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Tomorrow's Promise Paperback – September 20, 2013
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About the Author
Kristi Lazzari is a mom and writer from rural Alabama. She and her daughter live off the beaten path with their Flat Haired Retriever, whose spotted tongue proves someone in her family was on good terms with a Chow. Kristi enjoys books, music, knitting, the mountains, watching old movies and spending time with family. She longs to see the Northern Lights and to cruise down the Amazon River. Kristi loathes sushi, confrontation, and anyone who is mean to children or animals. She believes we are all constant works in progress and there is always something new to learn, provided we are willing to be taught. Her writing interests include both juvenile and adult fiction.
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While other kids spend their summer holidays swimming at the river and seeing movies, Sarah is busy doing chores around home and helping her single mother scrape a hand-to-mouth existence. She’s pleased to help, but Sarah’s mother doesn’t seem to care much for her at all. Her mother is abusive, beating Sarah under the slightest provocation. The young girl finds herself in constant pain and pushing away those who would be her friends, afraid they’ll discover the secret of her mother’s abuse and judge her for it. Even the affable boy next door, Billy, is unable to get much out of her.
It all changes one day when Sarah, stiff from another beating, is walking is the woods near her house. She crosses paths with the town witch, Virginia. Virginia notes Sarah’s injuries and invites the girl back to her house for something to relieve the pain. Sarah’s mother has warned her strictly against speaking to Virginia, but Sarah can see no malice in the old woman and goes along.
It turns out that Virginia isn’t a witch at all. In fact she may be the one person in town who understands Sarah rather than judging her. Virginia says that she too was flogged as a child and her homemade remedies do give Sarah some relief.
But that’s not all Virginia knows. As the days go by and Sarah sees more of the old woman, she learns that Virginia also knows many secrets about the town, even about Sarah’s mother. Those secrets may be the reason behind the rumours about Virginia – that she’s a witch who killed a baby, and that she’s responsible for the bout of petty theft going on in town.
Virginia is the first friend Sarah’s ever had. She won’t stand for the rumours, and sets out to prove them wrong. To do so she recruits Billy, and as Sarah becomes more open and active, the two become fast friends.
Yet even as Sarah forges new relationships, old ones crumble down. Sarah’s mother learns about her friendship with Virginia and beats the girl so badly she’s trapped inside for days. Worse, the mother is moody and unpredictable, and Sarah is terrified of wronging her again. Her new friendships, Virginia’s reputation (and the violence threatened against her if the thefts don’t stop), and her newfound hope are all put at risk for the sake of her mother’s foul temper.
It’s a hard story, this one. It’s incredibly moving. The way Sarah would shamble away from her house feeling like an old woman with her injuries brought me to tears; just about every interaction between Sarah and her mother did the same. I don’t usually cry in books but in this one I couldn’t stop. The great sense of injustice – this young girl having to put up with an uncaring monster as her parent, and the freedoms that are denied to her - is an overwhelming presence in this book.
But just as strong are the themes of friendship and standing up for what is right. Sarah has been afraid all her life, of her mother, of being beaten, but befriending Virginia gives her a new stance on life. She finally has something worth fighting for. She’s tired of being afraid and she’s tired of being unloved. When she changes her mind from fear to resolution, everything changes for her. That transition is so deft and believable, I can’t commend Lazzari enough for it.
A few of the characters, Virginia in particular, often refer to God when explaining their decisions. Saying such things as trust in God, wait for his plan, etc. Something I really like about the book was Sarah’s stance on this. Rather than waiting for God to help her, Sarah goes out and helps herself, and the people she can see who need help. This is really what separated Sarah from the other characters, and made it entirely her story – that she has this attitude that if there’s something that isn’t right, then it is the responsibility of those involved to go out and make a difference. I think that’s a great moral and it worked beautifully with both the book’s religious themes – that is, tomorrow’s promise – and the transition of Sarah from victim to hero.
Reading, I had the sense that this story is very personal to Lazzari, more so than most stories are personal to their authors. I think that even if it isn’t her story, it is a reflection of her strength and hope and courage. It’s a wonderful story, heart-breaking and kind, and I recommend it to anyone young or old who doesn’t mind crying like a fool.