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Raising Hope
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Raising Hope is the story of Ruth Teller, a rough-around-the edges, down-to-earth, tough waitress who's been knocked around a bit by life, and Sara Lynn Hoffman, a smart, beautiful ex-lawyer. The girls hated each other when they grew up together in the small town of Ridley Falls, New Hampshire. But when Ruth's brother (and Sara Lynn's ex-boyfriend), Bobby, makes Ruth and Sara Lynn legal guardians of his baby daughter, Hope, after his wife dies, the girls must put aside their personal differences and not only live together but raise a child together.

The story is set in the summer after Hope's twelfth birthday. Sara Lynn's overbearing mother, Mamie, has moved in, and the summer is a rocky period for everyone involved. Ruth is carrying on a secret romance with her boss, Sara Lynn is falling in love with Hope's (much younger) tennis instructor, and Hope is going through one of the most tumultuous and confusing times of any girl's life-adolescence. Throw in some family tension-Hope has a crush on the same tennis instructor that Sara Lynn is dating; Sara Lynn keeps clashing with her mother (who's still more than a little disappointed with some of the choices Sara Lynn has made, and she's not afraid to say so); Hope is desperate to find out more about her "real" parents-and you have a recipe for a coming-of-age story that celebrates the bonds of family.

The book is written by first-time novelist Katie Willard, and it's an excellent debut. She does employ some interesting storytelling tactics-like the way each chapter is written from the point of view of a different character (Ruth, Sara Lynn, Hope, or Mamie). I wasn't sure I liked that approach at first (whenever I started a new chapter, it took me a couple of minutes to figure out who the new speaker was), but it turned out to be a really effective way of rounding out the story. It lets the reader get into all of the characters' heads in a way that would be impossible otherwise. The book also travels back and forth in time to Ruth and Sara Lynn's childhoods and young adult periods-to let us more into their worlds and their respective histories.

Raising Hope is a lovely story about the importance of friends and family. As Ruth and Sara Lynn struggle to raise a young lady, they remember their not-always-perfect relationships with their own mothers. This novel reminds you that you can't choose your family-but you can definitely make do with what you've been given. No matter who you are, you should be able to identify with at least one of the characters (for me, it was Sara Lynn). It's a pretty quick read, too. I'd recommend it for some light summer reading-or maybe as a belated Mother's Day gift.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Katie Willard, author of Raising Hope has written a charming first novel. Although it is set in New Hampshire, Willard's writing has the feel of a Southern novel. And for me that is a positive. I enjoy the sense of place and being that many of the good Southern writers possess - and Raising Hope fills the bill.

Two distinctly different women from the same small New Hampshire town are brought together in an unusual manner. Ruth Teller was raised by a single mother who worked hard cleaning the houses of her town's wealthier inhabitants. Sara Lynn Hoffman came from one of the wealthy families that Ruth's mother worked for. Ruth barely graduated from high school and began working for her mother. Sara Lynn was the valedictorian of their class and became a lawyer.

Because of the vast differences in their lives and circumstances, these woman should never have come into contact with each other following graduation. But life sometimes laughs at us and our preconceived notions. Not only did they meet again but they are sharing a home and raising a twelve-year-old girl named Hope. This child, who came into their lives shortly after her birth and as a result of a tragedy, has changed their lives and their outlook on life.

The novel moves back and forth in time and is told from the perspective of Ruth, Sara Lynn, Hope and Sara Lynn's elderly mother, Mamie.

Raising Hope is a delightful novel about mothers and daughters - and also about unconditional love. It proves that family can be anywhere and can be anyone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Hope was orphaned as a baby when her mother died in childbirth and her father abandoned her to live with his sister Ruth and first love Sara Lynn. Ruth and Sara Lynn are complete opposites that are bonded by their love for Hope. Twelve-year-old Hope has developed into a wonderful young woman whose curiosity about her father and his abandonment has left her with self esteem issues.

Sara Lynn comes from a well-to-do family while Ruth is more of the "wrong side of the tracks" type. When they are given Hope to rise together it's a change of lifestyle that has brought them together and changed their lives.

Both women have been making sacrifices their whole lives to try and do what is best for Hope. Putting off relationships of their own, fearing the effects on their lives raising Hope.

Raising Hope shows the give and take struggle of relationships and the beautiful bonds formed between these women throughout the generations. The story shifts from woman to woman, past to present and shines a light on the struggles these woman have faced throughout the years.

Katie Willard tells a beautiful story touching on motherhood, friendship and coming of age. Each chapter is written from a different character point of view giving insight into their individual lives and how they all tie together.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
First, the good. What is it about being twelve years old that makes most women remember it so vividly? The emotional turmoil, the feelings of isolation, the perception of one's self as spearate and imperfect. Willard captures that beautifully in the character Hope, who is, in my opinion, the only authentic character in the book. The author reveals her true talent here, as she gets into the mind and motivations of a young person in a way that few have managed (Virginia Woolf and Judy Blume come to mind, even though they represent different ends of the literary spectrum).

But otherwise I found myself wanting more authenticity as I read. Ruth is the heart and soul of the book, and is very likable, but I have a hard time believing that anyone who uses the expressions as my grandmother wore black concert T-shirts in high school back in the early 80's. Aimee is too superficial to be believed, and Sara Lynn is too underdeveloped. I suspect that is because she is based on the author, and while Willard knows her own quirks and motivations, she doesn't let us in on them, so I was often perplexed by Sara Lynn.

