Reader’s Choice Literary Reviews
William R. Potter
A Promise Kept by Elise Crawford
A Promise Kept by Elise Crawford begins with a chapter called Ground Zero. Crawford uses vivid description, peppered with actual news clips, photos, and details from witnesses, emergency crews and survivors to tell the story of Seattle Metro bus operator, Mark McLaughlin, who was shot and killed by a transit rider on November 27, 1998. Crawford details how Mark wrestled the man for control and how the 72 foot bus, along with 32 passengers, went off the Aurora Bridge and landed
on an apartment complex. We are instantly captivated with the rescue effort and search for Mark, missing at first from the crash scene. Slowly, the police realize that the crash isn’t a terrible accident but is actually a crime scene as survivors tell of several gunshots just before the bus went off the bridge. A friend calls Elise at work and asks, “What route was Mark driving today?” As the story unravels in the media, Elise goes home to wait for Mark’s call to say he’s okay—a call she knows will never come.
Next we learn about Mark the person and how he was large of size and of heart. He cared about people, loved animals and wanted to make everyone happy. He had numerous quirks that entertained some and irritated others. Elise and her two young children rode his bus each day. The two quickly became friends, but this isn’t a tale of love of first sight. Elise first sees Mark as only a friend, as he is much older and also married. Soon the pair cannot ignore their feelings for each other. A now single Mark and Elise become closer each day and fall in love. Mark sees Elise’s unlimited potential. With Mark’s support, Elise feels that anything is possible.
We see how Mark’s larger than life personality touched the lives of so many when his memorial is held at a sports arena. Police and firefighters consider him a hero. Thousands of transit operators
from across North America come to pay their respects. However, Elise is unable to acknowledge any of it and holds fast to her belief that Mark will soon come home. Trapped in denial, offers of condolences only served to taunt her.
From the day of the tragedy and for the next several years Elise would exist only for her children. Her anguish cripples her and health problems mount. Although lost in a fog of despair, and despite the job losses, money shortages and constant moving, a dream to write a book about her experience will not go away. She knows she must write this book, but is unable to begin. Only when she is able to accept Mark’s death can she finally put pen to paper and start a book that would rescue her soul and perhaps help others also suffering with the torturous ache of grief.
This is Elise Crawford’s first book; however, she writes with the skill of a seasoned author. Her powerful description and willingness to show her own mistakes, weaknesses and fears make this a wonderfully inspiring read. The strength needed to write her memoir, revisiting these painful
memories, is remarkable. Impossible to put down or forget forget, I highly recommend A Promise Kept. This is a must-read for those struggling with the loss of a loved one. This reviewer suggests you keep a box of tissue on hand as you read.
Xlibris April 2009
By William R. Potter for Reader’s Choice Reviews.
“Not since I read Levine's "Unattended Sorrow" or Kübler-Ross' "On Grief and Grieving" have I found such a personal and powerful journey of learning how to move through and then move on. “ –Dr. Ronald C. Sharp Kirkland, WA
"Hats off to Elise Crawford, whose life has been anything but easy. She takes us through the unimaginable pain of losing the man she loves all too soon, and her unwillingness to accept for many years the fact that he is gone forever. Crawford endures through many obstacles, because she must. She has two children to raise. Somehow this remarkably strong woman finds her faith and eventually accepts what she must. Writing this book has given her the strength to begin living life fully again, and loving another without fear. I congratulate her for literally pouring her soul onto paper for those who are dealing with grief to read. They, too, can rise above it."
My review of Elise Crawford's A Promise Kept
By Jeffrey B. Allen, Author of Gone Away Into the Land
I will post my review but this story of hers merits a commentary on our society. When a senseless crime hits the news we, as a people, are stunned, appalled, and frightened. Most of all we are confused because we are left without an answer and we feel defenseless. Crawford's story personalizes one crime against society as well as any book or journalistic piece I have ever read.
The description on the front cover of the book says, “The story of one widowed bride’s journey through grief.” I would write that statement and then times it by two. But, what do I know about going through such a horrific life experience? What do most of us know? Maybe it should be times ten. Fortunately for the majority of us we are spared tragedies such as the one Crawford experienced.
Elise Crawford tells a tale that one could just as easily credit to an experienced writer of fiction. Except the story she tells is absolutely true and, therefore, cuts to the bone so much so that at times the heartbreak makes it necessary to stop reading just to gather your emotions.
We all hear of horrible tragedies. Fortunately, very few of us go through them, and very few of us even know someone who has experienced a personal tragedy on the magnitude described in Elise Crawford’s journey through grief. Most of us look into the glass of an electronic tube or at the picture emanating from a plasma screen and watch with a morbid, detached, rather strange sense of outrage, if not curiosity. We flip the channel away if it’s uninteresting or if there is something better to watch on another station. The television has a way of separating us from horrible things, causing us to be callous and perhaps insensitive to what is really human about it all. Furthermore, we are barraged on a continual basis by fictionalized television shows and big screen cinematic movie productions that reenact the drama of tragedy, carnage and human suffering for its entertainment value. It is not our fault entirely we have trouble connecting emotionally with real tragedy -- until it hits us personally. In all fairness, however, there are those who feel deep concern for their fellow human beings who may be suffering through natural disasters, famine, war, or heinous crimes of violence. Their generosity is to be commended and sometimes it is unexpected and often overwhelming for the families affected.
