The Hope Chest: A NovelThe Hope Chest: A Novel by Viola Shipman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was personal for me. I recently lost a dear cousin to ALS. It was through her mother that I got my antique hope chest. It was one of those dome-lidded train trunks. My grandfather and brother lined that hope chest with cedar and the lid with velvet. With all that family involved in this chest, how could I not fall into the thought processes of the day? Girls grow up and have families. They get married. Become someone else’s. That’s not all bad. (I’ve grown to accept that a hope chest could just be hope of growing up and having a place of your own, not put the hope into another person.) But I had a wonderful family full of aunts and uncles and double the grandparents. No matter how life at school or home was, there were other relatives of love I could rely on.

My hope chest aunt taught me to knit. All the cousins, girl cousins, learned to knit slippers. My other aunt taught me to crochet and sew. Mom didn’t have the patience for all that but having a fantastic extended family gave me hope and taught me what I think everyone should know. That you can love past differences. The uncle attached to that aunt, taught me how to tie my shoes. That uncle and the uncle attached to my crochet aunt, taught me that even if you disagree so much with ideas the rest of the family hold, everyone will still love you. Just disagree with you.

My brother, who helped my grandfather fix up that chest, was killed in a car accident. That grandfather died of Parkinson’s. Even that chest disappeared in the many moves of my life. But the love of that family is still there. My cousins and I see each other on FaceBook daily. It is the only reason I haven’t left social media. It is my new hope chest. It’s in my heart. And so is the cousin who isn’t with us anymore, at least not where we can see her.

This book brought all that up for me. Sure, in ways it is a little hokey. But it wasn’t a stupid romance novel. It was about people who love or learn to love and help each other. The writer wrote characters I could believe. The mom was a little too strict with the little girl, seemed she wouldn’t let her be a little girl. But there are people like that. The woman with ALS seemed a little too perfect, though in pain and having the disease. The husband was every woman’s dream husband, so maybe not so real. Even still, when a book can reach into your heart like this one did and you see and smell the garden and the lake and feel the love, that’s a good book. Bring your Kleenex.

Thank you, NetGalley for letting me read this gem!

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