Because I've been writing about, and working on a book about, hope, I've been trying to keep my eyes open for the role of hope in the lives of characters in novels. It's quite interesting how often hope is a key force in story lines.
A couple years ago I wrote here about reading Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout. The book's main character, Olive, was continually in her own self-imposed exile, but nevertheless always held out her hand to pull someone else back from their exile, or demise. In this novel in stories, Olive meets up with Kevin, the boy-turned-man whom Olive had helped as a child when his mother was crazy, as he sits in his car on a cliff, suicidal yet contemplating hope. Olive opens the door and climbs into the front seat. Kevin likes that Olive has joined him: “Again, Kevin found himself liking the sound of her voice...Don't go, his mind said to Mrs. Kitteridge. Don't go. But this turbulence in him was torture. … Hope was a cancer inside him. He didn't want it; he did not want it. He could not bear these shoots of tender green hope springing up within him any longer.”
But then Kevin sees a young woman, an old friend, fall off the cliff just beyond his car and into the ocean below, and he moves from fighting against hope to enacting hope. He jumps in to save her, and he is saved in the process:
“He had only to keep Patty from falling away, and as they went again beneath the swirling, sucking water, he strengthened his grip on her arm to let her know: He would not let her go. … he thought he would like this moment to be forever: the dark-haired woman on shore calling for their safety, the girl who had once jumped rope like a queen, now holding him with a fierceness that matched the power of the ocean—oh, insane, ludicrous, unknowable world! Look how she wanted to live, look how she wanted to hold on."
If you like the idea, pay attention in the next novel you read and see if you don't see hope somewhere on the page.
[Photo: taken of a bench at Trinity Lutheran church in Hovland, Minnesota]