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Hope Was Here is set in rural Wisconsin, in the heart of cheese country. Among the one-story buildings and quiet of the small town of Mulhoney, Hope Yancey learns some very hard truths about life and love. The town of Mulhoney, where one major economic influence dominates the lives of many, is the perfect atmosphere to weaken the will of the majority to fight the powerful forces of money and power. At the same time, the town's size also allows Hope to settle in quickly, find a job, make new friends, and immediately become involved in the town's activities.

Because there is very little else to do, business at the Welcome Stairways Diner booms, and this places Hope and the other characters in the center of town happenings. In a very real sense, the diner becomes home; its workers and patrons become family. Hope, her aunt, and G. T. (the owner of the diner) all live right above the diner, Lou Ellen brings her baby there to be nurtured and cared for by the other workers, and Adam runs G. T.'s political campaign from the back office. The bonding that takes place in the off-hours or in the mad rush of "the weeds," allows for a sharing of ideas, hopes, and dreams, including those for change. The characters are developed amid the everyday business of the diner, and in this way, the diner serves not only to feed the bodies, but to feed the hearts and minds of the people as well. It is in this atmosphere that the hope for change is born, and the recipe to make those changes is developed and nurtured.

Literary Qualities

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Bauer's familiar use of first person serves once again in this novel to place the reader in close relationship with her main character. In addition, her switch from past tense to present tense at particular points in the story establishes the reader as not only the listener, but also as an active participant in the drama that takes place in specific scenes. The reader dearly experiences Hope's memories, her tension when "in the weeds," and her pain while dealing with her mother and with G. T.'s death.

Symbols can be found in the characters' names as well as other elements in the novel. G. T.'s name is Gabriel Thomas. His first name is perhaps a biblical reference to the angel Gabriel who brings messages of hope, while his second name might refer to Thomas, the disciple who doubted the risen Christ. Together, the names establish the conflict between hope and defeat so evident in the plot line of the story. Hope's name is also symbolic of her attitude toward life. It is a name she must live up to, a name that challenges her to be optimistic in the face of all she must endure. Braverman's name is also indicative of his character. He is a young man of no wealth or circumstance, yet he bravely battles the evils that threaten to invade his town and stands up to the men who physically attack him.

Symbolism is also found in the references to light and dark. For example, when Hope is given a plant, she is told to place it in the light to watch it grow. In another instance, the corrupt political activities have all but destroyed the community until these crimes are brought into the open. Knowledge, as light, brings about the needed changes in the political offices, and restores life to the town.

Life issues are also represented by G. T.'s planting of trees in memory of those he loves. Trees...

(This entire section contains 362 words.)

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symbolically represent strength and endurance. For Hope, the grafting of two trees symbolically joins her to G. T. and serves as a reminder after his death that one is always a part of the other.

Social Sensitivity

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The primary social issues explored in Hope Was Here are the nontraditional family unit and corrupt politics. Hope and Braverman are both children of nontraditional families, but for different reasons. Hope suffers knowing her mother abandoned her at birth, and she does not know the identity of her biological father. Braverman lived with both parents, but his father eventually abandoned them. Both characters struggle to come to terms with these wounds and to work through their internal hostilities and anxieties about their parents. Along the way, they each find mentors and role models to provide the guidance their absent parents cannot, and both are led to a new perception of parents and family. Bauer reveals the lethargy that many people feel towards politics due to a perceived prevalence of corruption and the feeling that voting is not effective in producing change. As she explores these feelings in her novel, she addresses the importance of early and committed involvement in the political processes. G. T.'s bid for mayor and the support he receives from the teens in the community are exceptional examples of instigating change and present a strong argument for teen involvement in the political process. Government for the people and by the people is clearly the stance supported in the novel. This suggests several areas of discussion about the state of the political system at any level.

For Further Reference

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Bradburn, Frances. Review of Hope Was Here. Booklist (September 15, 2000): 231. This is a positive review of the novel, noting some repeated devices from Bauer's Rules of the Road (1998) and highlights the issues of honesty, humanity, and political activism present in the story.

Firestone, Tracey. Review of Hope Was Here. School Library Journal (November 2000): 150. This is a book review.

"Joan Bauer." In Authors and Artists for Young Adults, vol. 34. Detroit: Gale, 2000. This article explores the author's life and works, relating similarities between the novels and the author's views on life.

"Joan Bauer." In Something about the Author, vol. 117. Detroit: Gale, 2001. This entry provides an introduction to Bauer's work with biographical information.

"Joan Bauer." ACHUKA http://www.achuka. August 4, 2001. This interview with Bauer containing questions about her life, her individual novels, the humor in her stories, and other facets of her writing, such as characterization, historical references, and voice. Also contains a list of awards for her fiction.

Joan Bauer Home Page http://www.joanbauer. com/. Accessed March 30, 2002. This is the author's Web site which provides biographical information and comments on the people and circumstances that influence her writing career.




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