There’s something strangely dramatic – certainly beautiful and authentic – in the way author Jean P. Moore captures the mundane repetitions of a woman adjusting to a new phase of life after her husband’s death:
“Your membership will expire soon. This was the opening sentence of Tilda’s first email of the day, and she hit delete before going any further. Of course her membership to the museum would expire, along with her driver’s license in six months, her gym membership, and her subscription to The New York Times, among many other things. The milk in the refrigerator had been expired for days.”
“This gloominess was not customary for Tilda, but it was becoming more common, now that the funeral was four months behind her. The last of her friends’ casseroles in the freezer had finally been discarded, and the phone was not ringing as frequently with words of comfort, concern, or just plain awkwardness.”
Moore paints a poignant picture…and tells a heartfelt story in her novel Tilda’s Promise (She Writes Press), writing from three different generational perspectives of a family coping with death and embarking on a journey of loss, conflict and love.
Tilda’s world has changed drastically in the few months since her beloved Harold passed away from a heart attack in his sleep. The event, as one would expect, leads her to deep emotion and reflection, questioning everything she has known.
Tilda blames herself for sleeping right next to Harold and not waking up to help him. She knows she needs to begin the process of how to live without Harold for the first time since she was a teenager — but doesn’t know where to start. And she is stubborn and determined to do it alone.
Many surprise friendships prove valuable. She becomes close with her neighbor whose wife had run out on him and his daughter, and she meets a kind man at the grocery store who wants to provide support, as his own wife passed away.
Tilda’s daughter Laura also grapples with the loss, throwing her energy into her high-school-age daughter Tilly and trying to guide her unwilling mother along.
Laura wants Tilda to move into her home and be with family. When this idea is met with resistance, they both agree Tilda has one year to progress on her own; if she doesn’t, in with Laura she will go.
Then there’s Tilly, who regarded her grandfather as her best friend. His death comes at a stage in her life when she is questioning her whole existence – who she wants to be, where she fits in society, and where she fits in her family.
Tilly feels she can’t satisfactorily convey her concerns to Laura now that Harold is gone, as she saw him as her support system. Meanwhile, Tilda is determined to guide her granddaughter no matter how resistant she is to help and support.
“Just when Tilda thought her bruised heart could hurt no more, here it was aching anew when she thought of her granddaughter crying in her room, struggling to understand her own behavior. Surely just being an adolescent was challenge enough, but Tilly was coping with grief, too, so it was no wonder she didn’t know who she was.”
Moore addresses Tilly’s conflict with gender identity head-on. In an essay written for BookTrib last year, the author explained, “I knew I would have to show the uncertainty that would lie ahead for her. I began by showing the effect of Tilly’s new gender doubts on those who loved her most: her mother, father and grandmother. Each began in denial.”
“After all, Tilly was perfect, a good student, a talented dancer, and so each had a rationale for not seeing what was in plain view: Tilly’s questioning. Her grandmother finally recognizes that she was too consumed with grief after the death of her husband to acknowledge the signals Tilly was sending.”
“To fully render Tilly’s questioning, I entered into her consciousness through a shift in point of view, to show her isolation, confusion, and doubt—yes—but also her perseverance and strength. I also used her sessions with her psychotherapist as a way to penetrate more deeply her coming to terms with her gender identity.”
Throughout this wonderful novel, there are many instances that allow the reader to truly feel what the characters are feeling.
For example, Moore expresses touchingly and convincingly Tilda’s recollection of when the ambulance came to pick up Harold: “Before she walked out of the now-empty bedroom, she must have turned to look at the bed, still unmade. She must have walked over and put her hand on the pillow, felt the mattress. Yes, she remembered, where the pillow met the mattress, it still felt warm.”
“It couldn’t have been Harold’s warmth, but it was the closest she would ever come to his warmth again. She remembered stepping out of her shoes and getting back into bed, nuzzling into the warm place. Harold’s smell. Not aftershave or cologne, just Harold.”
In Tilda’s Promise, there’s a wide spectrum of emotions as the three women try to figure out how to deal with an immense loss and continue their lives together – in their individual pursuits and as part of a family interacting. Prepare to be moved by this marvelous narrative.
Tilda’s Promise is available for purchase.
ABOUT JEAN P. MOORE:
Jean P. Moore began her professional career as a high school English teacher and worked for a number of years as executive director of workforce development. Jean has since returned to her first loves: the study of literature and writing. Her novel Water on the Moon was published in June 2014 and is the winner of the 2015 Independent Publisher Book Award for contemporary fiction. Her poetry chapbook, Time’s Tyranny, was published in the fall of 2017 by Finishing Line Press. Tilda’s Promise published last fall. Visit http://www.jeanpmoore.com.
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