Growing up in Switzerland, Marta’s father is not only strict, he is also unfair and even abusive to Marta. Her beautiful sister Elise receives much better treatment as her health is fragile. Marta, the not-as-lovely elder sister is made to work and work hard. Although at the top of her class, Marta is taken out of school to work in a bakery and a hotel. Her mother encourages her to ‘follow her dream’ and escape her home life and the story takes Marta from housekeeping school to working in restaurants and boarding houses until she finally saves enough and becomes owner of her own boarding house. After Marta marries Niclas, a German (Marta speaks four languages), they eventually emigrate to Canada.
“Now, clutching the rail, Marta prayed God would keep her on her feet and keep what little food she’d eaten in her stomach. Please, Lord Jesus, bring us safely across the Atlantic.
She cast any thought of ever getting on another ship into the undulating sea. She would never see Switzerland again.’’
Marta hates the bleak, cold Canadian winters on the prairie but her husband’s dream is to be a farmer. “Could she live in the plains of Manitoba with winters forty below zero and summers of melting heat? Could she live out in the middle of nowhere, the closest neighbor a mile away and half a day’s ride for supplies in some small farm town? And how could a man who had gone to the university in Berlin be satisfied plowing fields?”
When her daughter Hildemara is born, Marta is determined to not allow Hilda to make the same tragic mistakes her sister Elise made and thus the miscommunications begin.
“Her Mother’s Hope” is a generational story based upon the author’s own background. Cutting across two world wars, we follow Niclas and Marta from Canada to life in California and the long journey to financial security.
In writing a fictional family story, the author attempts to correct the suppositions that we all make with one another and encourage open lines of communication. The author writes: “I am blessed to have many wonderful family memories… I knew there were times of stress and tension between my parents and Grandma, but all families have them. Most work through them. Sometimes minor disagreements can escalate when things aren’t resolved. No one but God can see into the human heart.”
It is possible that what Francine Rivers is trying to teach us in this novel might be that, with all of our gains, we are still the losers, if we cannot communicate our love and acceptance of our own children. Francine has written about some difficult circumstances in this partly-biographical novel. It kept me engaged and interested well into the night and even though a hefty tome (almost 500 pages!) I can’t wait to start the next one in the series.