Monday, August 29, 2022

Book Review: The Promise Between Us by Barbara Claypole White

The Promise Between Us is a novel about a group of people living with varying degrees of anxiety. Trying to get through each day is difficult enough, then add to that that some of them are trying to keep their individual past traumas secret. The characters are flawed and their lives are complicated and messy. 

"Best selling author Barbara Claypole White writes hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness" - About The Author on goodreads.

 The Promise Between Us by Barbara Claypole White

Maisie MacDonald, 5th grader, is a quirky, young girl living with her father and step-mother. Her mother passed away when she was very young. At least, that is what she has been told. On the outside, to those who meet her, she looks and sounds confident. She has her own style of dress and is quite able to self-advocate. On the inside, she is constantly worried about things such as whether she's been bad or disrespectful. If those around her are going to die and if they do it will be her fault.  She tries to keep her fears and thoughts secret but they are starting to show to those observing her.

Callum (Cal) MacDonald is Maisie's father. He would do anything to protect his daughter. Cal has recently married Lilah. Together, they are working together to sort out the intricacies of becoming a family. They are aware that Maisie has some anxiety; especially about transferring to middle school after 6th grade. 

Uncle Jake,  "who's Dad Point Two" as Maisie refers to him, is a family friend (Cal's best friend) who has helped raise Maisie thus far. On one hand, he is a shallow, handsome actor. On the other hand, he cares for Maisie deeply and probably understands her the most.

Katie Mack is an artist that is volunteering at a program for 6th graders.  Even though Maisie is only a 5th grader, she and her friend have been enrolled in this program. Katie and Maisie meet at the art museum. Katie has struggled with debilitating (life-threatening) anxiety and OCD with fire being one of her main fears. She responded by taking control of those fears to the best of her ability and learning to weld and create metal sculptures. Maisie is drawn to Katie's work. 

Personal Thoughts About The Promise Between Us

Perhaps I enjoyed this story so much because I work with children who have a variety of mental health diagnoses. Day after day, I am both exhausted by the work AND exhilarated by something said or done by these unique individuals. Day after day I have the thought that if we (the allegedly "normal" folks) tried a little harder to listen or understand our lives would be that much more enriched. Instead, we generally try to teach others to "act right" or "behave" or think a certain way. I enjoyed The Promise Between Us because of it's real portrayal of characters who are struggling. 

There are a small number of reviews that mentioned their dislike of the repetition in the story. The truth is, that is the reality of anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Repetitive and intrusive thoughts that occur over and over and over.  That sort of repetition is what real humans live with on a daily basis. Although, difficult to read at points (yes, it is repetitive) it is part of what made this story so believable and made the characters real. If the repetition irks you, imagine what it is like to try to live a productive life with that happening in your head.

Warning: This book deals with difficult subjects related to anxiety, OCD, and trauma. There are difficult scenes in the story that may trigger some people.  And if it were a movie, it would carry a warning for nudity/sex. 

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. Wow, you do find books on subjects that are truly thought-provoking, Dawn Rae. Thanks so much for finding books that introduce difficult subjects, but ones we should be more aware of. And, I have to say, I admire you for the work you do in the mental health field.

  2. This sounds like a very interesting book with a message for all. Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. Thank you for this excellent review of what sounds like an engrossing, sometimes difficult to read and, ultimately, hopeful story about anxiety, OCD and trauma. The family dynamic sounds broken, yet all the characters sound like they are well intentioned and trying to live with different types of fear, hurt and heartache as best they can.

  4. Wow, this book sounds like a must read for some. However, I understand your caution about triggering some people. I know someone who might get a lot from this book, but yes, triggers would be a concern. Thanks for the introduction to book.

  5. I think it is very hard for most people to understand others who are not within the framework of their normal. I've known people who struggle with anxiety and can't really grasp why they can't let some things go. I suspect that is mostly because others tell them they just need to let "it" go when they try to talk it out. Life is hard and it is nearly impossible to walk in someone else's shoes. That is where compassion is needed. We are all fortunate that there are people like you who are truly compassionate. We each need to find our compassionate friend. The book sounds "real" and does sound like it might be a tough read for some.

  6. This book sounds thought provoking, sometimes difficult to read yet real in its depiction of those characters living with anxieties. I feel the greatest thing is to be listened to and to be understood and it is sometimes lacking in today's world. Compassion and patience are beautiful gifts to develop. I imagine this book will be an emotional read but it also seems to contain seeds of hope within it. Thank you for your excellent review.

  7. It is hard to read what may be someone's "truth". Yet if it brings us to a better understanding of others and their particular "needs", I think it would be worth reading. I'm glad you have reviewed this book and will put in on my "To Read List". Aren't we all dysfunctional in some way or other? Thank you for this recommendation, I'm looking forward to reading this.

  8. I will definitely read this. Like you, I often encounter individuals who are living this reality. We can't, in our humanity, turn away from them and what they know and feel. I want to better understand. Thanks for introducing me to this book. I appreciate you, and all that you are, and all that you do.


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