the battle of cancer treatments and resolving Zoe's anxiety issues.

During the treatment of her cancer, A​lice makes friends with her social worker, Sonja, and with her nurse, Kate, who also have problems of their own.

The subject matter of THE MOTHER'S PROMISE was a bit of a downer because of the cancer as well as other social problems, but it also was wonderful because of the development of friendships and the concern the characters had for each other.

Alice, Zoe, Kate, and Sonja were warm characters that worked well together, supported each other, and were perfectly portrayed.

THE MOTHER’S PROMISE was beautifully written and pulled you into the story and the lives of the characters as the difficult situations and life issues were addressed. You can't help but become attached to Zoe and all the characters and cry along with them as the situations escalate.

Ms. Hepworth will again take women’s fiction fans on an emotional ride of real life situations and real emotions.

Get out the tissue box as you deal with the characters’ feelings and make them your own.

ENJOY!! 4/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kat.
Author 9 books399 followers
July 25, 2022
This work of women’s fiction was so beautifully written. Alice is a single mother to teenager Zoe, who suffers from severe anxiety. She has no support system, only an alcoholic brother who cannot care for himself, much less anyone else. When Alice learns she has late-stage ovarian cancer, and will need support through treatment, she is aided by Kate, a nurse at the hospital who allows Zoe to stay with her and her family, and Sonia, the social worker assigned to her. Both Kate and Sonia are dealing with struggles of their own. I really loved the way this book explored female friendships, mental health issues, abuse and so many other things in a sensitive way. As the book goes on and Alice’s condition worsens, unexpected connections between the characters are revealed. I love all of Sally Hepworth’s books and this was an outstanding read.

Trigger Warnings:
Profile Image for Sue.
2,729 reviews221 followers
June 5, 2022
A very poignant story that touches your heartstrings.

Alice is 40 and lives with her daughter Zoe. Zoe isn’t good socially and suffers with Social Anxiety Disorder which can be very disabling not only for her but her mom who takes care of her.

Alice of course takes care of her daughter. She’s her world.

Then Alice gets ill. Seriously ill.

Anxiety, social inhibitor, her illness is real. And in reality people with this mental health condition overthink things, fret anxiously and repeat themselves. It’s tiring for them and for those around them, also though, frustrating for some who have no patience.
So some of how Zoe acts may not be understood by others, even some readers.

It takes patience and understanding.

Now that Alice is Ill she has to reach out to strangers. A social worker gets involved and that doesn’t bode well, especially with Zoe.

Alice is so worried, what if she dies? Whose going to care for her daughter?
As a mom I’d hate to be in that situation.

Things start coming out as things are revealed, some might make the reader uncomfortable, it’s part of the insight.

The only thing I didn’t like was the third party way in telling this.
Took me ages to get used to, hence 3*. But that’s my personal taste.

I loved this book though, made me think much deeper than I intended to!
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,350 reviews3,005 followers
October 30, 2018
3.5 stars

This is the second book I have read by the author and once again she incorporates some heavy topics into the story that might make you feel uncomfortable at times but by the end you find it to be a really good reading experience. I might have had a few problems with certain aspects but overall I really enjoyed this one.

Alice Stanhope is a single mother living with her teenage daughter, Zoe, in California. Zoe struggles with social anxiety and really only feels comfortable around her mother and best friend, Emily. When Alice becomes sick she is determined to fight for her life but in the meantime someone will have to watch over Zoe. Kate, a nurse, and Sonja, a social worker, both work at the hospital and are tasked with making sure both Alice and Zoe are taken care of but soon the lives of all four ladies are going to be intertwined in ways they couldn't have imagined.

Such a big part of the story is Zoe's social anxiety and your heart does break as you see how absolutely crippling it is for her. I'll admit part of the reason it took me a really long time to warm up to the character of Alice is because of how she dealt with her daughter's problem. I had to keep reminding myself that fictional characters don't always behave in a way you would like them to. But it definitely felt weird for most of the story that there was this character that is fighting for her life and yet I just didn't fully connect with her.

