Neva Shilling has no idea how her life will change one night as she is preparing dinner for her family: her twins, Bud and Belle, and her traveling salesman husband, Warren. Instead of a joyful family reunion of Warren’s return, Neva is greeted by the sheriff of the town where Warren was doing business. In his wagon, the sheriff carries furniture and three small children, along with bad news of Warren’s death. To make things worse, the children are his from his marriage to another woman, and since both of them have died, he asks that Neva care for his illegitimate children. Rather than seeing the three children put in an orphanage as she once was, she takes them in and tells her own children that they are orphans who will be living in their home as part of their father’s dying wish. Jesse Caudell, the sheriff, realizes something is up, though, when the children say that their father’s name is Warren Shilling, the same name that Neva acknowledges is her deceased husband’s name.
Now Neva has to explain to her own children not only that their father has died, but that she is caring for three orphans that he wanted to take in without mentioning that they are also Warren’s children. The townspeople at first are kind and sympathetic towards Neva, but as it becomes clear that something about the three new children isn’t right, they treat her as though she has done something worthy of an excommunication. Bud and Belle’s former friends now tease them and pick fights, and the school children treat Warren’s other children like outcasts. The pastor and Jesse support Neva and help her through her trials, and it appears that Neva’s business rival, Arthur Randall has turned over a new leaf and wants to help her. Jesse even takes time to act as a big brother to both Bud and Charley, Warren’s other son, when everyone is so cruel to them.
While devastating, the subject of this book is also interesting and provides a unique perspective into the mess and destruction that unfaithfulness brings into people’s lives. Neva has every right to be angry and hurt by what Warren has done to her, but she has to keep her feelings in check for the benefit of the children in her care. She also has to realize that if she is going to keep these three illegitimate children, she needs to care for them as well as take care for them. It’s a hard thing to accept at first, but then she realizes through prayer and discussion with the pastor that the children are just as betrayed as she is. When all of the children do eventually find out the truth of Warren’s actions, Neva musters enough grace to explain the situation without making the children hate their father. She relies on her faith and on the compassion of a few close friends to create a new life for herself that includes five children but no husband in a manner that shows dignity and inner strength. Through all this, she maintains her faith and her hope that things will work out for her in the end.
Room for Hope does not contain anything that would be objectionable; it does not contain profanity, sexual situations, or violence other than a couple of schoolyard fights. I highly recommend this book to people who like to read about the early 1900s in America or to those who want to read and learn about a person overcoming betrayal to live a life of grace and charity.
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