Friday, October 29, 2010

Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer

Hope is the perfect name for her.  Not Tulip.  Definitely not Tulip.  She nearly died after being born.  Her mother left her to be raised by her aunt.  She moves frequently, leaving behind the people she cares for.  But she knows Hope is the perfect name.  Her aunt Addie says a name like Hope is a lot to live up to and asks, “You think you’re up to carrying that name?”

Hope Yancey doesn’t just believe she’s up to it.  She proves it.

When Addie and Hope move from Brooklyn, New York to Mulhoney, Wisconsin to work as head cook and waitress at the Welcome Stairways restaurant, they do so to make a living, not necessarily to make a new life.  What they thought were new jobs turns out to be much, much more.

Shortly after their arrival, G.T. Stoop, the owner of the Welcome Stairways, announces his candidacy for mayor despite the fact that he has leukemia.  Lou Ellen, a waitress at the Welcome Stairways, is concerned about her baby daughter’s slow development.  Yuri, a recent immigrant from Russia, nervously busses tables and carefully navigates American culture with his broken English.  Hope is needed in the Welcome Stairways, and not just another good waitress.

Hope establishes herself as a talented waitress in the restaurant, a true friend, and as the summer progresses, a staunch supporter of G.T. Stoop for mayor.  She becomes friends with Braverman, the assistant cook, and a number of others as they work together on G.T.’s mayoral campaign.  Throughout it all Hope maintains … hope.  Hope that G.T. will win.  Hope that Lou Ellen's daughter will get better.  Hope that she can make a difference.  Hope that someday she will meet the father she never knew.  She’s even prepared the story of her life in scrapbooks for the moment her father arrives.

Joan Bauer has created a story full of characters that readers will enjoy, care for, and admire.  There are teenagers who work for goals larger than themselves and individuals who place the wellbeing of others above their own.  Hope Was Here is filled with people who learn and know what faith, hope, and love can do.  Readers will cheer the characters’ achievements and share their disappointments.  Readers will feel their joys, their sorrows, and all the emotions in between.

The I-94 welcome sign on the Wisconsin-Illinois border.
Finally, and I know not all readers share my Cheesehead bias, but nevertheless, don’t hold it against Hope when she describes her entrance into Wisconsin as “Green rolling hills.  Cheese billboards.  Grazing cows.  Basic bovine boredom.”  She hadn’t been enlightened yet!  And just a scant 122 pages later Hope says,

“You think all teenagers care about are musicians and movie stars?
Spend some time in Wisconsin.
We’ll blow your socks off.”

1 comment:

  1. AWESOME REVIEW! :D Here's mine if you don't mind:

    Thanks and have a nice day!


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