This is a story of Hope, who we first meet in the book when she’s 18. We discover she has (or had) a boyfriend Jimmy, who tragically dies as he flies over her home waving to her from the cockpit. In the first few pages of The Age of Hope, I pictured the protagonist as somewhat of a rebel, perhaps living a vivid life just outside of Winnipeg, who doesn’t conform to the norm (after all her first boyfriend flies a plane and not long after she rejects a marriage proposal by an eligible bachelor planning to settle in Africa as a missionary). But as this story unfolds as somewhat of a fictional memoir, disappointment sets in as we realize Hope Koop is someone who is far from vivid and contradictory.
Hope is in fact quite normal. If I were to put my critical thinking hat on, I’d say perhaps a bit too normal. She never seems to be happy in the present moment, always hoping and wishing for something bigger, better and more interesting. “Hope wished that she had some of her roommate’s nerve, her devil-may-care attitude.” As she ages, Hope’s constantly worries about everything, from analyzing if she’s doing anything wrong in raising her four children, to wondering if her future will be laden with the comforts she has become used to. It is endearing to see a mother worry so much and go through life as we would imagine – complete with the same hardships, challenges and friendships that we perhaps have experienced in our own lives.
Even though The Age of Hope is a simple story, one with nothing really new or inspirational, the book does a good job in holding the reader’s interest right to the end. David Bergen’s characters have a voice and a personality that is real and relatable. “In her most dire moments Hope saw how bleak the future was becoming. The world was spinning out of control and it was scooping up her children, one by one.” Whether The Age of Hope should be a Canada Reads contender is debatable, but perhaps that is something for each reader to decide. You never know why one book tugs at the strings of your heart more than another.