Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review: Restored Hope by Brenda Youngerman

Restored Hope
Author: Brenda Youngerman
Publisher: Strategic Book Group
Series: N/A
Pages: 264
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: September 7, 2010
How Received: Author (thank you so much, Brenda!)

Summary: Peter and Tara Miller are the image of perfection. They have three beautiful children, live in a wonderful neighborhood, and are still each other’s best friend. When their world completely disintegrates within a short period of time, their daughter must survive the aftermath. Creating a new persona, Samantha finally breaks free and discovers that the real world is not much kinder than her dysfunctional family. Emotionally shattered, the solace of the ocean, and a loving dog, carry her on her way.

Samantha meets Timothy Bleak, who was raised in a seemingly kind, loving family, but is virtually invisible to them. His voice goes unheard, his needs are unmet, and his emotions are squashed. Timothy summons the strength to leave his family, and discovers Samantha in his journey.

Restored Hope follows these two bereft young people as their lives intertwine and they face the challenges of life, love and happiness together.

My Thoughts:
Restored Hope is one of those novels that you have to put down after you read and re-evaluate the way you see the things around you. Brenda isn’t afraid to write about the social issues that no one else wants to embark on and this novel is no exception.

This story is about a dysfunctional family that keeps up the appearance of happiness while inevitably descending into guilt and self-blame. Throughout the book, we read about the chronicles of Samantha, who previously was Camilla, Sammy’s twin. Samantha goes through life as if she’s invisible – as if she was her dead twin brother’s shadow. No one remembered her, not when they were all self-absorbed into their despair. We watch as Sam struggles through the loss of her family and best friend, and as she attempts relationships that fall into ruin.

It was easy to empathize and connect with her – from everyone leaving in her life ever since she was a kid, to being invisible, to trying to rebuild that trust she lost. There are so many ways Sam could have handled her situation, yet she did it in the best way possible: pick up with her life and try to move on. She got help from Tim, naturally, but she got to where she was the day she met Tim on her own. Instead of following in the footsteps of her mother, Camilla “died” and Sam emerged, going on to live her life. When she eventually had kids of her own, she learned from her experiences and made sure none of her children (or nieces/nephews) ever felt unloved. She changed all of their futures because she learned the hard way how it feels like to be dealt a bad hand.

This novel is full of tragedy around every corner, but it’s all believable: the downward spiral of a seemingly happy family could be happening right next door to you, and you’d never know. But through all the tragedy emerges hope. Hope that one day, everything will be okay and the grievances of the past will just be memories.

Cover Musings: I absolutely adore the sunset scene. The sunset peaking behind the clouds, the receding waves, the door – it’s all very peaceful.

Memorable Quotes:
Restored Hope was a mecca of quotes – you guys should have seen my quotes notepad. There were “love”, “inspirational”, “depressing”, “humor”, “memorable”, and “heart-breaking” quotes. I had a hard time choosing which quotes I wanted to express the novel with.

“Sometimes we just have to believe that all things happen for a reason.” (not an actual book quote, but a quote from the dedication)
“Dragging her bags into the familiar bedroom she’d spent so many hours in, she looked at the pictures that adorned the walls. There were pictures of a happy family; a family that ceased to exist when her two brothers died. No one thought about the child who still remained; they were too busy mourning the children who were gone.” (pg. 80)
"I drove up in front, saw the white picket fence, walked up the path, and then took one step inside the front door, and I just knew I had finally found home. It was the first time in my life that I was home." She looked at him and their eyes locked, "Does that make sense?"
His heart was racing as he answered, "Oh, yeah, it makes perfect sense." To himself, he thought, That’s how I felt the first time I saw you. (pg. 129)
"I really don’t know why I’m telling you all of this; I’ve never told anyone this whole story before."
Tim smiled and said, "Maybe you’re telling me so you can leave the past behind you and we can move forward together." (pg. 133)
"Before my grandmother died, we used to have my aunts and uncles and all the cousins come over here for Thanksgiving. That was also before everyone had their own kids. Even then, I felt like the odd man out. I was younger than everyone else and I didn’t really have anything to talk to them about. I used to go outside and climb a tree and see how long it would take before someone would come looking for me. You want to hear the saddest part about it?"
"They never did." (pg. 160)

Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: There were times when I had to put the book down and cry – for Camilla, for Sam, for all of the families, for myself. I was so wrapped up in the story that I felt everyone’s pain, because it was so easy to connect in some way or other to several different characters. I picked this book up at night, only expecting to read through the first chapter. The next thing I knew, I was halfway through the book. This story is beyond moving and engaging, and it gave me hope for the future.

Brenda always comments in interviews that she writes “fiction with a purpose”. Well, Restored Hope is the epitome of fiction with a purpose, and I definitely recommend you guys go out and get this book!

Rating: 5/5


Felicity Grace Terry said...

Not a book I'd normally pick up but you almost have me convinced. Thanks for the recommendation.

Literature for Lunch said... I crazy or have you always had this review format? If I haven't noticed before, I really like it! I like the text boxes and the placement of the book. Pretty cool!

This is also not a book that I would normally pick up but I do like books that make you think. :)

Kristina Barnes♥ said...

@Tracy: It's not a book I'd usually pick up either. But I took a chance with it and absolutely loved it. It's sort of like self-help, but told in someone's first-hand account instead.

@Jennifer: Haha! I've always had this review format. :) It's just recently that I found the html for the boxes around my quotes. I alternate the book covers from left to right each review, and try to incorporate cover colors into my post. Anyway, thanks for the compliment! :)

And like I mentioned, this isn't a book I'd normally pick up either. I decided to take a chance because I wanted to figure out what "Restored Hope" meant. I love books that deal with real life, social issues, and this is DEFINITELY one of those books (I wasn't sure of that at first -- I thought it was a love story, but it's much more than that).

Ashlie Swainston said...

I meant the movie City of Angels, the one with Nicholas Cage & Meg Ryan (I think:) Thanks for the nice comment about the rating system, I went with it because it was weird and I like weird, haha! But Hush, Hush is the first book I've reviewed since adopting the rating system that is a 5 Giraffe book. Haha! Hush, Hush needs to be at THE top of your tbr list! Then maybe Fallen & Torment, and that's if you've already read all of Cassandra Clare's books. If you haven't, then you shouls read all of hers, then Hush, Hush & then Fallen & Torment. Because I said so..hahaha! jk!


Unknown said...

I am so glad that you did go out a limb and read this book, and I have to say that I LOVE your review! Thank you so much. It is not very often that a review actually understands what Fiction With a Purpose means, but you sure GOT IT!
I really hope some of your followers have a chance to experience it as well as my other works.

Brenda Youngerman!

Unknown said...

OH! And I almost forgot to say.....Anyone who would like to use this novel, or any of my novels for a bookclub or reading group, just let me know and I would be happy to participate!

Ruth Cox aka abitosunshine said...

Excellent review of Brenda's recent release!

Chrystal said...

Hi Kristina, thanks for posting on my blog and I hope you are able to catch up as well.

I love that you just finished this book as I am awaiting my copy in the mail and can't wait to read it. :)

Oh and I love how you do your posts... the summary boxes are lovely and your memorable quotes section is a great idea!

Kristina Barnes♥ said...

@Ashlie: OH! Right. Well, I haven't seen the movie either (I bet you couldn't have told!) I haven't read ANY of those books, to be honest. I'm late on the bandwagon to a TON of books.

@Brenda: Thank you so much! That means a lot to me. :) I'm not that great at advertising, but your novel was too good to NOT be advertised, so I'm trying my best!

@abitosunshine: Thank you! :D

@Chrystal: Thanks! I can't wait to see what you think of it -- I'll keep my eyes peeled on your review (if you write one). :)

Also, thanks for the compliments! I keep wondering if people actually look at the memorable quotes section or if I should omit them, so your comment makes me feel better! :)

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