Out of the four ladies, there was one character that even though I understood her purpose to the story, I just kinda wish her character and storyline wasn't included. I think she was the weakest part of the book and pushed the story more into overly dramatic territory. Sometimes less is more.

My review sounds like I have more complaints than praise but in reality I did enjoy the book. Right from the get go I was interested in characters and what was going to happen to them. I think the author has a talent for writing characters who have flaws and make mistakes. That sounds simple but surprisingly many authors go the other route where the characters are too darn perfect and as a reader you just can't relate to them.

Definitely a story worth reading!
Profile Image for Susan Peterson.
1,631 reviews278 followers
February 21, 2017
The Mother's Promise touches on so many of our fears and emotions; fear of being alone, fear of leaving those we love and fear of being left behind. For 15 years, Alice had raised her daughter, Zoe, almost exclusively on her own. When Alice gets sick, she comes to the sad conclusion that she has nobody to depend on, nobody to step in and help with her daughter. Zoe suffers from social anxiety to the extent that, when her mother is hospitalized, she is almost crippled by the fear of having to live and interact with someone besides her mom. Kate, a nurse, and Sonja, a social worker are tasked with helping both Alice and Zoe cope, but they are each harboring secrets, disappointments and fears of their own. This is such a compelling story, each page pulling you into the lives of these 4 incredibly brave women. My own heart was racing throughout the story; I became so attached to these women that their worries and challenges became my own, at times taking my breath away; their emotions were palpable, making my hands sweat, my breath quickening. The Mother's Promise is a beautiful, heartfelt book that will stay with me for a very long time.
Profile Image for Inge.
348 reviews892 followers
February 7, 2017
You know, if Sally Hepworth continues to write like this, I could probably write a heartfelt review about my own experiences every single time. I told myself that I would actually write about the book in my review this time around.

I lied.
"Happiness was something you shared, chatted about, asked after. Suffering was something that you had to do behind closed doors, in silence, all alone."

It is quite possible that I fell in love with The Mother’s Promise even more than I did with The Things We Keep. Which is saying something, because that book was beautiful and really resonated with me personally. But this book just hit home for me in all the right places, and I don’t think any words I come up with will be able to do the story justice. Nevertheless, I will try.

The bond between a mother and daughter when the daughter is ill can be really special. When I found out about my anxiety and depression, my mother really stepped up and became my biggest source of comfort and support. Without her, I would not be where I am today. Possibly, I would not even be here today. She is such a trooper and my biggest help – she makes me comfort food, watches Disney with me, gives me hugs when I need them, and takes me everywhere I need to go. As far as neurotypical people can understand, she understands. And yes, I am constantly worried that something could happen to her. That’s why I found so much of our relationship in the story of Alice and Zoe. They were a team.

I loved Alice in that she was such an advocate for humour in troubling times. When she received bad news, she made jokes. When she wasn’t feeling well, she made jokes. “Humour is tragedy’s best friend,” they say, and that’s one belief I fully stand behind. You should take everything life throws at you with several grains of salt and sprinkle them on your Margaritas. If I didn’t have my sense of humour, I would have lost my sanity a long time ago.

Zoe, of course, was infinitely relatable. She has severe social anxiety disorder with a really weird interest in public speaking. It goes without saying that these two probably do not go so well together. But still, she goes out there and gives it her all. It goes wrong several times. Anxious people and even just introverts will recognise themselves in a huge part of Zoe’s journey.

So then what happens if you’re so dependent and reliant on your mother, and suddenly she gets cancer? It is honestly one of my biggest fears, and to see it written out like this touched several emotional chords for me. As some people know, I am generally a heartless monster and only cry when something happens to an animal. But I was teary-eyed throughout the whole book. It gave me a case of “THE FEELS” reminiscent of Me Before You.

I also really appreciated the fact that there was a character with Crohn's disease. It's not exactly a disease that can be romanticised in literature, which is why you never read about it. Gastrointestinal illnesses are icky and therefore stigmatised. But it's there, and it's important that people are able to talk about this. I don't have Crohn's, thankfully, but I've been struggling with my intestines for the past 11 years, so I can only give extra bonus points here.

