“Hope in a Jar” by Beth Harbison follows two women, Allie and Olivia, over the span of their friendship as kids, and into their adult lives. Early on we learn that these friends drifted apart after something cataclysmic occurred, but we are left wondering what that was. “She only remembered it as the night that changed the rest of her life. The night she learned that she was made of weak stuff and needed to live her life as safely as possible because she didn’t have the strength to go out and take on the world by herself.” (Hope in a Jar, pg 276). They reconnect after years during a high school reunion, which neither of them was planning on attending. I thought this novel was a serendipitous choice. I was unaware of there being a reunion in the book before I picked it up, but my own ten-year high school reunion is coming up in just a few weeks. I have high hopes that it goes better for me in real life than it did for the characters in “Hope in a Jar,” but we will just have to wait and see on that one.
When we meet Allie and Olivia as kids we learn that Olivia does not have a happy home life like Allie does and therefore she spends most of her time at Allie’s home. I felt that Harbison was able to capture the interactions of two teen girls very well, from talking about boys they like, to discussing the class mean girl, I was continually entertained. The jump between the two characters and the two timelines was definitely interesting. There were times when you were completely absorbed in what was going to happen in the past and then you found yourself catapulted into the adult lives of Allie and Olivia. It made for some interesting reading.
The biggest issue I had with this book was that it felt like the author spent a lot of time building up backstory around the main characters, and not a lot of time connecting part one to part two. There was also minimal development on other characters in the book. It seemed like she wrote the ending first and then had to backpedal to create enough content for a book. The way that the story ended was too neat, and a bit anticlimactic after all the build up throughout the book.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, it was a fun read. Beth Harbison’s books are definitely directed towards a female audience and this is not the kind of book that I would say could appeal to men as well, “Hope in a Jar” is right in that ‘chic-lit’ genre. It’s very light reading although there are some heavier issues that are addressed. It’s entertaining, but a book that I probably will not pick up again. I will continue to read anything else that Haribson writes. Her books are without fail entertaining, and something I can get lost in for a bit.