Bring on the Chocolate and Heart Emojis {Book Club}

“A good sailor knows how to steer into the wind, to use the power to his advantage. You don’t become a real sailor until you sail in a storm. Then you test what you know, you see what you and the boat and the wind are made of.” – G.T. in Hope Was Here

There’s a whole lot of storm-weathering in this section, friends. Our Hope Girl has been through a lot of ups and downs in just 16 years of life, and yet, as we talked about the first week, she is not the angst-filled teenager found in the typical Young Adult novel. She loves fiercely, gives people a second chance, and is even opening up her heart to romance. Cue the happy violin music and chocolate, right? Of course Braverman and Hope had to get together! I just love that their first date was in the diner with pork chop sandwiches, 7-up and a candle-lit table. Sometimes dreams come true in the most ordinary of circumstances, not the rosy picture we might have painted but in beautiful colors all their own. I’m glad Hope could have this moment of happiness.

I think I need to get a red clown nose, how about you? I’m still processing the whole visit from Hope’s mother. Hope stood up to her and reminded her that she doesn’t go by Tulip any longer, which had to take so much courage. After trying to deal with the grief and anger and a boatload of other emotions brought on by this visit, Braverman pulls out the clown’s nose and somehow the discouragement turns to hope, not only for our beloved workers at Welcome Stairways, but the customers as well.

I tend to wallow in the disappointment rather than seek the thing that might turn it around and fill my heart with hope again. I’ve never been an optimist, and I can normally find something that could potentially go wrong to worry about. I need people like Braverman to take my eyes off of myself or my circumstances and get me to laugh. My teammates have been helpful in this department over the years. During some dark seasons, they have been there to push me out the door for frozen yogurt or gelato, or give permission for some coffee shop time or a takeaway salad rather than the Pinterest meal from scratch that I can’t quite summon the energy to prepare. It might not exactly be a clown’s nose, but my spirits are lifted by these little gifts. Do you have a “clown’s nose story” of turning discouragement to hope?

Speaking of romance (which I’m happy to keep doing), did anyone see G.T. and Addie coming? Dear Aunt Addie is fighting it but it seems the rest of the diner employees are cheering them on. I was probably more like Hope and surprised by this sweet turn of events, but I love Flo’s opinion on the matter: “They love food. All they do is work. They both have strong personalities and they’ve learned how to enjoy each other’s ways. Where have you been?”

I didn’t expect to read this book and keep seeing applications to overseas life, to transition and new seasons, to find courage in the main character of a young adult novel. But I’m finding all those things, finding my heart stirred by new friends that band together when things get rough. In Hope I see a contagious joy that sticks around when we fight for it, healing that comes from life-giving relationships and space for growth. That’s the beauty of reading, the reason I make room in my suitcases and my Amazon budget, because we can learn and be challenged and encouraged in the pages of a book.

What are you finding in Hope Was Here? Love it, hate it, something in between? Come share with us in the comments, and don’t forget the chocolate because this section deserves it.

We’ll finish up Hope Was Here next week!

July 31- Chapters 17-21

Photo by Shelby Miller on Unsplash


  1. Phyllis July 24, 2018

    I found something of a transition/cross cultural moment when Hope said, “Spend some time in Wisconsin. We’ll blow your socks off.”

    Something else I noticed: when Braverman asked Hope if she’s okay, and she said that her mother is coming, his response was to ask if that was bad or good. That’s always my response when the kids I work with say they’ve had contact with their parents. I don’t know if that’s a good response or not, but what else do you say? And it seems to work; it usually gets them talking more.

    (I’m listening to an audio version, because that’s what our library had, and it’s really good. The reader really makes Hope come alive.)

    1. Sarah Hilkemann July 24, 2018

      Phyllis, I rarely listen to audio books because I get too distracted and miss things. 🙂 I’m so glad that the reader for this one did such a great job!

      I like the question of whether it’s a good or bad thing, because it takes away the assumption that might come from our own perceptions. I have wonderful parents and so surely a visit with one’s parents is a good thing! But it might not be for that season or situation, and like you said, sometimes a question that gets people to open up and keep sharing is the very best thing.