And you know, I could probably fill my whole review with quotes from the book, because the writing felt effortless and there were a lot of really good, quotable parts. But maybe you'll just have to go and read the book for yourself and find the beauty within.

Thank you St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy
Profile Image for Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews.
1,954 reviews279 followers
August 1, 2018
4.5 stars
Sally Hepworth is one of those authors that I just adore. I keep coming back for more! I have read and loved both Hepworth’s previous novels, The Secrets of Midwives and The Things We Keep. I know tissues are always an essential accompaniment to Hepworth’s novels, but it is worth the emotional strain! This time around Hepworth presents her readers with an intense story, centered on the lives of four different women, who are thrown together through the treatment of Alice Stanhope’s ovarian cancer diagnosis.

Alice and Zoe Stanhope have a special and unbreakable bond. All they have is each other. With no family, friends or father figure in their lives, they have managed with only each other to lean on. Times have been tough for this little family unit, Zoe has struggled with social anxiety since beginning school and Alice has worked tirelessly to support her daughter as a single parent. Things get even tougher for the two when Alice gets very sick and is soon diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. Suddenly, life changes in an instant for sheltered Zoe. She is thrust into the care of strangers, while her mother undergoes the battle of her life. It is a situation that brings strangers into Alice and Zoe’s solitary life. Through the help of oncology nurse Kate and social worker Sonja, this mother and daughter receive the support they need at this time of crisis. It is an experience that forces Alice and Zoe, along with those helping them, to confront the personal demons they have kept at bay for too long. The Mother’s Promise is a beautiful and touching testament to a mother’s love, as well as the strength of the human spirit in a critical situation.

The Mother’s Promise, the third book by Australian author Sally Hepworth, had me simultaneously reaching for the tissues to laugh and cry. Hepworth carefully balances a very emotional story with moments of poignancy and humour which touched my soul. It is another fine effort from an author that I have very much come to love.

Hepworth’s latest very neatly spins the tale of four different women’s lives into one cohesive and unforgettable tale. Main character Alice, who receives the worst news imaginable, that she has terminal ovarian cancer is the glue that holds all these characters together. Alice’s story is closely linked to her daughter’s Zoe, who not only experiences a huge growth in character as the novel progresses, but it helps readers appreciate the difficult world a person suffering from social anxiety must deal with. Running alongside Alice and Zoe’s story is Kate, the oncology nurse who Alice turns to in her time of need. Kate’s story is also not a straightforward one. Kate suffers from infertility and the heartbreaking experiences she has while trying to conceive form a noteworthy chunk of this novel. Rounding off the four perspectives covered in The Mother’s Promise is that of Sonja, the social worker assigned to oversee Alice’s case. Sonja’s story explores issues of family violence, abuse and rape, also difficult areas. Hepworth is extremely mindful of treating all these strenuous subjects with the respect and understanding they deserve.

An area that really hit home for me in The Mother’s Promise was the scenario Alice and Zoe found themselves in. A seriously ill mother and dependent child, with no support network to call on in a time of need shocked me. It was quite the wake-up call and allowed me to view the fact that I take for granted the wonderful army of people I have surrounded myself with. It is hard to imagine a family unit, or an individual literally having no one to turn to when a time of crisis occurs, but The Mother’s Promise helped me to see that this may well be a reality for some.

Hepworth covers a lot of ground in her third novel. She competently explores social anxiety, infertility, ovarian cancer and family violence. I came away from the novel feeling both better educated and attached the stories of the people experiencing these issues in their lives. In a way, it could be said that Hepworth works to subtly raise our awareness of some of these issues through her compelling narrative and character set.

As I mentioned above, this is the story of four women in the one beautifully rendered narrative. I will say that the youngest protagonist Zoe shines bright in this novel. It is Zoe’s story that seems to have the biggest impact and I relished watching her metamorphosis from a scared little girl crippled by social anxiety, into a young woman who is able to take control of her life. The sections of the narrative involving Zoe were Hepworth’s best.

