Welcome to Mulhoney, USA {Book Club}

Hi friends! I’m Sarah, and I’ll be hanging out with you in this space for the month of July. Let’s give Amy a round of applause, shall we, and tell her to enjoy a well-deserved break (from leading book club at least) these next few weeks! We will keep the Book Club Survey open one more week and then share the results with you. So far 92 people have responded. Can you believe it?! If you haven’t filled it out yet, this is your last week. Thanks! (You can fill it out here.)

Okay, who needs a dose of hope this month? I’m loving our July Young Adult novel Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer, and today we’re going to look at chapters 1-6 together. Hope Yancey is a 16-year old waitress extraordinaire and she comes by it naturally. Her mother, mostly out of the picture, has passed on many lessons from years of being a waitress, and her aunt Addie is a fabulous cook and much more of a parent figure to her. I’ve never worked in food service, but is being able to handle five plates in one arm normal? I was impressed.

Hope and her aunt are leaving the big city after the partner/owner of the diner they were working at absconded with their money, forcing them to shut down. Transitioning from New York to the little rural town of Mulhoney, Wisconsin, Addie and Hope are trying to start over and take the opportunity to help run and work at Welcome Stairways, a diner owned by G.T. who is dealing with leukemia. I’m a small town girl but I’ve lived the city life too. Seeing fields and family-owned stores feels like home to me, but at this point in the story, the situation is not exactly what Hope had in mind.

Let’s talk about food! Anyone else feel hungry reading this book? Maybe that’s just me. I would love to try the sandwich that Hope invented called the Keep Hoping- smoked turkey, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and chopped salad greens. Food not only gives fuel to our bodies but nourishes our soul too, and that’s something Addie, Hope and G.T. seem to understand and put into practice. Their job is more than just delivering the right food to the right table but also about knowing their customer, understanding each heart and meeting a need.

“To adapt is to overcome,” G.T. tells Addie and Hope on their first day. This could be a theme song for overseas life, couldn’t it? In this section we’ve seen G.T. decide to run for mayor despite facing a battle with cancer because he cares about the town and living the life he has in front of him. Hope is learning a new menu, trying to build relationships and settle into life in a new place (with a budding romance perhaps?). We all face challenges, whether that’s finding the right place to pay the water bill, learning to love rice, dealing with unmet expectations (our own and others), health crises, the adventures of team dynamics or figuring out life again in our passport country. I tend to stay stuck in the challenge, gutting through the hard and the hurt rather than seeking out creative adaptability in my heart and circumstances. How about you? What are ways you have learned to adapt and overcome the challenges you’ve faced?

I had not heard of the Quaker concept of welcome stairways but I’m curious how that will play out in the rest of the story. Is it a theme or merely an apropos name for the local diner?

Well, friends, over to you! What are your favorite parts of Hope Was Here so far? Do you see any parallels to overseas life? Any of the food from the book sound like something you would like to try?

Let’s chat in the comments!

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

July 17- Chapters 7-11

July 24- Chapters 12-16

July 31- Chapters 17-21

Photo by Perchek Industrie on Unsplash


  1. Amy Young July 9, 2018

    Sarah!! I’m so thrilled to have you lead :)!!! And I’m impressed that I disciplined myself not to sneak peek at what you had written and waited until 4:00 p.m. my time to go online and read your post. Yay for a bit of impulse control. Ha! Though I did pick this book (with the help of my nieces), I have to say, what a great book! I had read it years ago, but have completely forgotten everything, so it’s like a first read.

    So many great lines that apply to cross-cultural work . . . and then the very last line of Chapter 2. HA!!! “Addie opened the car door, marched toward the diner and said what all M’s say when they start in a new place, ‘Lord in heaven, I’ve got my work cut out for me here.'”

    I agree that sandwich Hope made up sound good. Actually so many great lines about good and the relationship to well-being, emotionally, physically, and relationally.

    “If people have gotten something nourishing, it opens their personalities to the experience . . .. ‘If they had been fed properly it would show int heir relationships.'”, .

    I have more to say but need to leave in 5 minutes so gotta run. I’ll be back :).

    1. Sarah Hilkemann July 10, 2018

      Amy, this was definitely an excellent choice! Your nieces have good taste. 🙂

      I know, I love all the applications for cross-cultural life! Addie’s line made me smile, because I’m sure I’ve said something similar.

      I can’t wait to hear your other thoughts!

  2. JulieB July 9, 2018

    Sarah- Thanks for your review of this first section. I really didn’t think I would have time to read this book this summer as I have so many books going right now! But after reading your summary, I am intrigued and had to buy the book on kindle. So I will be back to comment after I get caught up!

    1. Sarah C Hilkemann July 10, 2018

      Julie, Yay, I’m so glad you are joining in! I can’t wait to hear what you think.

  3. Rachel Kahindi July 10, 2018

    I thought I was going to skip this month so that I could read some other things, but then Elysa posted on facebook that she’s a slow reader and finished the book in 2 days…and I can handle that! I checked it out from openlibrary.org – they have several copies.

    I, like Hope, moved a lot as a kid, and I never thought to leave my mark as I was leaving, the way Hope does. I love that concept – not writing my name on things, but that I was there, and it mattered.

    I related to this quote: “It’s easy to go to a new place and feel like you don’t have a history, so you’ve got to lug your history around with you.” Mine is not in scrapbook form, but little trinkets that I always make space for in my luggage. And now that I have kids, I get annual photo books made to chronicle our history.

    1. Elysa Mac July 10, 2018

      Yay!!! So glad it motivates you to read it!?

