Monday, July 4, 2011

Hope[less]: A Novel

Grey Line Press (2010)
ISBN 9780983002802
Reviewed by April Sullivan for Reader Views

Two teenagers, almost 18, find love, excel at music and have their whole life ahead of them. That would be what is expected, the hope. But not for Lorraine and KJ, the main characters in the novel "Hope[less]." Their life takes a turn toward hopeless when a tragedy occurs that sends the two out onto the streets of Philadelphia.

Lorraine and KJ never believed that they had everything going for them. They did not believe in faith or fate or plans. What was the point when life happened to you despite plans? KJ learned that at the age of 14 when his mother left and didn't take him. Lorraine learned that when her mother was raped and killed in New York. This is why she and her father moved to Philadelphia and why she was starting over in high school, as the last chair in the trumpet section in the school band, even though she was better than all of them. KJ played the saxaphone. He saw her talent and bonded with her instantly. Music was his passion, what he lived for. Lorraine became his second passion. The two live for each other, and music is carried along as a burden and a savior.

The author of "Hope[less],"C.O.B., has written a dark, intense novel. The front and back cover charcoal drawings by O. Tycho Baker set the tone for the novel. On the front is a lone bench with a saxaphone case on the seat and a backpack on the ground with a trumpet sticking out. A single beam of light illuminates the backpack. The image is sad and lonely, but hints at brightness.

The opening chapter is strong and overwhelming in its pain. Each section of the book, Atonal I, II, and III starts with a chapter about a strange encounter between a man and his two young daughters. It seems to make no sense to the rest of the novel at first, but becomes resolved to some level by the end.

C.O.B. writes as if he or she has experienced some of the scenarios the characters experience. The passages about the high school band experience are intriguing to me because I have never been a part of that world and the author portrays it much differently than I would have expected. The hurt and homelessness the characters go through are written with a level of understanding that I can only imagine someone who has been there could describe as well as C.O.B. does.

"Hope[less]" is a sincere novel about two young people trying to make their way in a world that makes no sense to them. In the end they find a glimpse of meaning, but it is done in a realistic manner, not in a fairy tale ending. The novel is a good reminder of the hopelessness we all experience at some time in our lives and the power of love to turn that around.