Well, I sobbed a lot, laughed, learnt about some important health issues. I had my heart torn in two more than once, but I thank Sally Hepworth for writing and sharing The Mother’s Promise with her readers. This is one of those novels I will be recommending to anyone who will listen!
Profile Image for Bill Kupersmith.
Author 1 book202 followers
April 11, 2017
If Sophie Hannah or Sharon Bolton has left you feeling like an idiot, this is your book. Everything you anticipate happens at the end exactly as you expect. It is the dullest & most predictable book I have read (sort of) in years. At halfway I couldn't bear the plodding pace & jumped to the final chapters (this book has James Patterson sized chapters for easy reading) & it ended just as I'd figured when still at the middle. Only the identity of Zoe's biological father was news, & that because I forgot that novels aren't real life. (In real life her father can be almost any man but in fiction he has to be a character in the story so keep your eye out.) None of the characters has any interesting quirks or passions: each has one & only one distinguishing feature: cancer pt mom with teen dtr suffering crippling anxiety attacks, RN obsessed with infertility, SW with abusive spouse. It also occurred to me that for an RN to have a pt's dtr stay with her while mom recovered would have caused serious Hippa & boundary issues in a real hospital. Also fortunately the ICPL provided a copy, so I'm poorer only for about four hours of time & that wasn't entirely wasted time because it's good to know I have some minimal solving skills.
Profile Image for Laura Rash Wonderchick.
1,305 reviews147 followers
September 30, 2016
This book had such an interwoven cast of characters in a story so heartwarming & heartbreaking that it will stay with you long after you finish it. It made me question how many of us have someone to depend on in time of need, what defines family & how much you can open your heart to another person.
Profile Image for Nazanin.
1,102 reviews635 followers
October 1, 2019
همه ما میترسیم. شاید ترس ما از چیزهایی باشد که از نظر همه منطقیست مثلا از سقوط آزاد میترسیم. از این میترسیم که دیگران درباره ما چه فکر میکنند. شاید به خاطر فرد دیگری میترسیم. شاید از چیزی میترسیم که هرگز اتفاق نخواهد افتاد یا چیزی که هفته دیگر اتفاق می افتد. ترس از چیزی خیلی ترسناک است، اما میدانید ترسناک تر از همه چیست؟ اینکه تنها باشی
Profile Image for Judy Collins.
2,679 reviews375 followers
July 26, 2023
Master storyteller, Sally Hepworth returns following The Things We Keep (2016) landing on my Top Books of 2016 and Secrets of Midwives (2015) all 5 stars, with an unforgettable story of courage, THE MOTHER'S PROMISE.

Richly told. Memorable and poignant. An emotionally-charged portrayal of motherhood friendship, and love — in the midst of tragedy. Hepworth digs deeply into the ties of love, between both family and strangers. Mixed with humor, the author knows how to grab you by the heartstrings and never let's go.

“With what price we pay for the glory of motherhood.” – Isadora Duncan

Set in Atherton, CA, a twenty-minute drive from Silicon Valley, Alice Stanhope is a giving and caring single mom. Barely forty. Her her job has been taking care of others.

Alice has her own business, taking care of elders. She is not a nurse; however, she offers in-home help to the elderly. She keeps them company, cleans and runs errands. Her daughter Zoe is now fifteen. They are extremely close. The dad is not in the picture and we later learn the details. Let me say, the twist surprise at 90% was an added bonus surprise, a shocker.

As the book opens, Alice receives some devastating news. She has ovarian cancer. She seemed to have a knack for attracting illnesses and ailments that required just enough investigation to be financially and emotionally draining. It was happening again. She exercises and eats well. How could she have cancer?

Both her parents have passed away. Her brother, Paul is an alcoholic. Her mother died of ovarian cancer. She has no one, except for Zoe. She has lived her life alone. Just mother and daughter. Zoe is not a normal teenager, so she has to protect her. She needs to keep the surgery, and cancer news to herself. Zoe cannot be a support person for her. Alice wasn’t going to need someone. Zoe was.

How would she get to her appointments, chemo, the surgery? How can she die? What will happen to Zoe? She could not turn to her brother since he was drunk most of the time. She did not have a single person she felt she could nominate to walk beside her in what was going to be the hardest journey of her life.

