The Hope Chest* by Viola Shipman
Publishing Date by Thomas Dunne Books on March 21, 2017
Source German Publisher
The discovery of one woman´s heirloom hope chest unveils precious memories and helps three people who have each lost a part of themselves find joy once again. Ever since she was diagnosed with ALS, fiercely independent Mattie doesn´t feel like herself. She can´t navigate her beloved home, she can´t go for a boat ride, and she can barely even feed herself. Her devoted husband, Don, doesn´t want to imagine life without his wife of nearly fifty years, but Mattie isn´t likely to make it past their anniversary. But when Rose, Mattie´s new caretaker, and her young daughter, Jeri, enter the couple´s life, happiness and the possibility for new memories return. Together they form a family, and Mattie is finally able to pass on her memories from the hope chest she received from her mother. With each item – including a favorite doll, family dishes, an embroidered apron, and an antique Christmas ornament – the hope chest connects Mattie, Don and Rose to each other and helps them find hope again in the face of overwhelming life challenges.
Okay, the German edition doesn´t look as good and beautiful as the original edition does, but I can ignore that.
The novel itself counts and this one is just beautiful.
Rose needs a new job and when she gets told that she would have the chance to take care of Mattie Tice, a woman who got diagnosed with ALS, she prays to God that she will get the job. Together with her daughter Jeri, she spends an unforgettable afternoon at the place where Mattie and her husband Don just had moved in and very soon it becomes quite clear to Rose, that she needs them as much as they need her.
The Hope Chest is told by an invisible narrator who gives you an intense and very touching insight into the life of two families. During the novel, you read about the years when Mattie grew up and later met Don as well as the present things that happen. Both are smoothly combined in a heartbreaking but beautiful written novel about love, hope and what it means to always believe. Not necessary in a religious way but in something you feel comfortable with.
Viola Shipman´s writing style is sensitive, full of emotions and a wonderful landscape. Like his first novel, this one tells the story of the items that are contained in the hope chest and which Mattie wants to share with Rose and her daughter.
The author uses little things that give this novel the special something. The symbolism of colors, the meaning of each flower and plant and all the items that mean something to Mattie and Rose.
There are not many figures in this novel, but those who are there are very well created. You won´t get huge figure descriptions but with their acting, you get a fantastic picture of them. And Jeri is a girl you will love. How she talks and acts with Mattie, how she treats her and what she does to understand everything is so sweet and remarkable – I fell in love with her right away.
There is a power in Mattie, despite her illness; a strength and energy that makes it even sadder that she can´t control her body anymore. But her fantasy, her will to fight is as strong as ever.
You´ve got to read this book. A novel filled with intensity, hope, happiness, sadness and love; and beyond that the answer to all the things that count in life: you.
*I read the German new release edition by Krüger on February 23, 2017.
My thanks to the publisher for the friendly support.
Viola Shipman is a pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose charm bracelet and family stories inspired him to write his debut novel, which is a tribute to all of our elders. Rouse lives in Michigan and writes regularly for People and Coastal Living, among other places, and is a contributor to All Things Considered.