Raising Hope Review
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Raising Hope is the story of Ruth Teller, a rough-around-the edges, down-to-earth, tough waitress who’s been knocked around a bit by life, and Sara Lynn Hoffman, a smart, beautiful ex-lawyer. The girls hated each other when they grew up together in the small town of Ridley Falls, New Hampshire. But when Ruth’s brother (and Sara Lynn’s ex-boyfriend), Bobby, makes Ruth and Sara Lynn legal guardians of his baby daughter, Hope, after his wife dies, the girls must put aside their personal differences and not only live together but raise a child together.

The story is set in the summer after Hope’s twelfth birthday. Sara Lynn’s overbearing mother, Mamie, has moved in, and the summer is a rocky period for everyone involved. Ruth is carrying on a secret romance with her boss, Sara Lynn is falling in love with Hope’s (much younger) tennis instructor, and Hope is going through one of the most tumultuous and confusing times of any girl’s life—adolescence. Throw in some family tension—Hope has a crush on the same tennis instructor that Sara Lynn is dating; Sara Lynn keeps clashing with her mother (who’s still more than a little disappointed with some of the choices Sara Lynn has made, and she's not afraid to say so); Hope is desperate to find out more about her “real” parents—and you have a recipe for a coming-of-age story that celebrates the bonds of family.

The book is written by first-time novelist Katie Willard, and it’s an excellent debut. She does employ some interesting storytelling tactics—like the way each chapter is written from the point of view of a different character (Ruth, Sara Lynn, Hope, or Mamie). I wasn’t sure I liked that approach at first (whenever I started a new chapter, it took me a couple of minutes to figure out who the new speaker was), but it turned out to be a really effective way of rounding out the story. It lets the reader get into all of the characters’ heads in a way that would be impossible otherwise. The book also travels back and forth in time to Ruth and Sara Lynn’s childhoods and young adult periods—to let us more into their worlds and their respective histories.

Raising Hope is a lovely story about the importance of friends and family. As Ruth and Sara Lynn struggle to raise a young lady, they remember their not-always-perfect relationships with their own mothers. This novel reminds you that you can’t choose your family—but you can definitely make do with what you’ve been given. No matter who you are, you should be able to identify with at least one of the characters (for me, it was Sara Lynn). It’s a pretty quick read, too. I’d recommend it for some light summer reading—or maybe as a belated Mother’s Day gift.

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