Room for Hope
By Kim Vogel Sawyer
In a desperate time, can Neva find forgiveness for a grievous wrong—and make room for hope?
Neva Shilling has a heavy load of responsibility while her husband travels to neighboring communities and sells items from his wagon. In his absence, she faithfully runs the Shilling Mercantile, working to keep their business strong as the Depression takes its toll, and caring for their twins.
When a wagon pulls up after supper, Neva and her children rush out—and into the presence of the deputy driving a wagon carrying three young children. The deputy shocks her with the news that Warren and his wife have died, insisting it was their last request that the three children go live with “Aunt Neva.”
Neva’s heart is shattered as she realizes that Warren’s month-long travels were excuses for visits with his secret family. She wants nothing more than to forget Warren, but can she abandon these innocent children to an orphanage? Yet if she takes them in, will she ever be able to see them as more than evidence of her husband’s betrayal and love them the way God does?
It’s hard to put my finger on what sets Kim’s stories apart, but they have an unusual quality that I thoroughly enjoy, and Room for Hope is another story that hooked me emotionally from the first page. All the things I enjoy most work together to create an unforgettable read - a combination of interesting historical era and setting, well-drawn characters, spiritual depth, and a story that tugs at the heartstrings.
Room for Hope takes place during the Great Depression era in the small Kansas town of Buffalo Creek, 1936, and Kim conveys a vivid feel for what the times were truly like – from the economic insecurity, to the hobos in need of food, to the prejudice that can still be found today. Love for family is at the heart of this story, showing how Neva’s love expands and grows stronger after being blindsided by an unimaginable betrayal. Neva is portrayed realistically, with the same human tendencies to reject emotionally that I would probably have, so to walk beside her becomes even more rewarding.
Imagine the confusion and grief of three children who lost both of their parents and found themselves on “Aunt” Neva’s doorstep, just as Neva discovers her husband’s infidelity. Neva and her children, Bud and Belle, were thrown into a turmoil that felt so very real. Belle’s instant rapport with the children was touching, yet I could understand Bud’s denial and rejection. Sometimes it’s hard for me to connect with children in a story, but Walter’s other children – Charley, Cassie and Adeline – captured my heart, as did Belle and Bud.
The story is told from several different perspectives, which made it all the richer to me. Romance takes second place to relationships, which is as it should be. The character of Neva’s deceased husband, Walter, casts a long shadow throughout the novel. While it was clear that his children loved him and the townspeople respected him, I wish Kim could have revealed more about him personally and as a husband, although that in no way detracted from this moving story.
There are two very appealing male leads – Sheriff Caudel and Arthur Randall, owner of the emporium next to Neva’s mercantile – and I wasn’t sure how things would work out for the longest time. Both of these men had turned away from God and their spiritual journeys speak to all of us. Sheriff Caudel’s personal story begs for further development, so I really hope we see more of him.
I appreciated the strong faith theme and that the Gospel message is clearly presented, allowing us to draw inspiration from seeing faith lived out in the character’s lives. And I love the cover art because it speaks to the heart of this story, reflected in the quote from Isaiah that “He giveth power to the faint.” I was also touched by how, in a worship scene toward the end, Kim draws from the beloved hymn, All the Way My Savior Leads Me . . .
All the way my Savior leads me
What have I to ask beside
Can I doubt His tender mercy
Who through life has been my Guide
Gushing from the Rock before me
Lo! a spring of joy I see
This my song through endless ages
Jesus led me all the way
Kim Vogel Sawyer is a best-selling, award-winning author with more than one million copies of her books currently in print. Awards include the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.
Sawyer lives in central Kansas, where she and her retired military husband, Don, run a bed-and-breakfast inn with the help of their feline companions. She savors time with her daughters and grandchildren.
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Thank you to Jessica Lamb at WaterBrook Press for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review – and also for the generous two-book giveaway.
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