HOPE by Rima Jbara


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A vain, self-obsessed woman toggles between morose navel-gazing and showy breakdowns in this dreary character study.

She’s 17, beautiful, and already briskly selling her paintings in galleries, but all is not idyllic in young Hope’s life. She has issues stemming from her father’s suicide when she was an infant. Then her mother drops dead and her boyfriend dumps her, and the resulting sleeping-pill habit segues into her first overdose. Hope’s main problem, though, is her raging narcissism. She vows to become a legendary painter who will “live forever in people’s minds,” writes a poem titled “I Just Want to Be Perfect,” and drops grandiose proclamations like “I belong to history” into everyday conversation. History duly embraces Hope as she becomes a famous artist who holds packed press conferences at every opening, yet happiness eludes her. Marriage to Jean-Luc, a much older gallery owner, gratifies her daddy complex but yields more pill-induced overdoses and miscarriages. Vaguely but eternally dissatisfied, Hope mopes in prose (“I feel bored with everything around me...there’s an emptiness in my heart”) and verse (“With all my strength / I’m perfectly sick / of this life”) The only thing that interests her is herself, a subject she explores in inner dialogues (i.e. “I’m not crazy.” “You are.” “I’m not.”) that go on for pages while poor Jean-Luc begs her to get out of the tub and come to dinner. The author is likewise infatuated with her protagonist’s soul; other characters exist only to praise Hope’s beauty and brilliance and take her to the emergency room to have her stomach pumped. Alas, neither Jbara’s lifeless prose nor her awkward poetry sparks much interest in Hope’s travails, or in her defiant egotism and oft-trumpeted artistic genius–which is further cast into doubt by her apartment’s all-purple color scheme.

Readers will find this story as empty as its heroine.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2006
ISBN: 978-1-4259-1900-6
Program: Kirkus Indie
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