Promises: Ardyce Durham
Friendships are valuable and long lasting when you are compatible, have the same interests and even know how to have fund and get into trouble together hoping not to get caught. High jinks, practical jokes, laughs and definitely having fun at the expense of others were just some of the ways we can describe Owen Cartwright and his best friend Weston Walker. Born just four weeks apart these two were inseparable from the moment they could talk, walk, run and find their way along the river to catch squirrels, rabbits and whatever came along. Harmon Walker and Monroe Cartwright were best friends too and the fathers of these two rascals. Jane and Mary Elizabeth their mothers were even closer. Imagine getting skunked: I did. Imagine having to sleep outside until the smell wears off! No fun! The beginning of the book deals with the antics of these two and they are hilarious as both boys decide to try out some moonshine, get skunked or tanked you might say and then attempt to chew tobacco and what happens will crack you up as you fall in love with these two boys. Loving parents, tons of brothers and sisters and new ways to get in trouble as their fathers worked in the sawmill and hard times were about to follow. Living in Tennessee their whole lives having to pick up and move was probably the hardest thing they would have to do until other harsh realities set in. Owen had a great personality as did Wes and they both got in trouble because they never bothered to assess the consequences if caught. Kids made poor choices and they were no different. The time period was the middle to late 1800’s the situation grave as they moved all they had and started over again. But, Owen and Wes were great kids when their fathers went to seek out new homes they both stepped up to the plate and helped their mothers with the younger children. But, things changed after a while and Owen’s voice is hear in many ways as he relates several incidents that might bring tears to the reader’s eyes as tragedy struck in a hard way when Harmon Cartwright died in a freak accident, his mother withdrew from the world, never spoke again and refused to believe Harmon was gone. Denial, sadness, withdrawal and a woman who was so vibrant became a shadow whose outline could hardly be seen. The time moves forward as Owen relates why he and Wes decided to join the army in as part of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry. But, things changed, they did not even know how to shoot a gun or defend themselves and when another tragedy happens and he knows he has to tell everyone what really happened Owen creates a truth that everyone can deal with even him. As Owen returns home and at first does not relate what happened to Wes, his wife Joanna realizes when he visits her that something is wrong. The dialogue is indicative of the area and at times I read some of the sentences over again to make sure that I understood what the characters were saying. A story that once you start reading you cannot put it down as author Ardyce Durham takes readers back in time to visit with her great great grandfather, meet her family and get to know why this woman who taught, drove a big rig truck and is still going strong. This is a complex story as you meet all of the members of the Walker family, their children, grandchildren and grandparents. You meet the same on the Cartwright side and even though distance separates them due to work or marriage they are both tightly knit families.
Owen has a passion to work in the sawmill and taking a temporary job working in the quarry was necessary to help support his family. Owen and Wes would be friends even in death forever and when Owen courted his best friend’s wife and married her he proved his loyalty to his friend. Jeremiah his son took to him always and would call him Papa Owen. Never changing his name to his but making sure he knows about his dad, Owen has the attributes that most women would want and as a father he was the best. Wes and Owen had a special handshake, a special pact and would be friends forever as their friendship was based on Promises and that handshake.
Defining friendship in the prologue and explaining it’s meaning should remind people of the importance of having a good friend. A friend is someone you trust, has your back and supports you. A friend to me sees you through the bad, the good and the ugly and accepts you for who you are. Friends like Wes and Owen are rare and they never gave each other up when in trouble. Promises are not easy to keep and as kids they were loyal to each other and as adults the same. The respect Owen had for Wes was invaluable. Although they were poor they did not seem to want for anything and living in day by day and not getting new clothes to wear was not easy for the younger kids. Hand me downs I know what those are, eating what they could hunt and having a place to hang their head at night was all they needed. Imagine a family with 13 children or more.
While Mary Elizabeth becomes a hermit, non responsive and hardly eats, her daughter Margaret takes over the role of mother for all of the children.
With Wes gone and two years in a Northern Prison Camp and not revealing that to anyone in both families as Owen relates it to the reader in graphic terms.
The Civil War, the start of the World Wars and the changing times that kept two families apart and yet together.
Things change and times are different as Owen and Joanna have several children but the last one causes him to lose the love of his life. With Joanna gone and having to work to care for the rest of his children he is lucky to have Grandma Johnson to help him as one crazy lady named Lucinda seems delusional and shows up at his house and what happens leads to another tragedy for Owen. But, throughout the story you fall in love with Jeremiah who is kind, smart, hardworking yet not like his brother, he does not want to go to school where as his brother is excited about going to an all boys academy and getting an education and going to college. This story is about successes, failures, trials, tribulations, hope, survival and two families whose bond will never die even in death.
Some people give up and do nothing with their lives when older but not Owen. He decided to create along with Daniel and Carter their own carpentry business which lasted until Carter could not longer do it and then he and Daniel continued and until he ran it himself. When no longer able to climb, build houses and do carpentry he found himself sitting on his porch whittling and making figures and once again that caught on. But, times changes, the first WWI came and went, Depression took its toll on people and Owen persisted and checked into a facility where he could have help when needed. But, things come full circle sometimes and his great grandson OC was fascinated by his stories and took him out once a month and Owen related his stories about growing up with Wes, his family ties, marriage and much more. But, OC was fascinated with Owen’s military career and when searching through the archives in the library a well-hidden secret just might be revealed. Will OC tell what really happened to Wes? Will that remain a secret forever?
The final chapters will take you back to Gettysburg, the battles and Owen’s time in prison, what he endured, how he survived and what happened when he finally returned. Hearing the story, his voice, and finally admitting what really happened to him as OC learns about his great grandfather from reading about the war, researching his regiment and understanding through Owen Patterson Cartwright the true meaning of Promises as the generations might be smaller and OC finally finds his true love just what happens at the end and the links among families will surprise readers as author Ardyce Durham shares her family with us. This is one story that will take to another time period, understanding the struggles of so many and how one man was the inspiration for so many. The ties that bound this family will never be broken. Let’s dedicate this to Owen Patterson Cartwright and Weston Morgan Walker friends forever.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews: MJ Magazine
Let’s give this book: FIVE GOLDEN VANILLA ICE CREAM CONES