When It Feels Like the Darkness is Winning {Book Club}

“Joy and sadness mix together like cream in coffee.” Hope Was Here

Some days despite all your valiant efforts, it feels like the darkness is winning. It’s not necessarily those moments when the heat is unrelenting, the internet won’t stay on long enough to finish the important email, or the gas runs out just as you are cooking supper (although, YES, those are frustrating). It feels more like you are losing the battle, the enemy is pulling ahead and you wonder if the heaviness will lift or whether truth will prevail.

What a roller-coaster of emotions as we wrap up our Young Adult Novel for July, Hope was Here. As we started this section coming off the high of new relationships and political campaign progress, our diner characters get the good news that G.T.’s cancer is in remission. Then things start a rather downward spiral as a rumor begins spreading that the doctor’s report wasn’t positive. “We were working as hard as we could to get the truth out. The hospital even denied the report, showed G.T.’s medical records. But the lie was everywhere, and it was winning.” This resonates with my heart and the line of work so many of us are in. Some days it definitely feels like the lie is winning.

Things are bleak for a while, even through to election day when G.T. loses. I honestly didn’t think this was how things would turn out, figured this was too good of a story for him to lose. But just like my mom used to tell me growing up, “The truth always comes out.” And it does, implicating Mayor Millstone for voter fraud and putting G.T. in office.

I love that this isn’t just a story of a political victory or things being made right in small town drama, just a romantic tale of finding the perfect boyfriend. It is about family and roots, all the beautiful definitions of home and the myriad of ways we have to keep fighting for joy and hope.

G.T. isn’t at all what Hope pictured her father would be like or look like, and yet he is better than she could have imagined. He cares for her well, believes in her and cheers her on. He takes a group of enthusiastic teenagers, including Hope, and teaches them about caring well for their neighbors, growing leaders and servants who do what they can to serve their community. His love for Hope brings healing as she processes the betrayal of the last diner owner/partner back in the big city, giving her permission to feel and cry and let go of anger. His strength sustains her even through the painful return of his leukemia, the slow fade of the light his life has brought to so many around him.

It is a beautiful and horrible thing to walk with someone in death. I remember sitting beside my grandmother in her last days, her body weak from cancer. She was ready to be done with the pain and I was ready for that for her too. There is joy in the sweet memories and last moments, sorrow over our loss on this side of heaven. I was touched with how the author handled that journey for our characters, giving space for grief and honoring legacy.

And so we close the last page of this book with that same mix of joy and sorrow.

Did Hope was Here end the way that you expected? How has this story resonated with you?


Next books:

August—My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman (May have a different title in Europe: My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologies

  • August 7th: Chapters 1-8
  • August 14th: Chapters 9-17
  • August 21st: Chapters 18-26
  • August 28th: Chapters 27-the end

September—Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali by Kris Holloway (we’ve got something fun up our sleeves for you!)

October/November—Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

bPhoto by Tyler Nix on Unsplash


  1. Suzanne July 30, 2018

    Hi there. I’ve been absent yet again these last few weeks – had a guest staying for three weeks which interfered in a lovely way with my Book Club reading. But now I’ve caught up, listening to it as an audio book.

    Did the book turn out as I expected? Yes and no. Yes, a ‘happily ever after’ ending would have been a bit too neat, but no, I was NOT HAPPY about the ending. I wondered too whether the hospital administrators had said to the press something like, statistically, GT’s leukemia wasn’t likely to stay in remission for too long based on statistics or whatever, and they twisted the truth to make those headlines? (Headlines so often are just one tiny morsel of truth in a packaging of sensationalism.)

    You probably discussed this a week or two ago, but I had to smile and grimace at GT’s refusal to look at the lists of who had given how much to the political campaign. I understand his reasoning, but if those of us who live on the generosity of supporters didn’t regularly acknowledge and thank them, we’d be (rightly) criticized for taking their kindness for granted. It shouldn’t be that way. But – not for all supporters but a great many of them – it is the way. I will get off this soapbox before I get carried away.

    Overall it was a lovely book. I do enjoy books written for young adults. Thanks.

