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October 11, 2017

The Hope Store by Dwight Okita: #BookReview

by Alison DeLuca
cover of The Hope Store by Dwight Okita

The Hope Store
is another wonderful title from Dwight Okita. He's the author of The Prospect of My Arrival, one of my favorite soft-science fiction novels. Hope Store also showcases the spare, poetic prose I've come to expect from this author. Dwight is a poet and artist as well as a novelist, and these artistic sensibilities show in his books.

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With touches of fantasy and whimsy, Hope Store follows Jada Upshaw, a woman who has 'desina sperara': a condition that makes her hopeless and has driven her to consider suicide. Jada is literally 'hope-impaired.'

In order to help people like Jada, Luke Nagano and his husband, Kazu, have just opened a store to install hope.  Their motto is, "We don't just instill hope - we install it." This isn't as esoteric as it sounds: Okita has carefully created his own little universe in near-future Chicago.

All the best stories pose What If questions. In this case, Hope becomes something you can buy.

The Hope Store's logic sells the idea. Even as Luke and Kazu open their new business, they are mobbed by protestors who rename it The Hype Store. At the same time, Jada becomes the face of their campaign as a suicidal woman who has a new life.

Of course, everything comes with a price. Jada is thrust into celebrity status even as her happiness grows and intimacy with her boyfriend deepens. At the same time, Blair Matters, an expose reporter approaches her to research The Hope Store from the inside.

All of these plot arcs are handled expertly by Okita. The point of view switches from Jada to Luke, made clear by chapter headings and is very easy to follow. The writing is crystalline. However, there are hidden layers of emotion in deceptively simple scenes. I can see why there has been such a long wait between the author's titles: Hope, like Prospect, has been crafted into a masterpiece.

author headshot of Dwight Okita
Dwight Okita
Okita adds nuanced layers by confronting modern issues as he tells his story. Hope Store, while on the surface a book about a woman without hope, also confronts the nature of news and Big Pharma. Is creating news-for-news-sake ethical? And when do newscasters become new themselves?

And do modern medicines promise incredible results at the risk of life-changing effects?

I mentioned earlier that Okita is an artist. His book is filled with tiny touches: little stars, beautiful chapter headings - that add to the reader's enjoyment. Reading an Okita book is an experience.

Finally, the characters themselves spring to life in the very exciting story. Jada, Luke, Kazu, and even Blair Mathers (the journalist) are living, breathing people. They take you by the hand and pull you into their tiny, hopeful world.

Buy The Hope Store at Amazon

Alison Deluca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain. Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey. Connect with Alison on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest, and her blog.

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