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Monday, August 23, 2010

Raising Hope by Katie Willard~★★★1/2

Author: Katie Willard
Title: Raising Hope
Release Date: May 2005
Publisher: Warner Books
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "There couldn't have been two more dissimilar girls in the town of Ridley Falls, New Hampshire. Ruth Teller, raised by a hardworking single mother, barely scraped through high school before she settled into a minimum-wage job. Sara Lynn Hoffman, doted upon by her well-to-do parents, graduated class valedictorian before conquering college and law school. Their paths shouldn't have crossed again, but life threw them some curveballs and now they are sharing a home...and more. Together, they are raising a girl named Hope, who came into their lives as an infant and changed everything. 
Set in the summer of Hope's twelfth year and moving back and forth in time, this heartwarming novel is the story of an unlikely family. It's the story of Hope, on the edge of growing up and yearning to find out everything she can about her birth parents. It's also the story of Ruth and Sara Lynn---the girls they once were and the women they've become. Finally, it's the story of Aimee, Sara Lynn's mother, and Mary, Ruth's mother---both of whom formed their daughters for better and for worse.
Told from the perspectives of four unique female voices from three generations, this luminous debut novel is about mothers, daughters, and the power of family love. Raising Hope exquisitely depicts the bravery of ordinary people risking everything to find out just how full their lives---and hearts---can be."  


Taryn's Review: This is the type of book that I would deem a "beach read." It's quick, it told a decent story, and it's light-hearted. I actually selected this book because I liked the bright, cheery cover!

I think one thing the author could have done to help the readers would have been to title each chapter wih the name of the person whose perspective the chapter would be told from, such as "Ruth" or "Hope," etc. It wasn't easy to identify who was telling the story, which is an important element for the book. The book wasn't such where titling the chapters would have done any harm; it really would have been more helpful in my opinion.

I was worried about Hope's character development, but as the book went on, I thought Willard did a great job running through the emotions of a 12-year-old. The beginning was spotty with Hope saying and thinking a few things that I'm not sure most 12-year-olds would, but by the end Hope was much more pre-teen like in both her thoughts and actions.

The Ruth/Sara Lynn storyline was disappointing for me. I didn't like that Willard had them interacting very little in the beginning and middle of the book; suddenly at the close of the book, the two women were close friends and dearly loved one another. I wish Willard would have focused less on some things (namely Ruth's mother/daughter relationship) and really focused on how Ruth and Sara Lynn adjusted to the situation of Hope and how they worked through their differences to raise her.

Sara Lynn's emotional hang-up because of her mother was really cliche for me. In a world with therapy (and the Hoffmans having plenty of money), I didn't understand why Sara Lynn wouldn't be in therapy regarding her feelings toward her mother and their relationship. And why in the world she let it hold her back for so long was really not something Willard developed in the book and explained it with the "Sara Lynn wanted to make her mother happy" route. Aimee wanted the perfect daughter so she primed Sara Lynn to be the best at everything and make everyone happy, namely Sara Lynn's parents. 

Overall, a good beach/pool read for me, or a book to tote along to pleasantly pass the time when you have to wait somewhere. The story was entertaining, but not engrossing. Hope was by far the shining star of the book, and while the others had their stories, Willard's best work showed when she wrote from Hope's perspective. I would be more than happy to pick up another novel by Katie Willard. Give her a shot for some light reading.

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