Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Hope Was Here

Author: Joan Bauer

Published: 2000 by Penguin Group

Number of Pages: 192

Rating: 4/5


Now I believe that the way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach, and, my boy, I’m here to tell you, we are in the heart business. We’re going to reach deep past the menu and into the emotional power of food because a person comes back to a restaurant again and again for one reason only – to feed their soul.


Hope Was Here is a heart-warming, simple, and gentle novel of first love, “grafted” families, and delectable food.

Hope is a level-headed, determined girl, and these factors have aided her to become a grade-A waitress.

She’s spent a majority of her life living up to her name, but it’s hard to hope when she has to jump from town to town, diner to diner, with her aunt, who ultimately became her mother figure after her biological mother abandoned her when she was in the NICU.

Now, Hope and her aunt, Addie, are moving from Brooklyn to a small town in Wisconsin to help run the local, beloved diner, Welcome Stairways. There, they meet G.T, the jovial owner of the diner, Braverman, the teenaged boy and master of the grill, Lou Ellen, a fellow waitress and struggling single mom, and more. All of these people will make the transition in Hope’s life from strangers to loved ones over her first summer in Mulhoney.

The highlight of her summer, however, is G.T.’s campaign. A loved and friendly man running for Mayor wouldn’t be extraordinary if it weren’t for the fact that he has leukemia. All odds are against him, but Hope is determined to aid G.T. to the mayor’s office, especially once she realizes that the current mayor has been swindling the community she’s grown to love for years.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s a short and sweet read (I read it in one day, easily), but more importantly, this is a singular novel with a remarkably original feel to it. I’m eager to read more by Bauer, and Best Foot Forward is next on my list. This novel was such a feel-good, comforting novel, its message and characters profound for their simplicity.

Hope is indubitably a fantastic main character. She is about as cubic and three-dementional as possible. I felt that the moment I opened the book, her voice was smacking me in the face and demanding my attention, demanding that I read her story. She’s extremely easy to understand, and I connected with her on many levels. Her want to meet her father, more of an ache than a want, could bring someone like me to tears. I have such a close and strong relationship with my dad. I simply cannot imagine my life without him. I was thrilled that Addie proved to be such an adept, loving, and providing mother-character. I couldn’t have asked for a better mother for such a fantastic girl.

I loved all the characters in this novel, even the “evil” ones. However, I felt like one pivotal character was a bit underdeveloped, along with his relationship with Hope. Braverman had so much potential as the love interest in this story (I might have just spoiled something, but, honestly, spoilers this obvious need not be called spoilers), but he seemed to remain vague throughout the novel. I did get to know him a bit more in the latter half of the book, however, he didn’t achieve the same realness that the other characters did. I can easily imagine walking up and shaking hands with G.T. or Pastor Hall. The underdevelopment of Braverman is the main downfall of this novel, in my opinion. Love interests must be as three-dementional as the main character, because when they fall short, we, as readers, have an itchy feeling of dissatisfaction and a suspicion that our beloved main character was cheated.

Braverman wasn’t too severely “fuzzy” that I didn’t enjoy the love story in this book, which, I’m happy to say, is a subplot, and not a focal one at that. The love story was fun and I looked forward to seeing the two beloved (hey, I can love fuzzy people, too) characters get together, but, when I truly evaluate this part of the story, I have to admit that it seems a bit unfounded. I think the book was simply too short to fully cook up a love story that was moist and fluffy. I couldn’t figure out what really “sparked” the relationship, despite the fact that I approved of it.

Politics, honesty, and goodness are key points of this novel. Bauer makes it quite obvious that we need t0 ensure that we have  good, “unpolluted” people at the front, but I don’t think the politics overpowered other plot elements. G.T.’s honesty and goodness made him an ideal person, not simply an ideal politician. I love it when books have characters that are good, because I love goodness. People who are genuine and pleasant, or at least make a great effort to be so, have my vote and my love and regard.

I could go on and on. In so few pages, this novel provokes so much thought and even more feeling. It’s a remarkable piece of literature and I recommend it to anyone looking for food for thought, a wonderful plot, and handful of fictional friends to brighten their day.

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