My name is Hope Arden, and you won't know who I am. But we've met before....
It started when I was 16 years old. A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A friend who looks at me and sees a stranger.
No matter what I do, the words I say, the crimes I commit, you will never remember who I am.
That makes my life difficult. It also makes me dangerous.
The Sudden Appearance of Hope is an unforgettable tale of one woman's quest for identity.
"[Narrator] Gillian Burke's performance is unforgettable. It's smooth, polished, and oh so graceful.... Burke's performance is as addictive as the story itself." (AudioFile)
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Thought-provoking, heartbreaking, memorable
I haven't read it in print, but the narrator was excellent and many internal dialogs seem like the kind of material that works better spoken then read.
Hope sitting outside of her parents' house and looking in, running through how she could interact with her mother, yet knowing they would not remember her, was incredibly sad. On the flip side, it was bittersweet to realize that her younger sister (who had a mental disability) could remember her and when they reconnect later in the book, you feel a sliver of hope for human connection.
I found this book engrossing almost immediately. Claire North has a knack for giving her characters depth and feeling and normalcy, while simultaneously providing them one isolating and inalienable oddity that makes them other and apart from the rest of humanity. The peculiarity of the protagonist of the book, the eponymous Hope, is that she is not memorable. On first glance, this seems a minor thing - but this does not mean she is ordinary or has a common face or just isn't all that interesting. It means, as she approached her 16th birthday, people who had known her all her life, slowly began to forget her. Forget she was in the room, forget she was in the house, forget she went to your school, and eventually, entirely forgot who she was. She would flit away from one's short term memory and never imprint on one's long term memory. Her mother and father forgot who she was. And what seems a simple conceit - a main character who people can't remember - becomes a central pivot to explore loneliness and relationships and society and what it means to be human. If no one remembers you, you can't hold down a normal job or get regular care at a hospital, you can't date or make friends, you are forever an unknown quantity and unmoored to your surroundings. In response to this inability to attach to anyone, Hope becomes an accomplished thief (usually of jewels) and makes her way in the world, filling the spaces where human interaction would be with knowledge and trying to stay connected to sanity through discipline and professionalism.
North takes this epic plot twist, this woman who technology remembers (CCTV, online chats, etc.) but everyone else forgets, and adds in another character, albeit one that is purely technology. The book pairs Hope's daily life with a larger plot involving an app called Perfection. Perfection offers its namesake to users - points add up for good choices, subtracted for bad, coupons and invitations to services and events that make you more perfect. Through this app, the author is able to explore many issues coming to a head in society (the intrusiveness of technology, the striving for impossible looks, the push to assimilate, the shallowness of thought, the annihilation of individuality, the trading of privacy for convenience). The central story and action that unwinds throughout the book is triggered by Hope stealing the sourcecode for the app, followed by the exploration of whether the app's algorithm for perfection is vile and destructive, what lengths another character will go to in order to destroy it, and whether the app (and treatments it suggests) could make Hope memorable.
In the end, the blend of ideas and characters, along with plenty of action and pathos, made the book difficult to put down. Highly recommended for people who like their heroines with a quirk, the technology with a grain of salt, and their morality in a gray area.
- S. Yates