Title: Room for Hope by Kim Vogel Sawyer
Genre: Historical (’30s), Christian, Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Blogging for Books
In a desperate time, can Neva find forgiveness for a grievous wrong—and make room for hope?
Neva Shilling has a heavy load of responsibility while her husband travels to neighboring communities and sells items from his wagon. In his absence, she faithfully runs the Shilling Mercantile, working to keep their business strong as the Depression takes its toll, and caring for their twins.
When a wagon pulls up after supper, Neva and her children rush out—and into the presence of the deputy driving a wagon carrying three young children. The deputy shocks her with the news that Warren and his wife have died, insisting it was their last request that the three children go live with “Aunt Neva.”
Neva’s heart is shattered as she realizes that Warren’s month-long travels were excuses for visits with his secret family. She wants nothing more than to forget Warren, but can she abandon these innocent children to an orphanage? Yet if she takes them in, will she ever be able to see them as more than evidence of her husband’s betrayal and love them the way God does?
Set during the depression in Buffalo Creek, Kansas, Room for Hope by Kim Vogel Sawyer is a beautiful novel of faith, reconciliation, forgiveness and compassion.
Neva Shilling is anxiously awaiting the return of her husband Warren from his latest trip to neighboring towns to buy and sell goods for their general store. The arrival of a wagon sends her and their two children Bud and Belle rushing to greet him, but to their surprise, a stranger is waiting with a wagon full of furniture. Jesse Caudel, a deputy from Beloit, is the bearer of bad news when he announces Warren and his wife Violet have recently passed away. Even more stunning, Warren’s last request was for Jesse to take his three young children to their “Aunt Neva”. Shocked, ashamed and heartbroken, she takes in Charley, Cassie and Adeline but angry and resentful over Warren’s deception, Neva maintains an emotional and physical distance from the orphans.
Used to taking care of things in Warren’s absence, Neva is a strong and resourceful woman with an unwavering faith. She blames herself for her husband decision to “marry” another woman and her shame leads her to keeping the youngsters’ true identity a secret from Bud, Belle and her neighbors. Somewhat out of her depth and relying heavily on fourteen year old Bud’s assistance, Neva quickly figures out what she needs to do to keep the family store open. Unwilling to tell anyone the truth about the children’s parentage and ignoring concerned friends’ advice to put them in an orphanage, Neva allows the bulk of their care to fall on fourteen year old Belle’s shoulders.
Neva receives encouragement from an unlikely source when furniture store owner and neighbor Arthur Randall offers to help her. The families have never been close and Neva cannot help but be a little suspicious of his overtures since, in the past, Arthur has made numerous offers to buy their store. Gradually, she lets down her guard and accepts his assistance at face value. Unbeknownst to Neva, Arthur does have an ulterior motive for coming to her aid, but as his family’s life becomes more entwined with hers, he genuinely begins to care for Neva and the children. However, when the truth about Warren’s illegitimate offspring emerges, will Arthur continue to support her?
Jesse is also on hand to lend Neva a helping hand after he becomes the sheriff of Buffalo Creek. The observant lawman quickly figures out the truth about the three orphans and he does not mince words with Neva when he becomes aware of her antipathy towards them. He also becomes suspicious about the true nature of Warren’s out of town activities and although sympathetic to her plight, he is completely honest with her about his misgivings about her deceased husband.
Despite her hardships and heartache, Neva remains a caring and compassionate woman who does not hesitate to help others in need. Using scripture and her strong faith to guide her along her journey, she tries to leave behind her hurt and bitterness but finding forgiveness is not always easy. Although Belle easily accepts the three orphans into her heart, Neva’s lingering resentment blinds her to Bud’s somewhat callous treatment of young Charley. True healing for the family begins in the aftermath of near tragedy but the townspeople’s less than compassionate response to the truth leaves Neva shaken and uncertain of what the future holds for them.
Room for Hope is a captivating journey of healing, redemption and acceptance. Kim Vogel Sawyer uses true to life situations to gently demonstrate the true meaning of several key scriptures and parables. While Neva’s faith never weakens, both Jesse and Arthur undergo tremendous spiritual growth as they help her during her trials and tribulations. Uplifting and gratifying, I absolutely loved and highly recommend this incredibly heartwarming novel to readers of historical faith-based fiction.