In Rima Jbara’s novel Hope, a beautiful and talented young French artist fights her inner demons while striving for success
Hope is just 17 when her fine paintings are discovered and displayed in a local gallery. Over time, she attracts a revolving door of men fascinated by her good looks and exceptional talent. While she loves the attention and support, she becomes increasingly fragile and emotionally fraught. Her depression deepens when triggered by a succession of deaths of family members and friends.
While her many male companions do their best to rescue her, she hovers on the brink, fighting nightmares and overdosing with sleeping pills to the point where she lands in the hospital several times. Despite her increasing skill in art and growing popularity in galleries, Hope’s attempts at finding life happiness appear hopeless.
A subdued tone reflects Hope’s deep depression as she moves through life in a haze, and the author uses rhyming passages to represent Hope’s inner thoughts, emotions, and confusion throughout the narrative. While this might have been an interesting writerly technique, these mini-poems come across as trite (e.g.: “There is this pain/That will drive me insane”). The author pens believable dialogue, yet the book lacks the dramatic power that would fuel reader engagement.
As the deep-suffering protagonist, Hope’s character is imaginatively drawn. However, the supporting characters fall flat, leaving little impression on readers. And while the story dispenses small moments of action hinting that Hope will find contentment, the book ends on a frustrating note. Additionally, the narrative contains copyediting issues, such as missing commas and single quote marks instead of double, that remain in need of attention.
Overall, this story never advances in a way that allows readers to see character evolution or gain depth of insight. As such, it’s likely to have limited appeal.
Also available as an ebook.