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A Promise in Pieces: A Review

Read our review of Emily Wierenga’s novel, “A Promise in Pieces.”

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“Hold my hand!” I admonish one of my children. 

“Don’t skip in the parking lot!” I chide another. 

“Hey, stop running! Those cars might be reversing!” I exclaim to a third, pulse thumping in my throat. 

“Fine, you can check the mail, but walk, don’t run, and look both ways!”

The engrained paranoia that bubbles up in my beating heart when my kids are anywhere near a moving car is unhealthy, I know, and is instilling in them an unhealthy (and unnecessary) fear, as well. I can see it happening, and yet I can’t seem to keep the “be careful’s” from escaping my lips whenever my kids are in a parking lot or about to cross a street.

If I’m not careful, if I don’t earnestly seek the Lord’s help to change my lack of faith into a firm trust in His sovereignty over all things, including moving vehicles, the tightness of my grip may just suffocate the very treasures I am trying to protect. Like grains of sand clenched in a white-knuckled fist, the trust of my kids might just slip through my grasp if I don’t turn my palms upward, cupped in open, reverent trust toward the Almighty.

In the novel, A Promise in Pieces by Emily Wierenga, that’s what happens to main character Clara’s parents at the helm of World War II. Though, I should add, they had far better reason to wrap their trembling hands so tightly around their only living daughter. Nevertheless, valid reason or not, she slipped out the window and through their fingers one night, bound and determined to serve as a nurse in the war.

Clara had absolutely no idea how lasting the ramifications of her decision would be.

Throughout the story, Clara shares her life story in a Dodge Caravan full of relatives on a road trip across the country, to an audience which includes the captive attention of her grandson, Noah. She recounts the horrors of the war, the pain she was unable to take away, and the lives she was unable to save, no matter how hard she tried. She tells of the fear she felt when she returned home — the fear of loving anyone, for the risk that they might one day be lost to her.

As if boycotting marriage and motherhood would serve as an immunization to prevent her from ever getting the chicken pox scars of a broken heart, Clara steels herself against the contagious airborne pull of love.

Through various circumstances, Clara gradually realizes that deciding not to get married or not to have kids wasn’t the solution, either. God made sure she heard that one, loud and clear.

Through Clara’s tale of love in spite of risk, of serving in spite of the pain, of remembering in spite of the lingering ache, I was personally reminded that God alone can bind up the brokenhearted, and He can move amidst the scars.

A Promise in Pieces is not only a beautifully written book — it also challenged me to consider ways in which I am clinging too tightly to those I love, as if I have the power to protect or save. Clara’s story made me realize afresh that not only does God hold the key to every car in the parking lot and on the road, but He alone holds the key to life and death — and despite our valiant efforts, only He can save.

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Kate Motaung grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan before spending ten years in Cape Town, South Africa. She is married to a South African and together they have three children. Kate is the author of the e-book, Letters to Grief, hosts the Five Minute Friday blog link-up, and has contributed to several other online publications. She blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Twitter @k8motaung.

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A Promise in Pieces: A Review

by Kate Motaung time to read: 3 min