A Place Called Hope by Philip Gulley {Book Review}

Hope Series, Book 1

When Quaker Pastor Sam Gardner is asked by the ill Unitarian minister to oversee a wedding in his place, Sam naturally agrees. It's not until the couple stand before him that he realizes change has come to Harmony. The wedding stirs up a tempest of strong opinions and misunderstandings, and Sam soon finds himself facing possible unemployment.

Deeply discouraged, he wonders if his pastoral usefulness has come to an end. Perhaps it's time for a change. His wife has found a new job at the library, his elder son is off to college, and the younger has decided to join the military once he graduates high school. Sam contemplates a future selling used cars, until he receives a call from a woman in the suburban town of Hope, Indiana. It seems Hope Friends Meeting is in desperate need of a pastor. Though they have only twelve members, they also have a beautiful meetinghouse and a pie committee. Sam is quite fond of pie. But can he really leave his beloved hometown of Harmony?

My Thoughts

After reading A Place Called Hope I found myself longing for the simplicity of the original Harmony series. I fell in love with the quirky characters that felt very familiar to me. I'm pretty sure every congregation has a member like Dale Hinshaw who always comes up with wacko ideas like Scripture eggs. Thankfully there is usually a Miriam Hodge to balance out the craziness. 

Dale, Miriam, Fern, and the rest of the gang return in this series. And in fact it starts out pretty funny but quickly takes a turn that it didn't come out of until the very end. I'm pretty sure that Mr. Gulley expected the reader to sympathize with the dilemma that Sam found himself in the midst of but I just didn't. In fact it was Sam that I was the most disappointed in. 

So, am I ready to write off the rest of the series? No, for two reasons. The first is because I already have a copy of the second book. The second reason is I'm hopeful about the new community that Sam and Barbara have moved to. We've already been introduced to some very interesting characters and I'm looking forward to getting to know them better. It's also my hope that we'll still get to check in with the people at Harmony Friends Meeting now and again. 

My recommendation would be to read at your own discretion knowing that it is going to be a bit preachy about being accepting of gay marriage. If you can look past that and just enjoy catching up with some beloved characters then you should be able to at least partly enjoy the book.

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