Promises to Keep
by Charles De Lint
Review by Gayle Surrette
Subterranean Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596061262
Date: 25 September 2007 List Price $35.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Did you ever wonder how Jilly Coppercorn hit bottom and finally pulled herself out of the spiral of self-destruction? How she became the Jilly who passes on the Twilight Bark, creates incredible art, spends her free time helping others, and manages to encourage others as she struggles with her broken body? Onion Girl and Widdershins told us much of her backstory. But I wanted to know more of Jilly and Promises to Keep gives us more of Jilly's history.
Taking place in 1972, Jilly is clean, has started at Butler U, and has met many of the people who show up in De Lint's Newford stories. Then one evening Jilly meets up with Donna Birch, a friend she had during the awful days in Tyson City Home for Wayward Girls and when Jilly lived in the Tombs. Donna is also now clean and drug free and playing in a band. She invites Jilly to hear the band when they play at Cool Hand's Juke in Foxville. The problem is no one has ever heard of Cool Hand's Juke, not even Geordie who has played or been to most of the live music venues in the area. But Jilly trusts Donna and decides even if it doesn't exist it will if she goes there. And it does, but as usual all is not as it seems -- and one person's paradise may be another's version of hell.
Told with a number of flashbacks to Jilly's past we learn more about her dysfunctional family, her struggle with addiction, her life in the Tombs, and her efforts to make herself over to the Jilly we met in all of De Lint's other books. De Lint has the knack of writing so visually that we're pulled into the story and believe in the basic premise before we even realize that we've entered fantastical territory -- perhaps this is why he's so great at urban fantasy. As a reader you just enter the story and believe because you've stepped out of reality into a reality you wish existed. Newford isn't a perfect place, far from it, but its population includes many people who readers wish existed in their neighborhoods and maybe, if we acted like they could exist, they would exist and the world would be a better place for it. Perhaps that's why we return to Newford and all these people we've learned to care about -- Jilly Coppercorn being the one featured in this story.
If you're already a fan of the works of Charles De Lint, you're going to enjoy this filling in the blanks story of Jilly. If you've never read anything of his before -- take a chance on this story and look up his other works too.