Book Review: The Promise of Home (Chan)

The Promise of Home

Author: Darcie Chan © 2015

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Genre: Literature & Fiction

Subgenre: Women’s Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Psychological Suspense

Reviewer: Sara

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Synopsis (Amazon blurb):

These days, Mill River, Vermont, is a hive of activity. Karen Cooper bids farewell to her husband, Nick, as he leaves for Saudi Arabia to work as a contractor. But when he goes missing, Karen turns to beloved nonagenarian Father O’Brien for counsel. Kyle Hansen and Claudia Simon blissfully prepare for their wedding—until a new acquaintance threatens their romance. Emily DiSanti, haunted by a tragedy that tore her world apart a decade ago, is renovating the old McAllister mansion, eager to restore its former beauty and to find peace in the intense workload. All these lives—and the lives of others in this small town—move forward, bump up against one another, and intertwine. And when a cache of letters is discovered, a powerful and unexpected secret comes to light—one rooted deeply in the childhood of the longtime priest who has touched the lives of everyone in Mill River.


Busy moms (and dads), the third book in the Mill River series offered promise, and delivered much of the magic I discovered in Mill River Recluse. Familiar, beloved characters return and new storylines are introduced. Emily DiSanti, Claudia and Kyle, and Father O’Brien are prominent features in this installment of the Mill River series, with a few new additions, including Karen Cooper and her family.

In The Promise of Home, more time and pages are devoted to the continued stories from Recluse and Redemption than new character Karen Cooper. Don’t misunderstand this observation to be a complaint or negative point. The plot lines that are the focus of Home are deserving of the page space they get, and bring the stories of their characters to an appropriate place to say good-bye (at least, for now).

The book weaves together action from present day and a plot line from the 1930s, during the Great Depression, delving into the past of Father O’Brien. I found his story the most compelling and it drove me to keep turning pages. Other stories introduced in the two previous books are continued; Claudia and Kyle prepare for their wedding and Emily struggles to overcome the barriers she developed after the life-altering loss she suffered a decade earlier.

Karen Cooper’s story is intermixed and follows her through dealing with her father’s declining health, the disappearance of her husband and her struggles with depression. Therein lies what I found to be the most lacking part of the book. In her previous books, Ms. Chan has incorporated mental illness, but did so by introducing the disease from which the characters suffer both early in the book, and in character’s life. This allowed me to experience more of the illness, its development and challenges with the characters. I, in turn, developed a greater level of empathy for the difficulties that character faced in their day-to-day dealings with their disease. In the case of Karen Cooper, readers do not experience the early days of her depression. When she slides deeper into the disease, I found it harder to feel connected to her and her suffering, or to feel the same degree of empathy that I for characters in Recluse and Redemption.

The end of the book concludes after resolution of two medical emergencies, both of which are foreshadowed well. The medical details are handled better in one than the other. After eleven years of teaching CPR and first aid, I get tremendous heart burn when cardiac arrest is not handled right in any area of entertainment. For a reader untrained in CPR, the details might go unnoticed, but for me it was a put-the-book-down-and-walk-away moment.

All-in-all, Ms. Chan weaves a lovely story. The book is an easy read, the world is one that will captivate your attention and the stories are ones that will stick with you. Though not as beloved to me as Recluse and Redemption, I recommend reading Home if you aim to immerse yourself in a heart-warming story about a charming town, and the people who make it a wonderful place to “live.”


Have you read The Promise of Home or is it on your “to-read” shelf? What was your favorite part? Have you read the other Mill River novels? If so, which is your favorite, and why?

I’m always on the lookout for new books to add to the “to-read-and-review” shelf, especially by indie or newly published authors. If you have any to recommend, please share in the comments and many thanks!

The Mom Who Runs posts book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. If you enjoyed this review, please helping others find our reviews by clicking the link and giving the review a “thumbs up” rating!


Feature image:

Cover design: Maria Anastassatos

Cover illustration: Richard Tuschman

Images: © Alex Kotlov/iStockphoto (landscape), © Horst Gerlach/iStockphoto (branches), © Betty Copeland/Dreamstime (mansion), © monkeybusinessimages/Dreamstime (couple)

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