by Kathie Giorgio. Black Rose Writing, 2023.
Review by Carole Mertz
When my copy of Giorgio’s novel arrived, I rushed to open it with eager anticipation. I soon discovered how powerfully and effectively Hope Always Rises delivers its theme of God’s tolerance toward His creatures. Though not a theological book, Giorgio’s novel brings readers into reflection on what heaven might be like and why God is so ready to forgive even those who choose to take their own lives.
In her inimitable way, Giorgio paints a picture of God so benevolently and intimately involved with His suffering people that it is almost earthshaking. (Or would that be “heavenshaking”?) When her chief character, Hope, finds herself in heaven, she asks, “Why am I here? Didn’t I do something wrong?”
Yet there sits God, helping her to acclimate to her new home. He reassures Hope He will sit and chat with her whenever she needs His help. Hope also learns about a requirement for residents in this section of heaven reserved for those who have chosen to die: they must attend weekly group therapy sessions. Hope has qualms about this but faces her first sessions with the support of her new acquaintance, Faith.
We meet Virginia Woolf, who is leader for Hope’s therapy group. Giorgio treats Woolf respectfully while simultaneously letting her comedic side ascribe amusing moments to Woolf, such as when Woolf searches for just the right word as she greets new members.
Several of Giorgio’s characters receive their own chapters. These are handled with utmost care and striking clarity, some of them having appeared as literary journal entries prior to thepublication of Hope Always Rises. Despite the extremely serious quality of the varied life (and death) situations, Giorgio offsets their severity with her light touch and through her deliberate use of authorial balance. For example, after presenting the history of Faith’s escape from her abusive husband, Giorgio shows Faith and Hope enjoying a yoga class, followed by a burger and a malt. (In Giorgio’s heaven, one can eat any foods desired, and none are harmful to health.) Readers will have to restrain from imbibing too many chocolate-covered muffins accompanied by Double-Dutch Lattes Supreme as they progress toward Giorgio’s final chapters, ever curious about how Hope’s family life on earth, and in heaven, will resolve. In addition to lattes, Giorgio even lets us enjoy a happy ending to this often heart-wrenching novel.
In one passage Hope wants to thank God for the spaghetti dinner He has prepared for her, replete with peach pie. She thanks Him even knowing everyone here has been treated as well as she has been. God replies, “I’m glad to hear it. I worry about that sometimes; trying to keep Heaven uplifted isn’t easy, especially as it’s grown larger and larger. But just because it’s Heaven doesn’t mean we haven’t followed along with Earth’s technology. We have computers here now, and algorithms that match everyone’s needs up with others that will help meet these needs, and vice versa.” He sighed. “I don’t think I could keep up otherwise. It used to be a lot simpler.”
Though the truest definition of heaven can never be fully depicted by an earthly author, and though your concept of God and heaven may differ from Giorgio’s, it likely will not diminish your respect for Giorgio’s fine writing style, her somewhat whimsical treatment of a very serious topic, and her rich imagination, all of which thrive in Hope Always Rises.
Carole Mertz, author of the poetry chapbook Toward a Peeping Sunrise (2019) and her full-length poetry collection Color and Line (Kelsay Books, 2021), enjoys reviewing for Dreamers Creative Writing, Main Street Rag, Portage Magazine, River Teeth, and elsewhere. She resides with her husband in Parma, Ohio.