Newfoundland’s Flanker Press has been publishing books by some of that province’s best storytellers and Ida Linehan Young must be added to that esteemed company with the release of her latest book, The Promise. It is a follow-up of sorts (but not a sequel) to Being Mary Ro, her best-selling debut novel. Mary Ro is back, but in the supporting cast as young Erith Lock takes centre stage as the protagonist of this story. Erith is living with her stepmother (and an evil one at that!) who shelters Erith and verbally abuses her whenever she gets the opportunity. As such, Erith has low self-esteem and keeps to herself. At the beginning of the book, we find Erith being sent to her step-uncle’s house in Dog Cove as he needs a housekeeper since his wife has just died, leaving him with three young children. She is travelling by boat from North Harbour, for there are no roads joining these outport communities. Two of her step-mother’s winter boarders, a Mr. Hand and a Mr. Noftle are taking Erith there. Along the way, Erith innocently falls into some misadventure with the two men, setting the stage for what is to follow in the rest of the book.
Someone who is back in a major role is that of Danol Cooper, the Boston policeman from Being Mary Ro. Danol, although retired from policing, is approached by Erith to try and solve a mystery from her past. I’m being purposely vague, for saying anything more or even giving one small detail will venture into spoiler territory, trust me!
It’s challenging to try labelling Ms. Linehan Young’s novels. They contain suspense, mystery, and drama sprinkled with some historical references. While there is a romantic side to the story, it is not the main theme. Her female characters are exceptional for their strength in the face of adversity, whether it is taking care of a family with very little in the way of provisions or amenities, facing death of a spouse or a child (an all too common event in the outports) or assisting the men in preparing the cod for the market. As mentioned in my Being Mary Ro review, the content is suitable for experienced young readers but mature enough for all to enjoy. While it is not necessary to have read Being Mary Ro to appreciate The Promise, it certainly helps to understand the characters of Danol, Mary Ro and her husband Peter that much better. Ms. Linehan Young’s writing abilities are going from strength to strength and there is no doubt in my mind that great things are in store for her readers with her next book.
As she stood on the deck, the salty breeze ruffled the hem of her red coat and wafted around the fringes of her scarf loosely tied around her bowed head. She realized that she had been scared the day she came to Dog Cove, and now she was leaving there terrified.
The Promise by Ida Linehan Young
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