We're pleased to bring back our first Go-to-Gay, Wade Rouse, to celebrate the publication of his latest novel, The Hope Chest, written under the pen name Viola Shipman as a tribute to his grandmother, whose heirlooms inspired him to write it, along with his debut novel, The Charm Bracelet. Today, he's taking us back in time to the musicals his grandmothers loved. Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have TWO copies of The Hope Chest to give away!
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The discovery of one woman’s heirloom hope chest unveils precious memories and helps three people who have each lost a part of themselves find joy once again.
Ever since she was diagnosed with ALS, fiercely independent Mattie doesn’t feel like herself. She can’t navigate her beloved home, she can’t go for a boat ride, and she can barely even feed herself. Her devoted husband, Don, doesn’t want to imagine life without his wife of nearly fifty years, but Mattie isn’t likely to make it past their anniversary.
But when Rose, Mattie’s new caretaker, and her young daughter, Jeri, enter the couple’s life, happiness and the possibility for new memories return. Together they form a family, and Mattie is finally able to pass on her memories from the hope chest she received from her mother.
With each item―including a favorite doll, family dishes, an embroidered apron, and an antique Christmas ornament―the hope chest connects Mattie, Don and Rose to each other and helps them find hope again in the face of overwhelming life challenges.
A beautiful story about the unconditional love and support of family, The Hope Chest by Viola Shipman will remind you that hope can be found where and when you least expect it.
“Hope Sounds Like Judy Garland”
The first musical I remember watching as a child with my grandmothers was The Wizard of Oz. It didn’t turn out so well. The flying monkeys scared me so badly that I covered my eyes, screamed and finally went running out of the TV room to bury my head under the covers in my bedroom.
That didn’t deter my grandmothers from making me watch movies with music (Fantasia went much more smoothly) or further indoctrinating me to Judy Garland.
This time, I didn’t cover my eyes, scream or run out of the room. I sat up a little straighter and smiled. When Judy and Fred Astaire sang “A Couple of Swells,” I remember getting up and taking a seat right in front of the TV, mesmerized, watching them dance in a fantasy world as make-believe characters.
That started a tradition: Whenever a movie musical was on, my grandmothers would call me, and we’d plan a night together, just the three of us, and our imaginations.
We watched more than Judy, of course – Oklahoma, Auntie Mame, The Sound of Music – but Judy’s musicals remained our favorites. Whenever one of her movies was shown on TV, or featured at the local, old-time theatre, we would watch or go, the three of us.
I asked my grandmas once why they loved musicals so much. My Grandma Shipman took my hand in hers and said, “They’re like living a dream. The actors sing everything we think in our heads and feel in our hearts but that we are never able to demonstrate in real life.”
“And why do you love Judy Garland so much?”
“If hope had a voice, it would be Judy’s,” she said.
I use her quote in my new novel, The Hope Chest. In fact, one of the chapters in the book centers around an old Judy Garland ticket stub that is found in the long-forgotten hope chest of the main character, Mattie, a woman in the final stages of ALS. Mattie grew up loving Judy Garland (and living in St. Louis), and she passes along her love for the star and of movie musicals to her caregiver, Rose, and Rose’s young daughter, Jeri (who is named after my own mother).
Like my debut novel, The Charm Bracelet, The Hope Chest is inspired not only by my grandmas’ heirlooms but also by their lives, lessons and love. It was their belief in me and sacrifices for our family that changed the course of our lives and allowed me to be who I am today. Viola Shipman – the pen name I use for my fiction – is my maternal grandmother’s name, and I chose it to pay tribute to my grandmothers as well as all of our elders, whose voices, stories and sacrifices are too often overlooked today.
I had been where Emma Stone’s character had been many times in my career, on the verge of quitting, of thinking that my dreams of being a writer were simply pipe dreams. But something deep inside me always urged me on, sang to me, like my grandmas did when we watched musicals together.
It was fierce determination and a bit of madness, of course, but most of all it was hope. Hope that I could make the world feel, think, see just a little bit differently from my words.
In the end, hope sang to me, so loudly it won out.
And it sounded just like Judy Garland’s voice.
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Giveaway ends March 26th at midnight EST.