Surprise. Intensity, Humor. Sadness. Trauma. Obsession. You will find all of these elements in Tracy O’Neill’s new book, The Hopeful. This is a story of Alivopro (Ali) Doyle, a sixteen-year old with one dream: to be a figure skater and go to the Olympics. With the help of her father, she works night and day, almost to the point of obsession, to make this dream a reality. But then Ali has a life-changing fall and fractures two vertebrae, crushing her dreams and, in her mind, her life goal.
Ali’s life continues to spiral as she deals with an unusual family life, blackmailing her mother because of her knowledge of the mother’s affair, using and abusing the painkillers prescribed after her fall which leads to her addiction, and then being admitted to an institution. The book is written through the viewpoint of Ali talking to a therapist and looking at her life through their conversations.
When it is revealed that Ali is adopted, the level of drama and intensity of her story is magnified. She has had no contact with her birth parents, but then she gets a phone call from her birth mother. The mother wants to form a relationship with her. But will Ali want that contact and relationship after sixteen years?
Even after her injury, Ali is still obsessed with becoming a figure skater. That obsession leads to her obsession with obtaining painkillers and to an obsession of working out incessantly, of staying in shape and losing weight. Ali holds onto her dream, even though she knows that it will never happen because of her injury.
The book is appropriately divided into “sessions” instead of chapters. This works well, as the story is based primarily on Ali’s conversations/sessions with her therapist. Some of the sessions are about her relationship with her parents, her obsession with watching figure skating world championships, her feelings of letting her parents down by not accomplishing her dream, and discovering an identity outside of figure skating.
“The Hopeful” is a wonderful novel that keeps your attention from page one. It is a very insightful book that examines the importance of identity and forces you to think and examine your own life.