Release Hope {Book Club}

“When does the magic hit in a new place and you suddenly fit in?” – Hope Was Here

In the soul-sister way of women on the move, we get Hope. We get boxes and suitcases, finding a place for the few things that stay constant in the midst of transition, and longing for connection in a sea of new faces. As we jump back into Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer today, I feel like reaching through the pages to squeeze teenage Hope’s hand. “You are brave, girl. One step at a time.”

In the midst of all the upheaval of settling in for Hope and her aunt Addie and an intense campaign process that involves the entire town of Mulhoney, I love learning that G.T. plants trees. I’m a big fan of monuments, marking time and place to remember God’s faithfulness or the ways that He has moved mountains and parted seas. Although not as finite as roots deep within soil, I have a few items that have become these memorial stones. There’s a bright pink mug I purchased at Starbuck’s in Bangkok after I found out the tumor the doctor removed wasn’t cancer. I spent a week in that coffee shop trying to keep fear at bay, trust despite far too many questions. The Father tenderly cared for my heart in that week and when I wrap my hands around the pink mug and sip coffee in the soft morning light, I remember His mercy and hope that can be found in the hard things. Do you have any “memorial stones”, or memorial trees?

As we go deeper into the lives of the characters in Hope was Here, I must admit that I judged Lou Ellen pretty harshly in the first section. She was not exactly welcoming to Hope and her aunt, spurring a competition through her comments and making things difficult overall. After she opens up to Hope about her daughter’s health struggles, I was struck by the compassion displayed by her co-workers and friends. They rallied around to love on her daughter and allow Lou Ellen to keep working and bringing in income. I’m not sure I could have been as forgiving and compassionate as Hope, but I love this moment between her and Lou Ellen: “’I think you’re real brave,’ I told her, and for a minute her whole face lit up. She was real pretty when the light went on inside”.

I tend to hold on to resentment and mark another tally on my never-ending list of the wrongs committed against me. It’s hard to love the people who speak harshly to us or act like we don’t belong, like we aren’t wanted. This section of the book reminded me that so very often when people are hurting they lash out and in our own pain or surprise we miss an opportunity to show compassion. Hope hung in there with Lou Ellen and was able to meet a need and start a friendship. Have you had a similar experience in life or ministry with someone who was initially difficult to love?

With the theme of hope infused in every aspect of this book I can’t help but want to cheer on G.T. in his mayoral campaign! How do you think the race is going to play out as we keep moving through the book? I can’t believe the dirty tricks some of the opposition have been playing! Mouse in the salad, anyone?

I can’t wait to hear what you think about Hope Was Here! Post a comment and let us know who you think is going to win the campaign, if Braverman and Hope will ever get together, and what food you would like to have Addie make for you. All other insights are welcome as well! (No spoilers though from you speedy readers who have already finished!)

Here’s the plan for the rest of the book:

July 24- Chapters 12-16

July 31- Chapters 17-21

Photo by Timo Stern on Unsplash


  1. Rachel July 17, 2018

    Oh, the memory trees! I love them. I never planted trees because I would never be somewhere long enough to see it through. This is a great perspective. They would still be there long after I left. My memorials aren’t from events but homes.

    One…When I moved into my first apartment after university, I found a wind chime hanging on the patio. I kept it, and hung it on the patio of every apartment I lived in after that. Until it got left behind during one move. That was sad, but I still have a wind chime to remind me of my first home as a real grown up and all that I experienced during that time in my life.

    Another…My maternal grandparents lived in the same house my entire life. A few years ago, my grandmother had a stroke and has been in a nursing home ever since. When the aunts were cleaning out her house to sell, my mom asked me what I wanted from the house. It was the most constant home in my life. My other grandparents moved a few times. My own family moved so much, including spending a few transition months at my grandparents’ house. I was more emotionally attached to that house than any of my other homes. I asked for “The Fire Cat,” which we read every time we visited as kids.

