Hope in a Jar
by Beth Harbison
St. Martin’s Griffin, 368 pages
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When I saw Beth Harbison’s novel Hope in a Jar staring at me from the summer reading table at the bookstore, I didn’t connect the title with the Philosophy product at all, mainly because I haven’t used Philosophy in over a decade. I’m an Aveda girl, for the most part, although I’ve been branching out a little lately.
Just a few chapters into the sometimes fluffy, sometimes deadly serious story about Allie and Olivia – childhood best friends who part ways over a dark rumor only to reconnect at their 20-year high school reunion – I realized that this writer was my contemporary in more ways than one, and not just because of the dialogue that covered everything from fat burners that really work to which flavor of Lip Smackers is the coolest (I liked root beer, personally), but because I actually recognized every single pop-culture reference in her story.
There’s comfort in the familiar, which is why even though the plot was fairly predictable, I enjoyed this novel immensely. Books don’t always have to have a lofty purpose, or educate a starving mind. Sometimes, it’s okay to read for the sheer pleasure of being entertained, and Harbison excels at entertaining. Sure, I figured out the ending way before the end of the book, but I still enjoyed watching the characters get there, because the dialogue was spot on, the relationships made sense, and the descriptions were so vivid (as vivid as many of the outfits we all wore as children in the 1970s and 1980s) that it was almost like attending my own 20-year high school reunion, without any of the attendant angst.
Hope in a Jar made me laugh out loud, a lot, and sometimes, that’s what a book SHOULD do. I haven’t read any of Harbison’s other work, but I know that when I do, I’ll enjoy it immensely.
Goes well with: Steak-ums sandwiches and cold Tab