    2. Sarah C Hilkemann July 10, 2018

      I’m so glad you decided to read the book- and that we spur each other on through social media. 🙂
      I haven’t had the experience of moving a lot (until life overseas) but I do love the idea of marking my time in a place. We’ll be talking more about that concept next week (spoilers!). 🙂

  4. Elysa MacLellan July 10, 2018

    I already read it super fast and liked it so much I told my daughter to read HOPE. She liked it, too!

    1. Sarah C Hilkemann July 10, 2018

      Elysa, I love that you are passing it on and encouraging others to read it! Did you have a favorite part in this section?

  5. Phyllis July 10, 2018

    This book is really sweet, so far. YA books can be so full of angst. I love that this one isn’t. Pain and real emotions are there, of course, but not angst. And all the moving is so familiar!

    1. Amy Young July 11, 2018

      Ah, yes, I hadn’t put it into words, but you’re right, YA can be so angsty and this isn’t :). Emotions, yes, but not unnecessary drama, just normal, real drama! 🙂

    2. Michele July 11, 2018

      I agree. I needed something a bit lighter as I just finished The Poisonwood Bible which was pretty heavy. This is a sweet relief, though, as you said, it do just ignore emotions.

      1. Sarah Hilkemann July 11, 2018

        Michele, so glad you are reading along and that this book can be a nice change of pace for you!

    3. Sarah Hilkemann July 11, 2018

      Phyllis, I’ve been impressed with the emotional maturity of the characters in this book as well (okay, except maybe the current mayor and his friends). Hope definitely is feeling all the feelings of transition and adjustment but she also isn’t lacking in compassion. I’m interested to see how she continues to grow throughout the book!

  6. L. Larsen July 10, 2018

    This has been mentioned a few times already, but I also loved the description in chapter 2 of what Hope brings with her wherever she goes…the dictionary, thesaurus, globe (“…because you’ve got to keep a worldview, you can’t just live like you’re the only person on the planet who matters.”) and her scrapbooks. Rachel mentioned in a previous comment the things she takes with her to remind her of her history (I always make sure I have one of my favorite mugs with me 🙂 ), but I thought it was interesting reading Hope’s interaction with Lou Ellen in light Hope’s comment on personal history. Hope says, “it’s easy to go to a new place and feel like you don’t have a history…” and then when she meet’s Lou Ellen, Lou Ellen asks about her waitressing experience, but makes it clear she doesn’t really care about Hope’s answer. That resonated with me. It’s so easy when you move to a new place (or return to an old place) to feel like no one cares about your history, who you are and what’s shaped you along the way. But I liked Hope’s response. She just focuses on doing what she’s there to do and as she does, people close to her gradually see her for who she is.

    1. Christy July 10, 2018

      Yes, I have also found it so hard to hold on to history when moving from place to place. Being single, I don’t have anyone in my life who has been there through every part of my story, so I often find myself struggling to explain parts of who I am to those around me. I like what you said here about how Hope handles it with such grace and adaptability. I can learn from that example.

      1. Sarah Hilkemann July 11, 2018

        Christy, this is a challenge for those of us who are single. Part of the challenge for me lately is being able to live out my history and the way that my experiences have shaped me. It feels easier sometimes to just shut the door on the parts of me that people might not be able to understand. It’s definitely a journey that I’m still traveling!

    2. Michele July 11, 2018

      That is such a great observation! I’ve been moving back and forth mores the lasted few years and find it it’s so true people ate not really interested in the history I have anywhere but where they are and stay… But I Hope’s attitude makes me it easier.

    3. Sarah Hilkemann July 11, 2018

      I have some favorite mugs that go with me too! 🙂 It is such a gift when people care about our history, not just the current reality of where we are and what we’re doing. It’s a gift I hope I can give to others, and one that I long for as well. I’m back in my home town for home assignment and it is easy to slip into the roles I used to play. But I have been shaped by the last term in Cambodia and it feels like a breath of fresh air when people take time to understand that part of my heart.

  7. Spring July 10, 2018

    I have been excited for this book since it was announced! I read this a few years ago, and am enjoying it again. I actually at the time didn’t think about how it pertains to cross cultural living but it really does.

    I agree with you the book also makes me hungry!!!

    I did love that she changed her name. I was always made fun of in school for my name. Now I love it, but I truly wanted to change it at many points.

    1. Amy Young July 11, 2018

      Spring, I’m curious . . . what were some of the name options you wanted to change your name to? (I wanted to change my middle name, but only for the reason that then my initials could be a.m.y. instead of a.l.y. For all my dad’s noticing of patterns, I didn’t know how that one could have been missed!!!!!! :))

      1. Spring July 12, 2018

        Amy- you may laugh but I didn’t like any name in particular. I just wanted a “normal” without explanation name. Here I say “like the season” and remember they don’t have spring as a season here!

        Sarah- I think what really helped was not getting made fun of for it. This mostly stopped in High school. My mom is Mary Ruth, (not just Mary) and she wanted me to also be called by my first and middle name” Spring Joy” for some reason every time I said “just Spring” in roll call the first day of school kids laughed. It is amusing since I went to a small private school and we all knew each other anyway. I also have siblings Summer and Autumn. I think that added to the “funniness” at the time. I now love that my name is unique. I love that really it is pretty 🙂 Maybe the difficulty helped me embrace it?

    2. Sarah Hilkemann July 11, 2018

      Spring, I love that you can read the book again seeing those cross-cultural themes!

      Was there something in particular that changed to help you love your name?

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