    The food descriptions have me longing for a really good sandwich! I tend to have sandwiches for lunch, but they are extremely boring and bland. I want a pork chop sandwich.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann July 18, 2018

      Rachel, thanks so much for sharing these examples of tangible reminders of places. I’m a big place person too. I lived in the same home until I left for college, my parents still live there and it was where my dad grew up too. When my life feels chaotic in the ups and downs of a lot of transition, I love being able to remind myself of my roots.
      These are beautiful, thanks!!

      1. Amy Young July 18, 2018

        Sarah, I”m also from a family that was / is deeply rooted to place. My grandparents lived in the house my grandpa was born in! I loved the story about how he was a premie and was put in the warming oven to keep him warm. Sadly the warming oven was long gone when I came along :). Interestingly enough, his father built the house and then sold it to move to a farm nearby. My grandpa and grandma bought the house when they were adults :).

    2. Amy Young July 18, 2018

      Rachel, I got a little pre-teary reading your comment :). Not quite teary, but close! I can’t remember why you moved so much as a kid. Humor me and remind me :)? I loved the wind chimes and your grandma’s house.

      My oldest niece is a sandwich aficionado — I disappoint her as I do not tend to feel strongly about any food 🙂 (though I DO feel strongly about not being hungry!) She ranks her sandwiches. If you can ask her, “Tell me about your top 5 sandwiches.” She can tell you what they are and where she ate them. The only downside is for her mom when it comes to packing lunches for school. None of her children will eat “boring” sandwiches. (Personally, I don’t think PB and J is boring, but apparently it is :))

      1. Spring July 19, 2018

        I would love to hear about your neice’s top five sandwiches. 🙂 I am not a rater. My grandmother had a rating system for the public bathroom she visits 😉

        I can’t eat PB and Jelly!!! (unless really hungry) I pretty much ate it every lunch I had in school.

        Rachel what a treasure to get a book from your grandparents home!!

      2. Rachel July 22, 2018

        We moved for many reasons. I guess the short version is my parents don’t put down roots… The first 12 were my dad in college, then seminary, then a pastor and church staff. Then we moved so he could train (then work) as a chaplain, and finally we moved in with my great grandmother after my great grandfather died. And then I left for college. And they still move often.

        I like to rank things, too, but I don’t have sandwich rankings.

        1. Amy Young July 24, 2018

          Ah, and I came from almost the opposite stock! Great “never move” and “I hate change” runs in my family line 🙂

  2. Amy Young July 18, 2018

    Funny how a book for teens can provoke such thoughts and emotions :)!

    1. I too was annoyed with Lou Ellen in the first section. I”m so thankful to see everyone rally around her and take turns watching the baby. I’m hoping she’s not too developmentally delayed.

    2. I had completely forgotten that I used to live next to a milk factory!!! It was where I first lived in China and I didn’t realize then how unusual it was to live near a milk factory (many Chinese don’t like milk products). The big trucks going in and out with bottles of yogurt and milk. Maybe I’ll share a picture of a yogurt bottle I have kept and moved around the world to mark that season of my life :).

    3. I was happy that Hope shared how she had boxed to work out her anger and hurt and disappointment with her mom. I wondered in the first section if she had let herself feel hurt even though her aunt is wonderful and Hope has had a loved and stable home.

    4. I’m with you, Sarah, cheering GT on :). GT for Mayor!!

  3. Spring July 19, 2018

    I am trying not to spoil the book as I read it first about 5 years ago. I also don’t remember much except the ending, so perhaps I’m okay ;). I love the tree idea, wish I had done something like that. My friend did a tree when her daughter was born. (it got mowed down by her brothers!) . I worked at a Christian Spanish clinic and the director had rocks which she wrote down places God had brought her/things he had done. She collected them in a jar. I also love this idea but haven’t done it! I do keep a journal. I also make photo books (mostly for my kids) which I feel are mementos of what he has done.

    I love the picture of you sitting there with Jesus and him wrapping his arm around you and your fears! I do have a mug that says “esperanza” hope in Spanish. This means a lot to me, but I wouldn’t say it has much of a story behind it.

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