Today I am reviewing an audiobook version of a book I read in the digital form several years ago, The Hope Store by poet and playwright, Dwight Okita.
His debut novel, The Prospect of My Arrival, was one of the more absorbing sci-fi novels I’ve ever read. So, I was quite intrigued when he first published the The Hope Store.
And how amazing it was to discover that Dwight Okita himself has narrated the audiobook! Okita’s narration of The Hope Store is perfect, as is the music he has chosen for each chapter break, bringing this wonderful book to life. Wow, where to begin… I was up all night listening to this book.
But, as always, my reviews begin with THE BLURB:
Two Asian American men who are lovers, Luke and Kazu, discover a bold new procedure to import hope into the hopeless. They vow to open the world’s first Hope Store. Their slogan: “We don’t just instill hope. We install it.”
The media descend. Customer Jada Upshaw arrives at the store with a hidden agenda, but what happens next, no one could have predicted. Meanwhile, an activist group called The Natural Hopers emerges, warning that hope installations are a risky, Frankenstein-like procedure and vow to shut down the store. Luke comes to care about Jada, and marvels at her super-responder status.
But in dreams begin responsibilities, and unimaginable nightmares follow. If science can’t save Jada, can she save herself – or will she wind up as collateral damage?
I love Okita’s cerebral yet poetic prose. The narrative feels gentle and approachable, even when depicting the harsher realities of his world, and Okita’s voice is perfect for the tone of the book.
Set in a Chicago of the future, the story opens with Jada Upshaw, a memorable, multidimensional character. A well-educated woman, Jada is, at the outset, intent on killing herself. Her despair and confused emotional state are laid bare, shown with the delicacy and respect Okita brings to all his characters.
Luke Nagano describes himself as “a boy with a big heart but no idea where to put it.” This holds true throughout the entire novel, as Luke himself is the embodiment of hope. Of Japanese descent, Luke is a native of Chicago and is deeply rooted in Midwestern American culture. He is deeply in love with Kazu Mori, a rock-star scientist from Tsukuba, Japan. Luke’s thoroughly American blundering through life causes him to make occasional missteps, inadvertent cross-cultural clashes, which create tension. Kazu is forgiving but is wholly dedicated to his work. Their love/work relationship drives the plot, also creating tension.
The relationships and thoughts of both Jada and Luke are shown throughout the narrative. However, they still have secrets from the reader, keeping me turning the pages.
Okita shows the actual science behind the Hope installation with masterful strokes. Instead of devolving into a drawn-out explanation, he offers just enough information about the key elements, a framework for the reader to hang their imagination on.
Beyond the great characters and the futuristic setting is the deeper story.
Belief and disbelief, hope and the lack of it, the desire for it, and the lengths we will go to acquire it is what drives this tale. Intrigues, private agendas, and in some cases, desperation drive the story to a satisfying, logical, yet surprising finish.
I highly recommend the audio version of The Hope Store, as much as do the kindle and paper book. I found it cerebral, sexy, and thought-provoking, as all Okita’s work is. His narration takes this novel to a new level. If you are looking for a good winter’s read or an audiobook to take your mind off the end-of-the-year doldrums, this is one I can recommend with no reservations.
Definitely five stars.