In Julie Eller’s novel, a family finds itself in a season of change and difficulties with the absence of a mother who is confined to a hospital on life support. A New Promise centers on Scott Parnell, a husband and dad who is faced with the decision of removing his wife Rachel from oxygen and artificial stimulation after her body has been taken hostage by Huntington’s disease. Through the process of letting his wife go, Scott’s sister-in-law Celeste enters the scene after years of absence. During this period of renewed acquaintance, Scott finds himself showing affection to the woman who has come to his aid during this trying time. As the difficulties arise surrounding the end of Rachel’s life, God allows the family to experience Christ’s faithfulness and love in ways they never thought possible.
The overall feel of the book is a narrative that surprisingly lacks emotional ties to the readers. The relationships in the story seem one-dimensional, almost like listening to a narrative instead of being invited into the lives of the personages. The reader becomes aware of the intensity of the situation of whether or not to remove life support, but remains passive about the actual outcome. We don’t get enough backstory about the central characters, their struggles, their growth together, and their unfulfilled dreams. Yes, anyone would agonize over discontinuing the feeding tube of a suffering spouse, but for the readers to relate to this more than as though it were a newspaper account, they need more spirituality, love, pain, devotion, and personal humanity between the married couple. We never really find that.
Ultimately, Scott battles the regret of not letting go sooner, and the guilt of showing affection for his sister-in-law. Through transformation of identity and faith, Scott surrenders all his burdens to the Lord and abides by Christ’s will.
The transformations of the characters are evident but not overly convincing. There are moments of confession where readers can relate to the characters, but these are rare. We feel sympathy for the daughter with a bulimic disorder and the troubled teen battling alcohol, but we only “see” these problems, not “experience” them. Both of these characters have their own revelations from God and are eventually restored. In fact, by the end, God restores every member of the family and unites relationships for the furthering of his purpose.
When finishing A New Promise, one is satisfied with the way God works things out; however, there remains a disconnectedness between the reader and the story’s characters. It is more like leafing through a family album and seeing lots of snapshots but never fully knowing the story behind each scene, behind each long ago episode, behind each turning point in the life of the person in the snapshot. Scripturally, the book is solid, but from an entertainment viewpoint, it is rather lacking. – Kayla S. Olson, Christian Book Previews.com
In her debut novel, A New Promise, author Julie Eller brings you into the presence of an omniscient, omnipotent, and unconditionally loving God through the Parnell family’s struggle to survive the multifaceted, devastating effects of Huntington’s disease.
As two adolescents endure the emptiness and pain from the absence of a dying mother, their father finds himself confronting God and returning to the blueprints of life, God’s Word, His promises. You will find yourself pondering, “If, under even remotely similar circumstances, would my faith remain in God, the Great Redeemer?” Would you trust that God brought you to this very moment in your life and that you’re right where you’re supposed to be? A New Promise exemplifies the truth of Proverbs 16:9, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps, with an assurance that “His ways are higher than our ways,” and that His ways are always best."