Hope Arden, the protagonist of The Sudden Appearance of Hope is forgettable. Not in an allegorical, character-defining way but literally.
It all started when Hope was sixteen: her parents setting up a table for three and not four then looking surprised when she suddenly appears. Friends who didn’t recognize her, and teachers who were just oblivious to her presence in their classes. Imagine being forgotten by those you love the most. Imagine the hurt and the fear as it escalates: you sit down at a restaurant and the waiter forgets your order. You get hurt and end up in a hospital where you wait and wait and no one remembers to come and redress your wound after that first rush of emergency.
All it takes is sixty seconds without resting eyes on her and Hope is gone like she was never there. People hold no memory of their encounter, and every time they meet her it’s like it’s for the first time.
A life lived like that is one of moments and short-lived interactions. No long-lasting friendships or lovers, no possibility of holding down a regular job. Likewise: no repercussions. Thus, Hope becomes an international thief, lost in the thrill, enjoying the moment, living off the darknet.
This is her story, written down by Hope herself so that we can remember her. A glitch in the system that governs her mysterious condition allows for anything written about her—or any electronic footprint to remain—to be remembered even if it’s not possible to know who exactly they are remembering.
It’s complicated, but somehow, Claire North makes it all work.
The Sudden Appearance of Hope is equal parts the story of Perfection. Perfection is an app created by two siblings—one of them a scientist with noble intentions and the other, a business-oriented profiteer. Together they create the perfect tool to make perfect people. At all costs.
Perfection and Hope cross paths when someone Hope admired kills herself because she couldn’t achieve perfection. What is perfection? Perfection according to whom? Hope asks. The questioning and the search for answers is part and parcel of the story.
But also: If Hope ever achieves perfection or receives its capital T Treatments, could she, will she, be remembered?
It’s intricate, but somehow, once again Claire North makes it all work.
From the thrill of trying to understand what makes Hope tick to following the story of Perfection; from seeing Hope forming bonds with former foes-turned-allies (every time they see her, it is back to the beginning, but recordings of their conversations helps, as do other memory tools) in their path of righteousness (or is it).
The strength of this novel lies not only with its conceit but also in the way that the narrative itself works as a remembrance tool for Hope: She puts to paper all that she is, for us readers are the only ones that can retain the memory of her long enough to get to truly get to know her. In getting to know her, we relate and sympathize but we also question, and we double back multiple times just as the character herself does in the recounting.
The only way that this misfires is in the way that it makes for what it feels like a repetitious and therefore overlong novel. Because repetition is often one of the ways that Hope has to think of herself as a living, breathing person that actually exists in the world, and she is often caught in a black hole of self-repeated mantras. But in spite of that, the novel is still a fantastic read featuring a unique protagonist with a unique problem—and this is definitely worth remembering.
In Booksmugglerish: 8 out of 10