The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag
Imagine a time in your life when everything has fallen apart and you are wandering aimlessly, wondering what your next step should be when you come upon a house that you have never known before that somehow calls to you.
(side note: My love of architecture often means that I am drawn to homes and buildings that I have never noticed before, even when my life is going great, so this whole idea isn’t far-fetched for me)
Keep imagining….you go up the walk and before knocking on the door it opens and standing there is someone you have never met before, but she has such a motherly welcoming nature about her that you find yourself entering.
The woman, Peggy, ushers you into the kitchen as you walk by walls dripping with framed photographs of famous women from the past, including Florence Nightingale. The house seems alive, charming you and breathing life into everything at the same time.
You continue to stare at the portraits that blanket even the walls of the kitchen. Peggy says, “They’ve all lived here, at one time or another.” Still stirring the milk at the stove, Peggy speaks without turning around. “They came to the house, just like you, when they’d run out of hope.”
Our main character, Alba, has indeed run out of hope and while we won’t find out exactly why until later in the story, her feeling of being lost is palpable. Peggy invites her to stay after letting her know the rules of the house; she has 99 days to turn her life around and then she is out. Alba agrees to the rules, thinking that she has nothing to lose.
That is the start of The House at the End of Hope Street and while I may be, deep down, the most cynical person that I know, I was thoroughly charmed by van Praag’s book. The house gives subtle hints and objects to the residents in hopes of steering them in the right direction and we get to know all four of them well as the story develops.
Honestly, my hard heart is tempted to label this chick-lit (sorry if that offends you and it usually turns me off too), but it was…well….hopeful and while I doubt there is a magical house like that near where I live, I found myself longing for one. Having been through my own 100% life upheaval in the last year and a half, I could really relate to the residents emotions and their struggles between their hurt hearts and giving life another chance.
It might just be the personal timing, but this is one of my favs so far this year. It wasn’t life changing, but I no longer feel like the only one that is lost and it gave me some courage to keep at it.
The House at the End of Hope Street: A Novel by Menna Van Praag
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (March 25, 2014)
- ISBN-10: 0143124943
- ISBN-13: 978-0143124948