I find the title to be ironic. If there was too little of anything in this novel it was hope. What little there might have been was definitely hope without faith. The first mother in the novel, Anna, was caught in an abusive marriage without the means or ability to stand up for herself or her abused daughter. The most she can do is shoo her daughter (Marta) out of the house to a future on her own. If anyone can consider that hope, then she might have had a bit of it, but she was not near certain her daughter would really succeed on her own nor had any hopes for her younger daughter, Elise, who was sickly. If there was faith, it was at the mercy of their hands and not God’s.
The story then follows the life of Marta who barely subsists her entire life, it seems. She goes from one job to another, slowly building up her life and work experience for her crowning achievement of owning her own boarding house which she ran successfully until she met her husband, Niclas. When she has to sell it and follow her husband across the wilderness of Canada and then into California, she resents him nearly their entire marriage. If she wanted to be master of her own life, why marry and give it all up? At this point in the story, she was confident and content in the life she carved out for herself. It’s hard to imagine she has an ounce of feminity or romance in her body, but appears to resent giving in to it and marrying a man who loses his job and struggles to provide.
Marta is a woman without hope, without softness, without outward caring. When she gives birth to her daughter, Hildemara Rose, she seems to turn into her father. When once she used to ask why her father hates her so much, Hilde asks the same questions about her own mother. Believing that the weak will not survive Marta makes it her destiny to make Hildemara succeed by her own hands (again, without faith, without hope that God will take care of Hildemara) so she raises her without expressions of love, gentleness or compassion. I did not understand why Hildemara received the lion’s share of her mother’s abuse and not the two younger daughters. After all, they were the ones pursuing careers in art and design – how could that possibly compare to nursing in that day and age? I would think that Hilde is the one with her head on her shoulders and capable of succeeding and Marta should worry more about the younger two.
The whole relationship of a mother’s emotional abuse and a daughter’s intense longing for a mother’s love, was disturbing and upsetting. It overshadowed everything else for me. The only hope of joy I had as a reader was when Hildemara finds the love of her life, Trip. However, that seems to change right after marriage when she must also deal with an enlisted husband (enlisted without her knowledge) and a baby on her own. I fear that this is the beginning of the end of happiness for Hildemara Rose.
The plot of the book was unremarkable as well. It was more a succession of uninteresting events than a plot filled with anything surprising or even interesting. It feels more like a history book with some anecdotes thrown in; Marta received her diploma and moved from this place to that place. Then she did this or that. Then she went here or there. With negative interludes with her mother thrown in to add to the “lightness” of the novel. It was slow, sluggish reading most of the time. I can’t say there were any interesting sayings or turns of speech that got my attention – it seemed pretty bare bones, unadorned writing.
I imagine that those who enjoyed this book did so out of loyal fan hood or as part of a Francine Rivers cult following. I’d love to hear any other reasons one would enjoy this book.
My husband already bought me the sequel Her Daughter’s Dream but it has been sitting in the bag from the store for 3 weeks as I am so reluctant to read it fearing the same darkness and lack of hope as in the first. For years people have emphatically suggested to me that I need to read and review a book by Francine Rivers. I always respond that I read one years ago and I was not impressed. Alas, these books are on the top sellers list so I am giving them another try. But do I really want to put myself through the bleakness once again? Life is too short to be living through a character’s undramatic and joyless life.
Tracy’s Pick of the Best Reviews:
Book Trailer For Her Mother’s Hope
Interview with Francine Rivers about this book