In Elise Crawford’s telling of her story, she brings an honest strength into her writing that does not allow us to detach. We feel every moment of the day her fiancé, a Seattle bus driver, was shot and killed while driving his bus on his regular route. The bus happened to be on one of Seattle’s many highway overpasses. As Mark slumped down in his seat, after two or three bullets had lodged in his body, his skilled hands could no longer control the direction of the crowded bus, so the tandem vehicle plunged over the edge of the elevated highway and fell several stories onto a neighborhood of row homes and innocent people who were going about the routines of their daily lives. Torn to shreds by an unprovoked act of brutality were the lives of men, woman, and children, some killed instantly, others died during hospitalization, and still others were traumatized to such an extent that to project the long term ramifications is impossible.
Elise Crawford, in A Promise Kept, depicts the events of her life, previous to meeting Mark, as a hard life but one she accepted while struggling to protect her two young children and better herself through honest work and continuing education. When she met and fell in love with Mark, her life filled with joy as if for the first time. He eventually proposed to her, she accepted, and they soon bought a house where their dream of being a family, united by love, marriage, and faith could be realized. The prospect of a bright and full future with the true love of her life was for once within Elise’s grasp. Mark, as described by Crawford, was a remarkable man. He seemed content with who he was. He must have been extremely intelligent because his sense of responsibility blended in perfect harmony with his sense of humor; a sign of character and intelligence that should be admired if not emulated. He was playful, loving, and devoted.
Crawford does not lay out the facts of her story in a foreboding manner, or with any hint of self pity, but with tenderness and brevity. She accurately depicts, for the reader, the bedlam that ensued the day Mark was shot. The fog of confusion descended onto the city of Seattle that day and into the life and heart of Elise Crawford. Elise does her writing in a journalistic style, always conveying to the reader her perspective on the events and imparting the feelings and thoughts that were racing through her mind in a surreal way. She explains the outpouring of support by the transit department and other city services, and she leads the reader through the endless ceremonies and tributes that were paid to Mark for his service to the city. All of these were what you would expect when something like that happens to a civil servant who is killed in the line of duty, although they were for Elise like a bad dream that soon mixed into a tangled disconnect from reality. She explains with great passion her grief, and she tells how the uncontrollable onset of depression caused her to almost loose her children.
Elise Crawford should be commended for portraying an incident of devastation that changed her life forever and stole away her dream and promise of sharing life with her true soul-mate. Not many of us can imagine going through something like that. We cannot imagine the strength it would take to persevere, and we cannot imagine the anger one would harbor toward the perpetrator of such a senseless crime. But Elise Crawford tells her story with straight-forwardness and with such a sense of purpose that anyone who has or is currently experiencing a devastating personal loss will no doubt draw inspiration from reading this book.
Although, I appreciated the well written and organized accounts of what happened on the day of the tragedy, what impressed me most about A Promise Kept were the ways Crawford went about depicting her fall into the bottomless pit of sadness. I was heartened by the few, yet significant, fortunes that came her way, but then dashed by the awesome weight of her misfortunes during the months and years that followed.
The inspirational aspect of her story comes, not only out of her strength in the immediate aftermath, but her perseverance in the face of manifest futility to eventually pull herself from the terrible grip of despair, and, all the while, managing to raise two wonderful children, who, by all accounts are now young adults forging their own pathway through the unpredictable maze.
I commend Elise Crawford for writing her story. It must have been very difficult to recount the events of Mark’s death, and I can only try to imagine the many emotions that were replaying as she wrote the words on the pages of her book.
There can be nothing left for this humble reviewer but to recommend A promise Kept to all adult readers; not just to those who may have had, or are currently going through a similar tragedy, but to all people. This inspirational story will help some of us to uncover in our hearts what we know is already there - true compassion for our fellow man.
Review by: Jeffrey B. Allen, December, 2009
“A Promise Kept has everything you'd ever want to read in one book; tragedy, mystery, murder, a fairy tale love story, grief, loss, adversity, hopelessness, faith, hope renewed, triumph, a hero, and a happy ever after. I couldn't put it down. Great Read !!!” –A. Clarence Spokane WA
“Powerful. I read it in one day, I couldn't put it down.” – Betty Seattle WA
“Truly Wonderful. You deserve to be proud.” –Jennifer Bradley Seattle WA
"Amazing. I was just going to read a little and then pick it up again later, I read the whole book in one sitting, needless to say nothing got done that day. And then when I watched the video of the photos and music to the book, I really lost it. I called my husband to see it, yep he did too. Very Powerful." –Stacy Seattle WA
“Very powerful. I think it would be worthwhile reading, not just for those in grief. I could really appreciate what you went through.” –Richard McLane Seattle WA
“Received the book today and just finished it. WOW! Courageous project.” –Jack Carone Los Angeles California
"This book is sweet, depressing, frustrating, and inspiring all at the same time. I feel like my problems are so utterly pathetic and trivial compared to what Elise Crawford went through.
