Title: The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared
Author: Alice Ozma
One Sentence Summary: In fourth grade, Alice Ozma and her father made a promise to read together every night for 100 nights; 3,218 nights later, The Streak finally ended.
One Sentence Review: Although The Reading Promise is, ostensibly, a memoir about books, it’s really more of of a series of essays about how a daughter and her father bonded over a shared love of reading.
Long Review: When Alice Ozma was nine years old, she and her father made a promise to read together every night for 100 nights. At the end of 100 nights, curious to see how far their could push their project, they decided to try for 1,000 nights. A thousand nights turned into 2,000, then 3,000, and eventually 3,218 nights, ending The Streak the day Ozma moved into her dorm to start her freshman year of college. The Reading Promise is the story of The Streak, but also a story about a father and a daughter and their shared bond over books.
For a memoir about reading, books are pretty absent from The Reading Promise. This isn’t a memoir about what Ozma learned in the books she and her father, a single dad and elementary school librarian, read together. There are lessons from books and reflections about what certain books meant to each of them over time, but that’s not really the focus of the memoir. Instead, the memoir focuses on Ozma’s relationship with her father, a how The Streak helped bring them together.
Although Ozma was only 22 years old when The Reading Promise was published, I think she writes with a much more mature sense of self than your average recent college graduate (and I say that as a relatively-recent college grad myself). There are some really touching moments when Ozma looks back at moments when her behavior, understandable for a teenager, was deeply hurtful to her father or changed their relationship in a significant way. It takes a lot to find those moments and learn to accept them, so I’m glad Ozma didn’t shy away from sharing that.
I was charmed by this book. I even cried when Ozma wrote about the last night of The Streak, trying to find a quiet place in her freshman dorm to read together for the last time, because it reminded me so vividly of the moment my parents dropped me off for college. We didn’t read together, but there was this sense of irrevocable change coming that Ozma captures in her essay. The Reading Promise is a lovely ode, both to reading and to reading together, that I’m glad to have read myself.
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