Book Review – Age of Hope

17 Jan

Age of Hope is the second book in my Canada Reads series.  It is a novel, written by David Bergen, about a woman in rural Manitoba.   It’s tempting to call it a “coming of age” story, because in some ways it is about coming of age; but presumes that you don’t get there at 18 or 21.

I liked this book from its opening page, when Hope whimsically recalls her first love – who tragically died while showing off in an airplane.  Maybe it wasn’t meant to be a joke, but for some reason, I found it hilarious.  It was also the first insight into Hope’s character – someone who had an interesting way of reacting to the world around her.

I worry that the main focus of Age of Hope is going to be about how well a male writer (and male defender in Ron MacLean) conveys the story of (mostly) middle aged woman.  And while this is indeed impressive, it’s not the real magic of the book.   For me, the magic was in the disconnect between what Hope told you vs. what you believed was true.  Throughout the book there is a difference in how Hope feels about herself, and how people around her view her.   At first I assumed that other people were being mean or judgmental, but throughout the book it began to emerge as a pattern.

This made me wonder:  how hard is it to see the true you?  And is it better to be like Hope, and see yourself better than everyone else does?  Is her name a testament to her spirit?

The other thing I liked about Age of Hope was the love story.   Sure, it lacked passion and drama, but it had all those non loin-quivering qualities that really matter:  devotion, acceptance and loyalty.   In High School, I would have written a passionate essay about how Hope settled because she was a woman of her time  – a husband and family was exactly what society expected of her.  Now, not quite middle-aged, but not quite young – married for almost 7 years, I’d say she had a marriage and a love story that was real and beautiful.

I think that Age of Hope might just take Canada Reads – not only because I thought it was a great book, but because I think it has a very talented debater in Ron McLean.  Although, it’s not my first choice, if I was a betting woman….