    1. Amy Young August 2, 2018

      It’s nice when a guest interfere in lovely ways 🙂

      Oh and I loved GT’s refusal to look at the list of givers as a politician, but you’re right for those of us living on support, we need to pay attention! and thank . . . or else we might end up NOT being able to do what we are doing! 🙂

  2. Ruth July 30, 2018

    I’ll be honest, I haven’t been reading along although I should probably read this since I like YA fiction. But the first statement resonated with me:
    “Joy and sadness mix together like cream in coffee.”
    She Was referring to the coffee as joy though, right?

    1. Amy Young August 2, 2018

      Ruth, I think you’d like this book . . . maybe even one to read aloud to the girls someday. I’ve returned my book to the library, so I”m not 100% sure on the context, but it might have been left for interpretation :). ANyone still have their copy and can check?

    2. Sarah August 2, 2018

      Hey Ruth! The coffee and cream reference was at the very end of the book. G.T. had died, but it has been awhile and Hope said she wasn’t crying quite as much these days. She is getting ready to head off to college but is waitressing one last time. The way I interpreted it, just like cream and coffee mix together until you can’t really separate them, joy and sadness can reside together in the same “cup”, and it’s okay to feel both together. I know that’s been a journey for me to work through, to realize it’s okay to feel both at the same time. But that’s just my take on it. 🙂

  3. Rachel Kahindi July 31, 2018

    I had been bracing for a bittersweet ending. It was kind of what I expected.

    What caught my attention most in this last section was the grafting metaphor. I had to giggle when Hope wondered if the grafting wouldn’t take and she would end up with “a metaphor that couldn’t go the distance” because I have one of those! A couple of years ago, my brother-in-law brought a new woman home. The first time I met her, he wanted her, his mom, and me to plant a banana plant together – Mom and the “new daughters.” I guessed it was to symbolize unity and family. I joked, asking if it would be a bad omen for the banana plant to die. It died. Our metaphor didn’t go the distance. (The picture is us planting the ill fated banana plant.)

    YA is usually not my thing. However I was surprised by the depth of this book. I’m glad I read it. ?

    1. Amy Young August 2, 2018

      Rachel, I LOVE seeing this photo and hearing the story behind it :).

      Per the ending, I expected GT to die during the election, but having lived, I wanted him to keep living 🙂

    2. Sarah C Hilkemann August 2, 2018

      Love your metaphor-not-going-the-distance story! 🙂 And I”m glad you read this book too!

  4. Phyllis July 31, 2018

    I have been wondering why the book didn’t stop at the happy point. It almost seems like it should have. I’m not always all for happy endings, but here the last chapter seemed like it was tacked on afterwards or something. But then, I did love the way it ended, that Hope realised she was the perfect daughter for G.T..

    1. Amy Young August 2, 2018

      Phyllis, it did feel a bit like, “we can’t end on a high, so here’s a bit more of what happened :)” . . . I loved the part where Hope showed GT all of her dad scrapbooks and he thanked her for making them, not knowing all those years she was making it for GT. Good reminder to ME that I don’t always know who I am making something for :)!

  5. SPring August 1, 2018

    Whew what a wild ride! I would love to come back to Hope, to see where her life is as she careens into adulthood. What I love best about this passage is Gt is the Father she was always looking for. Sometimes expectations keep me from the Father’s heart, what I think he or my situation should look like. Yet he persists with me. He pursues me. He sits with me, he knows me intimately and wants to know more about me. It is humbling.

    I love the reality of the ending. It leaves us imagining what could be. It also resonates a place of reality. There is tragedy and blessing, and the sun keeps rising.

    1. Amy Young August 2, 2018

      Ohhhh yes! Now I want a follow-up novel with Hope in a few years :)!

      You’ve got me wondering Spring who the Christ figure is in the book? And God the Father, and the Spirit.

      GT seems to be the Christ figure. Added God the father — as she stepped in and took care of Hope from the beginning. And Hope is the Spirit figure as we hear from her perspective the most. (These are my guesses :))

  6. Michelle Kiprop August 6, 2018

    Just popping in to say that I’m reading along. I really enjoyed this book. I’m in a season where I’ve got a LOT going on in life right now. I really enjoyed being able to indulge in an easy and delightful read this month. I read next month’s book last year and LOVED it. So I’m going to re-read along with you and try to pop in to comment on that one along the way.

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.