Now she has met her nurse, Kate. Kate knew there was one thing that a patient needed more than a doctor, more than a nurse, even more than medicine, and that was a mother. Someone had to fight for them. Kate had a mother only when she was a toddler, and she recalled her mom’s nurse. Now she had to be a mother to her patients.

Kate in her mid-thirties, has her own issues. From one miscarriage after another. Her husband, David, and his two children her stepchildren—of his own (Jake and Scarlett). She longed for a baby. She fantasized about the day she would have a child of her own. She currently is pregnant again; however, will she be able to carry it to term?

Zoe, age fifteen has the normal teenage issues; however, her situation is magnified. She has Social Anxiety Disorder. No one understands. Like being anchored to damp sand. Like waiting for the next wave. You want to turn and look, to see what’s coming, but you can’t move. You don’t know. You wait helplessly, envisioning the worst. She yearns to be invisible. Everyone thought she was weird. Every day is a struggle to deal with her anxiety.

Currently, due to her circumstances, the hospital is bringing in a social worker, Sonja. Sonja is not the normal social worker. She gets Botox, she is married to a wealthy man. He is abusive. However, she stays with him. She should know better. After all, she works with women in this same situation. Happiness was something you shared, chatted about, asked after. "Suffering was something that you had to do behind closed doors, in silence, all alone."

How will Zoe survive without Alice? Alice is Zoe’s safe place. How will all these characters connect? What will they learn from one another? Will Alice’s past catch up with her during the worst possible time?

An entertaining tale of parental love, motherhood, friendship, loss. Piercing and uplifting at the same time. Well-researched, suspenseful, thought-provoking and character-driven, this cast of resilient heroines will inspire readers and renew their faith in humanity.

Even though I had to re-live some of the painful and loving times with my mom and her three- year battle with cancer (she passed away in Aug 2016), her bravery reminded me a lot of Alice. What great characters: Kate, Alice, Zoe and even Sonja. A beautifully written story –the unbreakable bonds, and characters which remain with you long after the book ends. A beautiful book for Mother’s Day and an ideal choice for books clubs and further discussions.

The author has a rare talent of taking wounded souls and pairing them with just the right person. Fans of Catherine Ryan Hyde, Diane Chamberlain, Lisa Genova and Jodi Picoult will find a lot to love here.

Highly recommend the author and all her books. Loved the inspiration behind the book. Sally is "tops" when it comes to writing about Mothers. A rare gift. She has a special way of making you fall in love with her characters.

I also listened to the audiobook, narrated by Barrie Kreinik for an outstanding performance.

A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for a complimentary reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Barbara**catching up!.
1,394 reviews804 followers
September 21, 2017
“The Mother’s Promise” is a story of four women whose lives become entwined. Alice is a single mother with a daughter Zoe. As the novel begins, the reader learns that Alice has cancer and her daughter has a severe anxiety disorder. Alice is learning that she has cancer with a nurse, Kate. Sonja becomes Alice’s social worker and has the responsibility of helping manage Alice’s daily life.

All three women have domestic issues of their own and are struggling internally. The three women’s lives collide when Alice takes a turn for the worse.

Although this is a predictable novel without any surprises, it’s easily read and thoughtfully written. It’s a great chic-lit novel that satisfies the need to read about the feel-good bond of women after adversity. It’s a fabulous beach read.
Profile Image for Tania.
1,234 reviews285 followers
August 7, 2022
This is my third book by Sally Hepworth and I'm really enjoying how she writes about difficult issues in an extremely easy-reading style. In The Mother's Promise we meet Alice a single mom who's just been diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. Although this is bad enough, she is also a single mom to Zoe - a teenager suffering from severe social anxiety - and has no support structure. Some of the other topics included in this novel are rape, domestic violence and infertility.

