Cover image for The promise
The promise
Ryan, Mary, 1945-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Physical Description:
279 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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Enjoying his student days in Florence, Colm becomes friends with Robin, a rootless American girl. In the intense embrace of youth they help each other face the horror of their pasts. Before parting, they promise to meet again in Florence on his fiftieth birthday.

In the autumn of 1996 Colm travels back to Florence, burdened with the recall of events he wants to forget and half remembering a promise made 28 years earlier.

This time darker memories will stir. And what Colm finds is a journey of self-discovery, love, and absolution.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

From a bestselling author in Ireland, this romantic novel portrays the midlife spiritual crisis of a repressed, divorced stockbroker yearning for his lost youth. After Colm Nugent's long-suffering wife accuses him of being "cold" and leaves him after 21 years of marriage, just shy of his 50th birthday, he dreams about Robin McKay, a feisty American with whom he fell in love while backpacking though Italy in 1968. Recovering from a mild coronary, Colm embarks on a nostalgic holiday to Italy to reencounter the life that once held such promise, and perhaps to find the lost Robin. He enrolls in a language course and takes up residence with teacher Paola Nosterini, a beautiful, soulful widow and mother of an ailing child, who, coincidentally, shares a past with Colm. Ryan braids the narrative of Colm's return to Italy in search of absolution with flashbacks to his harrowing experience as a young student sexually abused by a pedophiliac priest and the wondrous summer of love spent in Florence with Robin, who has her own burdensome secrets. Burrowing deep into blocked memories, Colm faces his guilt over having left Robin in a Florentine hospital, never knowing whether she lived or died. They had promised to meet again in Florence on their shared birthdays the year he turned 50Äand now he hopes to fulfill his pledge. Ryan (Glenallen) evokes youthful love and midlife crisis with workaday, sometimes florid prose. As she gradually reveals details in flashback, however, the story acquires complexity and depth. The coincidental events in the denouement demand the reader's indulgence, but Paola sums up the novel's weepy lesson: "Everything that happens is eternal and is thrown up again, sooner or later... like the small stones in the sea." (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved