Promise Bridge by Eileen Clymer Schwab is an adult novel that follows Hannah, a plantation mistress and Livie, a slave girl who develop an unlikely friendship during the time of the early underground railroad.
Hannah from the start of the novel is a caring individual that doesn’t conform to the norm. Her parents died when she was young and she grew up with her aunt Augusta on her plantation, Hillcrest.
In the beginning of the novel, while in town Hannah makes the mistake of thanking one of her aunts slaves for helping her in front of her aunt as well as the heartless slave catcher Twitch, who in return brings him to be whipped. Hannah being unable to stand by and listen runs into the meadow where she is met by Colt, a childhood friend who has been trying to win her heart for years. While in the meadow Cole thinks he hears an animal and he shoots his gun. Upon approaching they realize that he has actually shot a slave girl in the hip. She and her brother Marcus are found to be runaway slaves. Hannah and Colt end up taking them up the mountain to hide in a cave so that they will not be found. A group of more runaways show up and they all decide that it’s unsafe for them to all hide in the cave but Livie is too weak to leave. Marcus is the only one who knows the way north, where they can be free so he leaves Livie in the care of Hannah with the promise that he will come back for her.
Eventually Hannah and Colt come up with a plan to make it look like Livie was a gift for Colt, after helping a group of slave owners and he has decided to gift her to Hannah. This is when an incredible friendship begins to develop.
I have never read a novel about slavery like this one. The friendship between Hannah and Livie was so sweet and beautiful. I loved watching them grow together. They were both from very different places and had different things that were expected of them but they didn’t let any of that get in the way of their friendship for the most part. One of my favorite parts is when they exchange Christmas gifts. I cried so hard! There were a couple of times I thought something was going to happen that I wasn’t going to like but I was really happy with the place they were at in the end.
I enjoyed the relationship between Colt and Hannah and how it played out. I thought it was a good choice on the authors part to not have their relationship be the focal point of the story. Their relationship progressed slowly and I liked that because it gave more to the serious topic of the novel.
Along with the sweet and beautiful, of course there had to be the hateful and hard to digest parts. We have all heard what it was like during slavery times and we’ve watched movies or seen interviews. We’ve probably for the most part studied it in school and read books, but I don’t think that it ever gets easy to hear about. Even reading a work of fiction based on a true event is sometimes just as hard as hearing the true accounts of the people who actually lived through it. Reading this novel made me feel like I was living the lives of these characters. I felt the love between Hannah and Livie and between Cole and Hannah. I felt the growing friendship between Hannah and Livie and the growing feelings between Colt and Hannah. I felt the heartache and despair of the slaves. I felt each cut every time a whip was snapped against a back. I felt the joy and hope at the prospect of freedom. I felt the loss. I was right there with the characters through everything and I love when that happens while I’m reading a book.
I laughed and cried. I felt despair and hope. I hated and I loved. Most of all, I enjoyed.
This novel was so beautifully written. It has definitely become one of my favorites of the year so far.