Excerpt: 'Promises to Keep,' by Jane Green

Jane Green's novel reveals how cancer both devastates and unites a family.

ByABC News via logo
June 9, 2010, 10:02 PM

July 21, 2010 -- "Promises to Keep" centers around the friendship of three women who struggle to maintain their love lives despite the responsibilities and growing challenges they face.

The novel introduces the reader to Callie Perry, a photographer and mother, who falls ill to breast cancer. With her diagnosis, the novel explores how love and support are enduring and help people deal with severe illnesses and grief.

Read an excerpt of the book below, and then head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.

Chapter Seven

Lila smiles as she hears Callie's familiar voice on her answering machine.

"You witch!" Callie barks, but Lila can hear her smile. "You never told me my sister came out to see you. I can't believe she sees you more than I do. Where are you, anyway, and why don't I ever hear from you? And don't use that old excuse of being in love because I'm your oldest, bestest friend, and I'm not buying it. And I know you've forgotten my upcoming birthday, and when can the four of us have dinn—" Beeeeeeeeeeeep.

Lila calls back and leaves her own message. "Phone tag. You're it." And she puts down the phone and starts to get dinner ready.

It is a little late, Lila realizes, to become a domestic goddess at the ripe old age of forty-two, and yet, as her mother always says, better late than never. She had grown up presuming she would be doing this—cooking for a husband, children—decades ago, but the right man had never come along.

Elderly relatives had accused her of putting her career before a man, but they hadn't realized it hadn't been her choice: she had focused on her career only because she didn't have a man. In her twenties she had been desperate to be married, had viewed every date through the lenses of husband potential, had, for many years, secret scrapbooks filled with vision-board pictures of her dream wedding.

Her dress would be Vera Wang, floaty chiffon with a huge skirt. Her hair would be swept up and back, with a delicate pearl and Swarovski crystal tiara, the flowers would be hand-tied white hydrangeas and peonies.

She would be transformed from a five-foot-one, frizzy-haired, big-bottomed Jewish girl into Audrey Hepburn. She was never sure exactly how this would happen, but she was certain it would.

And her husband, in turn, would be like Harrison Ford. Only Jewish. Or a Jon Stewart type, she thought. A neurotic, funny, cute New Yorker with a wicked sense of humor, who looked great in a polo shirt and chino shorts.

The problem was, she discovered, much to her chagrin, that Jewish Harrison Fords and Jon Stewart look-alikes didn't have much of a penchant for short, round, frizzy-haired girls who looked like Lila. She may have been brilliantly clever, with a sharp wit and a heart the size of the Amazon basin, but the men she was drawn to were only ever interested in her as a friend.Time after time she developed searing secret crushes on men who became her best friend, and she hoped they would wake up one morning and realize that she, Lila Grossman, their confidante and chief adviser, was in fact the love of their life.

And time and again she would seize up in pain as she attended yet another of their weddings. Always to the same girl. Petite, skinny, with naturally curly hair expertly blown out on a regular basis to a long, sleek sheath of silk; a girl who looked great in Seven jeans, a personalized Goyard bag slung casually over her shoulder.

Lila spent years trying to be that girl. She has been on every diet known to man, but nothing has reduced the size of her bottom and, frankly, she loves food too damn much to worry about fitting into a size four pair of jeans. Or even a size ten. There is a cupboard in her bathroom spilling over with hair products and appliances that promised to give her silky smooth hair, but nothing has been able to tame her frizz.

She even bought a Goyard bag, except it was from a street vendor in Chinatown and if you look closely you will see it says Coyerd. She didn't think anyone would notice, but when she passed the identikit princesses, she saw their eyes flick disdainfully over the bag, and she knew they knew. She sometimes thought she should care more, instead of finding it funny, but she only found it funny because it was easier to laugh than to admit how painful it was that she lost countless men to women she didn't understand.

She almost married once. She was thirty, and dating Steve, whom she didn't particularly like. He was arrogant and charmless, but he was clever, a lawyer and Jewish.

He treated Lila like his servant from the first time she made him dinner, something she had been trained to do as she was growing up by watching her mother prepare for her father's homecoming every night.