Good Hope Road
by Lisa Wingate

New American Library, 2003. ISBN 0451208617.
Reviewed by Donna Van Straten Remmert
Posted on 05/24/2004

Fiction: Mainstream

Have you ever wondered how you and those around you would react to a natural disaster? I actually found myself making mental notes on the most ideal ways to help should something this awful come my way as I read Lisa Wingate's novel, Good Hope Road. Like her first novel, Tending Roses, it was selected by New American Library, a publishing company dedicated to subjects close to a woman's heart.

My heart, as a matter of fact, did flip flops while witnessing characters in this small Missouri town suffer through a devastating tornado that dramatically changed their lives. It was fascinating to watch relationships shift this way and that way, as if blown by the very winds that had destroyed their homes.

The poor-white-trash Lane family is central to the story, especially twenty-one year old Jenilee who, more than anyone else in town, instinctively knows how to love, no matter what. For instance, the entire town has mocked and scorned her family for all of Jenilee's life, all the while paying no attention to the abuse they knew about. She nevertheless risks her own life to save those whose survival is at risk following the tornado, and she tirelessly helps nurse them back to health, doing small things to make them happy while they're healing. I admire how heroically Jenilee stands up for herself while also showing compassion and love toward those who had been mean to her.

Others in town were also fascinating to observe as they fought for survival from the tornado and from the ghosts in their past, brought to light during these few days of turmoil. I knew that I was witnessing the spectrum of human behavior as I read about the town drunk, the elitist doctor, and the gossipy garden club ladies whose moral self-righteousness nauseated those they tried to nurse while sheltered in the armory.

The author begins and ends her story with the metaphor of the moth in a cocoon. In between, she soothes the reader into noticing in herself some of the same personality traits as the characters in her book, making whatever psychic space necessary for her own transformational process to be activated. This and the realization that there is beauty in even the worst of life's experiences mesmerized me. Evoking this type of response is no small task for a writer.

Lisa Wingate, a Texas hill country rancher and mother of two sons, has the wisdom and writing ability to do it. Her story will stay alive in me for quite some time.

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