Promises to Keep (Newford/Jilly Coppercorn)
“Equal parts fantasy and gritty realism, Promises to Keep is, above all, an artfully imagined clarion call to embrace the challenges of daily life, . . .”
In Promises to Keep, Charles de Lint offers an imaginative take on addiction and recovery.
The novel centers on Jilly Coppercorn, a favorite from the author’s previous efforts, The Onion Girl and Widdershins. A recovering heroin addict, Coppercorn finds herself torn between two lives when a chance encounter with an old friend leads to a prolonged stay in a utopian parallel universe. Yet when the charm of her new surroundings begins to wear thin, Coppercorn quickly learns that while there may, indeed, be no place like home, getting back to the real world is easier said than done.
For Coppercorn, the trouble with utopian life is that it lacks any challenges whatsoever. Any needs the protagonist might have—food, shelter, art supplies—are met as soon as she voices them. By way of contrast, Coppercorn’s “real life” is marked by the constant struggle not just to stay clean, but also to adjust to myriad demands of life on the straight and narrow.
Not coincidentally, the old friend who leads Coppercorn down the proverbial rabbit hole is also a ghost from her days as a heroin addict. In this sense, Promises to Keep works especially well as an allegory for addiction recovery, as the temptation to succumb to the empty comfort of her newfound utopia is, for the protagonist, closely related to her enduring (if largely muted) desire for just one more hit. By the same token, it’s her sense of duty to everyone in the real world who’s contributed to her recovery that motivates Coppercorn to stay clean as she seeks an escape from her counterfeit paradise.
Needless to say, Promises to Keep will appeal to fans of Coppercorn and the motley crew of characters who populate Mr. de Lint’s storied city of Newford. At the same time, however, the novel will also likely attract new fans to his writing, as the narrative never takes on the air of a private party. Rather, the novel is open and inviting, and Mr. de Lint takes great care to make even the complete novice feel at home in the fantastic realm he’s brought to life.
Equal parts fantasy and gritty realism, Promises to Keep is, above all, an artfully imagined clarion call to embrace the challenges of daily life, especially when seemingly cushy alternatives rear their charming heads.