Hope Was Here Summary

Joan Bauer

Hope Was Here

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Hope Was Here Summary

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Hope was Here, by Joan Bauer, is the story of Hope Yancey, who lives in Brooklyn with her Aunt Addie, a relationship that formed because Hope’s mother didn’t feel capable of raising a child alone after Hope’s father left them. Hope and Addie both work at the Blue Box Diner, where Hope is a waitress and Addie is the chef and co-owner.

One day, though, the Blue Box’s other co-owner empties the company bank account and leaves town with another waitress. Unable to keep the diner running by herself, Addie makes the decision to move herself and Hope to Mulhoney, Wisconsin, where they’ve been hired to operate the Welcome Stairways diner. The new diner’s owner, G.T. Stoop, is battling leukemia and is unable to manage the restaurant alone. Before Hope and Addie leave, Hope writes “Hope Was Here” in blue ink on one of the Blue Box’s boarded up windows. Hope has moved around a lot in her life, and this ritual has become her custom.

The novel flashes-back to Hope’s birth. Born prematurely, Hope is still in the hospital, attached to breathing machines, when her mother Deena makes the decision to give the baby to Addie, her older sister. Addie welcomes Hope into her life, and resolves to be a devoted mother.

Hope has a collection of scrapbooks that depict the story of her life. She’s sure her father is out there, somewhere, looking for her, and when he finds her, she wants to tell him about everything she’s experienced.

When Hope and Addie arrive in Wisconsin, they find that G.T. is a nice man. Despite the town’s small size, it is ripe with political corruption. G.T. has decided to run for mayor to help clean it up. The incumbent mayor, Eli Millstone, is deeply dishonest. He has made several illegal arrangements with the Real Fresh Dairy, whose workers will support his campaign in return for political favors.

A group of students at the local high school, impressed with G.T.’s integrity, help him with his campaign. This group includes Hope, and the diner’s young grill cook Braverman. The teens work hard to overcome the perception that G.T.’s illness makes him an unfit candidate.

Millstone engages in several dirty tricks to discredit G.T.’s campaign, including claiming that the diner has rats. Eventually, Millstone’s goons sink to physically assaulting Braverman.

Eventually, G.T. and Addie begin a romantic relationship. This encourages Braverman to ask Hope on a date. Hope is reluctant—she has a rule about not dating cooks—but agrees to a practice date. The test is successful, and the two become a couple. At the same time, Hope becomes closer to the other employees at the diner, who increasingly lean on each other for support.

During the campaign, G.T. learns that his cancer has gone into remission. Millstone’s campaign claims, however, that the cancer has spread to G.T.’s brain. Millstone wins the election by 114 votes.

However, shortly thereafter, the Election Board discovers that Millstone has cheated. Several of the people listed as having voted for him are not actually registered to vote. Millstone is forced to resign, and G.T. is made mayor.

He immediately sets to work at fulfilling his campaign promises, a move that makes him even more popular in the town. He also proposes to Addie, and after they marry, he officially adopts Hope.

About two years later, though, G.T.’s cancer has returned. Before he passes away, Hope takes the chance to tell him she sees him as her real father. Though their time together was short, Hope is grateful to have had the chance to know what having a dad is like. Before she leaves for college, she writes “Hope Was Here” in blue pen under the counter at the diner. This time, her writing feels different: she knows she’ll be back.

Many of the characters in Bauer’s novel are working through issues of being abandoned. Hope was abandoned by her biological parents. Braverman’s family was abandoned by his father. Addie’s partner in the Blue Box diner took their money and ran. The novel’s characters have to learn to lean on each other and trust they won’t be abandoned again in order to move forward with the lives. They learn, too, to rely upon an inner strength that makes them stronger as individuals, an important part of the healing that takes place within the book.

Additionally, the characters learn that there are many ways to form a family. When your biological family doesn’t work out, you can assemble a family. That new relationship is often stronger and healthier than the one you’re born into. Your chosen family will stay by your side through the good and the bad, and continue to love you despite your faults.

Hope Was Here was given a Newberry Award Honor in 2001. It was also placed of the Notable Books lists of the American Library Association.