      It is a important transition when we can claim the place that is a new home, isn’t it? Thanks for pointing that out!

  2. Rachel July 25, 2018

    The clown nose was so random! Where did that come from? But fun. I loved how just cheering up one person ended up brightening everyone’s day.

    I’m not an optimist, either. I wouldn’t consider myself an absolute pessimist because there is good in the world, and I have dreams for the future, and I can be hopeful, too, but I have a tendency to be cynical a lot of the time.

    I can’t say if I knew GT and Addie would get together ahead of time, but it made sense. When it happened, I thought, “of course!” And yes – Flo stated that perfectly!

    1. Amy Young July 25, 2018

      The nose was random, now that you point it out :)!! But as I sit here typing this, I can see how sometimes in my own life, it has been the random that has turned around a morning or a situation and oddly become memorable. Good thoughts Rachel.

    2. Sarah Hilkemann July 27, 2018

      Thanks, Rachel!

      I’m a huge fan of random sources of joy. 🙂

      I’m pretty sure I am strong on the pessimistic end of things! I need people around me who can remind me to dream and hope for the future as well as let go of cynicism about the present.

  3. Amy Young July 25, 2018

    GT stood out to me in this section for the kindness he showed to Hope — I think he saw how much she is longing for her dad to show up, and without overstepping boundaries, simply invited her into daily life activities he was already doing (in his case, campaigning. He is mentoring, doing life-on-life, whatever label you want to put on it . . . I’d say, “being the Body of Christ.” He is meeting her where she is, and inviting her to more. I love this!

    And I hadn’t seen Addie/GT coming (though I’d read this book before, so I think I do remember it), but I had forgotten that GT busted a move before Braverman did . . . I was expecting Braverman, so that might be why I wasn’t paying as much attention to GT. Now, GT better not die!!! Hope and Addie need him 🙂

    1. Sarah Hilkemann July 27, 2018

      Yes, G.T. is so cool! Taking people along is my favorite form of mentoring. Letting people in on your life while sharing wisdom and giving space for questions or conversation- loved seeing how that happened in this section. Thanks for bringing that out, Amy!

  4. Spring July 25, 2018

    This selection especially made me hungry! So many descriptions of food. I love how people in Hope’s life help her change her perspective. Gt had some great things to say. It takes courage to face your own expectations and have them be disappointed.

    I agree with you that there is so much value to be found in the pages of a book. Thank you for leading this month

    1. Amy Young July 26, 2018

      I’m loving Sarah’s leading too!

      I love in this book how serving, loving, seeing someone is so hands on — it’s watching a baby in the back room, it’s getting signatures for a campaign, it’s cooking a meal. So often, I think we can be awed and wooed by impressive vision statements, but then not do the actual work :). And because the actual work is so mundane, miss the importance of it!

    2. Sarah Hilkemann July 27, 2018

      I have always been a fan of detailed descriptions of food in books (the stories I wrote as a kid largely centered around food prep and meals), so I love that about Hope was Here too!! The characters in this book are pretty awesome and I love seeing how they band together to speak into each other’s lives. Thanks, Spring!

  5. Michele Zintz July 28, 2018

    I finished this book quickly, but I’m behind on commenting… I love the positive examples in this book. Negative situations and emotions are there, but rather than becoming the focus of the story, we see people doing things right, practicing patience and kindness, working through things, mentoring a girl who needs a father, etc. The message of hope seems to grow in this section, even while things are still up in the air- yes, life is messy and people are imperfect and sometimes hurtful, but it’s still possible to live well and be happy.

    1. Sarah July 30, 2018

      Michele, I’m with you, I love how hopeful this book is even in the midst of some rough situations! It has been challenging me to look at my own life and reactions to what is happening around me. Am I responding with hope or allowing circumstances to overwhelm me? I love when a book makes me think. 🙂 Thanks for adding to the discussion!

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