A Promise Made

Written by Valerie Joan Connors
Review by Jo Ann Butler

When the soldiers come home to Marquette, Michigan in 1945, 17-year-old Eva Larkin joins throngs at the train station to greet uniformed men bearing duffle bags and exotic tales. A wink from a flirtatious soldier is followed by a chance meeting outside the bar where Leo Maguire has a new job. Leo asks Eva in for a Coke. It’s not long before he sweeps the naïve girl off her feet and into trouble.

Hasty weddings are common in the giddy postwar years, and Eva hopefully takes up housekeeping with Leo in a tiny apartment. However, as Eva’s pregnancy advances, Leo drinks his evenings away. Their son is born early, medical bills mount, and Leo’s frustration leads to violence. It takes a year for Eva to realize that Leo’s beatings will never stop, and to screw up courage to leave him. She takes their son to New York City, where there are plenty of jobs for young women. Eva hopes that Leo will never find her there, but he doesn’t give up easily.

A Promise Made reminds modern readers how women’s lives have changed since the 1950s. Assistance for single mothers, such as day care, was scarce. Despite the stigma of divorce and Leo’s disastrous intrusions, Eva pursues her dream of an education and a career.

I rooted for the complex, vulnerable Eva. Leo was easy to predict, but hard to understand. Connors gives us the barest glimpses at what drove his anger, but maybe understanding of a creature like Leo lies at the bottom of a liquor bottle, and who wants to follow that path? Instead, enjoy A Promise Made, and find inspiration in Eva’s courage.