“Hopeful” by Shelley Shepard Gray


Miriam Zehr has worked at the Sugarcreek Inn longer than she cares to admit. The restaurant is a favorite of town residents as well as the many tourists who come to taste the famous Amish fare. Though she always tries to have a smile for every customer, deep down Miriam knows something’s missing: a family of her own.

 
Miriam has never felt particularly beautiful, especially because she’s always been a bit heavier than other girls her age. When Junior, the man she’s pined for all her life, suddenly seeks her out, she’s thrilled to be noticed . . . until she realizes he’s only asking her to help get the attention of Mary Kathryn Hershberger, her pretty friend.

 

If Miriam helps Junior court Mary Kathryn, she’ll get to spend a lot of time with him, but she might lose him in the process. Are these few stolen moments worth a lifetime of sacrifice? Is Miriam right to even hope for the life she dreams of?
 
What would you do if you were in your mid-twenties, single without prospects, a bit restless, wanting to lose the proverbial ten pounds, and tired of watching all of your friends marry and start families?  That’s Miriam Zehr’s life.  Though always kind, friendly, and gracious, her life hasn’t gone exactly as she hoped.  She’s even more disappointed when the man she’s been crushing on for years asks to come over to her house – so she can give him advice on getting a date with her friend.
 
The very best thing about Hopeful is that any of us could be in Miriam’s shoes.  Sure, you’ve always got the head cheerleader or high school quarterback, but most of us aren’t them – and we all get disappointed at one time or another.  Miriam doesn’t handle her disappointment well in the beginning of the story and stumbles for a bit, trying to learn how to handle her changing feelings; but her triumph and ultimate hope and assurance are well placed in the end.  She learns just Who and in what she should hope and decides to make small changes in her life where she can, and this, indeed, is hopeful.  To know that you’re not solely at the mercy of your circumstances but can play a part to change them is empowering.  
 
Where these circumstances intersect with others is especially challenging, and those places are the toughest in which to find balance.  These were the best parts of this story, though.  Smoothly written and with a generous dose of humor, I was giggling out loud as I read about how Miriam evened the keel with Junior.  It was fun.  It was real.  It made me want to be Miriam’s friend – and ask for her advice about doing the same thing.
 
And yet the story was not all lighthearted and fun.  Stalkers and fear and abuse are very real, very big problems, and Gray gave them every ounce of weight that they deserved.  The relevant scenes were written with appropriate seriousness and foreshadowing of what was to come, and they were written from more than one perspective, allowing you to see the emotions from every angle.
 
I really enjoyed reading this first installment of The Return to Sugarcreek series.  Can’t wait to see what’s next!
 
 
 
Shelley Shepard Gray is a two-time New York Times bestseller, a two-time USA Today bestseller, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time Holt Medallion winner. She lives in Southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.
 
Learn more about Shelley at: http://www.shelleyshepardgray.com
 
I received a free copy of Hopeful from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.
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