I don’t often read a lot of contemporary literary fiction. Part of this is because most of the books I was made to read during high school were of the literary fiction genre, and they were, usually, quite frustratingly terrible. (Would it kill English teachers to just once pick books that were relatable to a student rather than about things we most certainly found dull?) I don’t dislike literary fiction, don’t get me wrong. I think it is a fascinating genre. However, most of my early impressions were shaped by those unfortunate books. Also, not that many books of literary fiction sort drop across my review schedule. (Why? I don’t know.)
So when I got the chance to read and review Rebecca Marsh’s contemporary fiction piece, Where Hope is Found I was thrilled. And then I actually read the book and found it equally thrilling.
1. Thoughts on the plot
This book follows Marissa, a woman who lost her husband and her oldest child in the same tragic accident, and her youngest daughter Maisy as they navigate the aftermatch of that selfsame accident. Interwoven in their story is the story of Owen, Marissa’s brother, and Charlie, his son, as they deal with an entirely different sort of relationship. This story focuses a lot on how people deal with tragedy and how they navigate difficult waters to make a life for themselves.
I will admit, parts of this book had me sniffling a bit. The difficulties that Marissa, Maisy, Owen and Charlie deal with are all so terrible that you can’t help but feel for them. But there is also an element of relatability, because their story could just as easily belong to anyone else and still be just as powerful. The evolution of the plot was intimately tied together with the evolution of the characters and I liked that quite a bit. It was nice to see something that couldn’t exist without one or the other, rather than separate plots and characters that, while they worked well together, were actually separate creatures. This was definitely compelling in both regards.
2. Thoughts on the characters
This book shifts perspectives between Marissa and Owen as they navigate their lives and I liked that it followed both. You see events unfolding from the eyes of two different people, which allows us to see how different people interpret the same events. Each piece of the characters that we say, either from ther own perspective or from the perspective of someone else, helped to illustrate them into a whole, complex being. Again, the character evolution was intricately linked to the plot and I enjoyed seeing both progress simultaneously. Marissa’s journey impacted me perhaps slightly more than Owen’s, but that is because I relate to her a fair bit, not that I don’t relate to Owen. Both characters were worth reading in my opinion.
3. Favourite part
I think my favourite part is actually the relationship that both Marissa and Owen have with the rest of their family. That particular “I love you, but you’re difficult” feeling that both sides seem to feel resonated a fair bit with me. It felt acutely familiar and made this book all the more real. It was also nice to see this relationship both evolve and stay the same throughout the book, as is the case with most family.
My only real critique for this book is that the ending was rather abrupt. I understand why it ended where it did. Everything did get resolved and there were no more questions to be answered. But the story was moving at a rapid pace at the very end, then just sort of…stopped. I think even just an epilogue showing one more scene some indeterminate amount of time later (say a year, or so) would have rounded out the story to the point where I didn’t feel a bit shortchanged by the ending. Though, as I said, everything was resolved, so it’s more just a personal opinion than anything.
Overall, I really enjoyed Where Hope is Found. It may not be quite so intentionally dramatic as many of the literary and contemporary fiction pieces I read in high school, but it had all the important pieces that define the genre and was, besides that, an enjoyable book to read. I would say that it was very good.