I was rather shocked by the level of class-unconsciousness displayed here. The story line is so implausable, and many of the inconvenient details are ignored. Who pays Ruth's health insurance, for example. And how exactly does Ruth contribute to the household expenses? And what, really, goes through the mind of a single-mom diner waitress who finds herself pregnant? But of course, Ruth is not really a single mom, when she lives in a mansion and has a multigenerational support network of rich ladies. Perhaps that is the Southern feel of the book that so many have referred to, the romantic idea that the "family retainer" is really part of the family, raisin' the chilluns and fryin' the chicken. In New Hampshire she's a piece of white trash with a skinny rear end and a mouth like a sewer, but the fine society ladies take care of her needs as long as she cleans the toilettes.

I'd have liked more details about the arrangement, but instead I got pages and pages of Cartier watches and Kate Spade bags and other status symbols peppered throughout, so that the affluent can recognize eachother and exclude the rest of us. That part of it reminded me of Naomi Wolf, and I do not mean that as a complement.

Willard clearly has talent, and I hope that she channels it in the right direction. She does adolescent girls extremely well, and I DO mean that as a complement. If she continues to write about characters like Hope, or she permits a little more self revelation for characters like Sara Lynn, or if she just gets a little more realistic view of the Ruths of the world, she'll produce something wonderful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Raising Hope is the ultimate depiction of four women finding the balance between loving others and staying true to themselves. Ruth Teller, a tough-talking woman, faces life head on. Sara Lynn has sacrificed everything, including her first love, in order to meet others' expectations. Aimee Hoffman has devoted her entire life to raising the child she never thought she'd have, and Sara Lynn has been perfect. Almost. Unusual family dynamics complicate Hope Teller's typical teenage concerns about puberty, friendships, and the future. Raising Hope is an exquisite garden, the beauty of which brought tears to my eyes. A long time has passed since any author has delved so lovingly into the female psyche, and Ms. Willard has made the wait worthwhile. This novel is a must read!

Read the rest of my review at (...).
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Twelve years ago in Ridley Falls, Bobby Teller could not handle the death of his wife in childbirth three weeks after his ma died. Though the infant lived, the grieving Bobby left town as he saw no hope in remaining behind. The newborn was left to be raised by Bobby's uncouth sister Ruth and his meticulous former lover Sara Lynn Hoffman. Since Sara Lynn's house is much bigger than Ruth's dump, the three females reside in the former's home. Not one of the townsfolk would predict that this abnormal arrangement would work as the two females are polar opposites with Ruth cleaning houses for a living and former class valedictorian Sara Lynn on the path to greatness. However, Hope needs nurturing so they put aside their differences in order to raise the child. Surprisingly Sara Lynn's somewhat snobbish mother Aimee joins the twosome providing a grandmotherly nurturing to RAISING HOPE.

This is a terrific family drama using four switching perspectives to provide a deep look at relationships. Each of the key quartet member and to a lesser degree Ruth's mother and brother come across as deep fully developed characters. Obviously a character study with no major action, readers who appreciate a powerful definitive look at what really makes a loving caring family will appreciate this fine inspirational tale that should be required reading for the "family values" snake oil peddlers.--- Harriet Klausner
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VINE VOICEon February 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a light, spring/summer-type read with some funny parts and four very different narrators. The structure and writing are solid, as each character is quite distinct from the other. This is something not all authors accomplish well, but Willard succeeds here.

However, the whole book borders on the ridiculous side... the premise of these two women raising this girl together just seems more than unlikely. Although the most unbelievable thing is how these four women (well, the three women plus Hope) all lived together for a dozen years and didn't seem to know one another at all. That's an awful long time to keep so many secrets. All of those secrets definitely create the interesting part of the story, but realistically speaking, it never quite made it there. It seems to me that Hope's origins were where the real story lay, but the book instead focuses on the "happily-ever-after" part of their life with Hope. There isn't much conflict, or struggle in the book. It hints at past passions, past agonies, but none of this is realy shown in the book. It seems that the story on the way to where the book begins would just be SO much more interesting than the book itself
.
Really, and not to harp on this, but It is just mind-boggling to me that they made it a dozen years in that house without any resolutions and living more or less like strangers. And why were the men's roles left so undefined? There could have been resolutions with Hope's father, or least more of a mention of him! And why not have that sweet boy, Dan, play a larger role? I mean, it is a cute book, I guess... but other than the strength of the narration, nothing ever feels really earth-shatteringly good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This story was so great...I just couldn't put the book down. The characters just pop off the pages and you feel like you've known them forever. I've passed the book on to my mom who is loving it as much as I did.
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on March 23, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is an easily-read book exploring the various ways mothers and daughters relate to each other. The story also examines how some women actually become mothers and what they are willing to do to protect that relationship. Good for a weekend read on the deck or on a trip. Each chapter is told from a different voice in the story and so the book can be picked up and put down easily at chapter's end. Good Chick Lit!
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on November 20, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This book is deep while being entertaining at the same time. There are many themes throughout including Love creates family, we are divided by socioeconomics, double standards of males and females and how complex female relationships can be.
I laughed and cried as I could relate to so many things! A great book club choice! (since those are mostly females, but why don't men do that?)
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