I realize that this description makes it sound like a deeply depressing book, but weirdly it's not. I will definitely add more of her books as fillers between heavier books and holiday reads.
Profile Image for Susan.
1,062 reviews200 followers
February 18, 2017
A single mother is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, terrible news for anyone. It's especially tough for Alice who has a teen-age daughter, Zoe, who has a social anxiety disorder. She has also literally no one to rely on. She has no family or friends as she has cut herself off from everyone. Alice was a difficult character for me to like and I think she is responsible for Zoe's disorder even thought the doctors say she isn't.

The cancer journey is very realistically documented. As a cancer survivor (not ovarian), I can tell you how accurate her reactions and process is. It was not necessarily a journey I wanted to go on but at least it was accurate. Alice has a real problem, she needs help. She has to acknowledge it and then find it. Luckily she lives in a well-to-do neighborhood in San Francisco, Atherton. There she finds incredible help from nurses and social workers. She must have the best medical insurance in the world because the expenses never seem to be a problem.

There is an interesting twist in this that elevates it to 4 stars. It would have gone higher but the twist was short lived and didn't impact the story as I thought it would have. Still it was interesting story about letting go and letting people help you. It's an important lesson that many fighting cancer discover.

Thanks to Net Galley for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.
Profile Image for Gloria (Ms. G's Bookshelf).
642 reviews136 followers
January 12, 2021
⭐️5 Stars⭐️
The Mother's Promise by Sally Hepworth is a hugely compelling story, it’s beautifully and tenderly written. I loved the characters, especially Zoe and her journey.

What do you do in life when an agonising health crisis arises and you have no support network that you can rely on? I shudder to think!

Four women are thrown together when single mother Alice Stanhope is diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. Alice has no real friends, her parents have passed away and her only family is her alcoholic brother Paul and her daughter Zoe who is fifteen.

Alice’s daughter Zoe suffers from social anxiety disorder so they live a very different to normal life.

All four of the women in the story are dealing with their own personal battles and come together after Alice’s diagnosis. The friendships developed between the women are truly heart warming. Some of the women are keeping secrets that when revealed will shock.

Themes of abuse, infertility, rape, cancer, alcoholism and mental health.

Thought provoking, engaging, witty and powerful this is one of those books you won’t be able to put down!
Profile Image for Vanessa S..
334 reviews85 followers
February 11, 2018
*I won a copy of The Mother's Promise in a Goodreads giveaway.

This is the first work of Sally Hepworth's that I have read (I have The Things We Keep but haven't read it yet), and now I am making it a goal to read everything of hers. So many issues were tackled in this novel, making it all the more heart wrenching and achingly real.

There was a great cast of female characters, and each one faced a life-altering situation, and their stories were interwoven so beautifully. I'm not one to normally cry while reading, but this book certainly caused my eyes to grow misty at a couple of points. It is a strong piece of women's fiction and one that I would love to revisit in the future.
Profile Image for Carole.
324 reviews38 followers
March 20, 2017
Great women's fiction! I highly recommend this touching story of a Momma who gets diagnosed with cancer, and her teenage daughter who suffers from anxiety disorder. Their lives are touched by a nurse and a social worker who come to their aide.
Sally Hepworth is an author I've become a fan of. Can't wait to read her future novels!
Profile Image for Kathryn in FL.
716 reviews
November 14, 2019
This is a highly engaging story by the talented Sally Hepworth. Hepworth writes exceptional dramas that are both plot and character driven. Her character's are well drawn and we learn about them through their actions and reactions. The issues addressed are very likely to exist in the present day for the reader or someone she knows. These are the struggles and challenges women face in their relationships, their health and their life as a whole. The situations are not easily dismissed or a matter of someone riding a white horse to save the day. They are as real and likely as the people, you interact with on a daily basis.

We become deeply empathetic with their struggles and conundrums and hope for the best. These are very plausible situations and their reactions are at times rational and irrational, just as we are. We are there in the moment with each one. We hurt when they do and laugh along with them when they experience joy. We also experience a host of other emotions. A tender tale to be sure, this is sure to hit home for nearly any woman over the age of 30.

While this isn't written exclusively for women, it has the insights and experiences that are uniquely female. Don't miss this special story. My promise to you is that it will evoke some deep inner thoughts and emotions.

This is my second Sally Hepworth story and I am already to crack open my third!
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