One word I'd use to describe this book is 'real'. I guess I expected heartbreak and anguish like a good Hollywood drama/chickflick, or a Nicholas Sparks novel - and it does have that, but is also interjected with things that jerk you back to reality and make you realise that a real person had to go through all this. It's not a sugarcoated sobstory that Hollywood shows you, there is no easy resolution to all the conflict going on.
I like the chronology of this book - it's not entirely linear. It starts with the day of Mark's death, then recounts their happy short life together, then moves forward to the morning after and the next 10 years of Elise Crawford's life. I like how the nonlinear chronology is emotionally jarring - one chapter is immensely depressing, whilst the next is filled with hope and happiness.
I mentioned that this book is frustrating - not because of the writing or anything, but because of how truly horrible people were in the wake of Mark's death, namely his own family. I can't believe that they would be so insensitive in taking back all of Mark's possessions and evicting Elise. And to add insult to injury, she was repeatedly plagued by financial problems and wasnt entitled to welfare payments or any donations made after the tragedy.
I really don't know how she managed to get through it all, god knows I would have given up early on, based solely on the financial troubles she went through. Her problems are real, there's no deus ex machina in sight, and there's not really any reassurance that there'll be a happy ending. That being said, I love how it does happen, but in the most unsuspecting way. She's still plagued by Mark's death, but able to move on.
Surprisingly enough, the part of this book that took the most toll on me was the short story at the end, based on their cat named Spirit. I don't want to spoil it, but it truly made me weep.
Overall, I really loved this book, and was able to relate to Elise although I havent yet suffered any loss. It's not sugarcoated at all, and really shows how horrible and insensitive the world can be. I can only hope that I'd be as strong as Elise when going through something like this."- Jerry Dazzlepants, Winner of Goodreads.com book giveaway contest, December 2009
***** (FIVE STARS) on this one! and Two THUMBS UP! It was a 'couldn't put it down' read. Congratulations Elise Crawford! Job well done! –B. Gardner Bloomington IA
“I LOVED the book and I told my wife about it and she loved it too, she's even introducing it to her book club.” –Bob Compton Seattle WA
“This powerful story will take you on a memorable journey through love, grief and survival.” –Colleen Foye Bollen, Shorts: A Gateway Into New Markets
“So often we hear or read stories of tragedies but are never really given a glimpse into the lives of those affected by the tragedy. Elise's book shows us the life of a wonderful man, one I myself was blessed enough to know as my bus driver for a year. All of the news stories that came out at the time of Mark's death, none of them really told his real story, the man behind the image of the tragically murdered bus driver. In telling her story, Elise allows us to see WHY she grieved so long. I, only slightly knowing Mark, was still greatly affected by his warmth and larger than life personality, and it took me years to accept his death. Having someone tell you, "I'm so sorry for your loss" doesn't have much meaning if that person themselves hasn't also experienced a similar loss. Others who have gone through the experience of losing a loved one, whether to murder or disease, or to a tragic accident, they also have their grief to go through. Reading this book can hope fully help them complete that process. And the supernatural aspects, believe them. I myself have had a few experiences since Mark's death. “–Ann Washburn, Seattle WA, one-time rider of Route 359
"“As our new relationship unfolded, I gradually relaxed and let my guard down. I let myself fall head over heels and blindly in love with Mark. I proudly exposed my heart on my sleeve. He was everything I had hoped for and everything I believed that didn’t exist.”
Elise Crawford has masterfully told the story of love, loss, not just a love, but also of self and the means of how that self was found again. Elise weaves a tale of herself, all the raw emotional anguish, hurt, and utter devastation that comes from tragedy. She goes further. She tells how she overcame adversity and learned to survive after a senseless act of unprovoked violence.
“A Promise Kept” is a love story, true . But it is also a ray of hope for those that are traveling the same, if different, road of recovery after a tragic loss. With just a few well chosen words, Elise can draw out the readers’ emotions, making them laugh at Mark’s antics, cry with her in her pain, and suffer the hurt that comes with a test of faith.
Yes, “A Promise Kept” is a love story, but so much more. It is a roadmap for recovery. This is a true book to anyone wanting to find a way back from the abyss of despair. I highly recommend this work and commend, nay praise the author for her courage, openness and willingness to tell her story to help others in their struggle with grief and recovery.
As a writer, I was amazed when I found tears running down my cheeks, wetting my shirt and laughing so hard my sides hurt with just a few words. This is a must read for anyone!"