Hope in Patience by Beth Fehlbaum

Bibliographic Information: Fehlbaum, B. (2010). Hope in Patience. Lodi, NJ: WestSide Books.  ISBN: 1934813419. 312 pages.

Plot Summary: Fifteen-year-old Ashley Asher suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  She lives with her father, David, stepmother, Bev, and little brother Ben in Patience Texas.  Before she came to Patience she lived with her mother Cheryl and stepfather Charlie in LaSalle, Texas, a couple of hours from Patience.  It was at the house in LaSalle that Ashley was subjected to repeated sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather.  Adding to her trauma was the fact that her mother did not protect her from Charlie’s abuse, even once Ashley bravely told her mother about it.  Eventually, Ashley told a trusted friend and then a teacher and then Child Protective Services got involved and Ashley came to live with her father, a man she never knew.  Ashley’s father’s family welcomed Ashley into the family with open arms, but she was not someone who could easily trust people.  As she tries to piece her life back together, with the help of her new family’s love, a no nonsense therapist, and a few close friends, Ashley realizes that she cannot ignore nor escape her past, as much as she so desperately wants to.   She fights each day against her PTSD, the trauma can get triggered at any time, and resists her inclination toward self-mutilation.  Ashley is a survivor, she’s already survived so much, but can she pull herself out of her numbness, out of the closet she has literally and figuratively been crouching in for years?  Can she learn to trust and love again?

Critical Evaluation: Hope in Patience is at once gripping and moving, disturbing and heart-wrenching.  Ashley has endured an astonishing amount of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and cruel neglect in her short life.  As Fehlbaum’s writing presents an honest, clearly authentic voice for Ashley, readers are left devastated at what she has been through.  Her reactions to the abuse she has suffered, even when safe and away from her abuser, gives readers a look at the depth of destruction the abuse has caused.  Readers who have been sexually abused may find solace in Ashley’s story, in the speaking of the truth, the “hope” in Patience.  It would be hard to find any reader who was not able to empathize and root for Ashley.  But, make no mistake, It is difficult to read this book.  And important.  It is also important that stories, like Ashley’s, get told.

Reader’s Annotation: When Ashley moves away from her abusive stepfather and negligent mother, she moves in with her father and his family and must rebuild her life from the inside out.

Information about the Author: Beth Fehlbaum was born in Dallas, Texas and currently lives in East Texas with her husband, who was her high school sweetheart.  Beth and her husband have three grown daughters.  Hope in Patience is the second book in a three-book, “Patience” series, the first is Courage in Patience and the last is Truth in Patience.  In addition to being a writer of the “Patience” trilogy Fehlbaum is a teacher who, like Ashley’s stepmother Bev, is passionate about, “teaching, social justice, and insisting upon authenticity in the classroom,” (Fehlbaum, 2011).   Beth’s writing about Ashley’s abuse and its aftermath was inspired by her “own recovery from childhood sexual abuse,(Fehlbaum, 2011), and this story opens a window into that dark world.  But this is also a story about overcoming obstacles, and accepting who you are, and courage.  “Ashley’s story is anyone’s story– anyone who has ever overcome what they thought they never could; anyone who has ever known what it is to want to be loved and accepted as-is,” (Fehlbaum, 2011).

Genre: Issues, Realistic Fiction

Subgenres/Themes: Issues: Life Is Hard: Sexual Abuse

Topics Covered: Sexual Abuse, Family, Friendship, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Self Mutilation

Curriculum Ties: Health Education, Family, Sexual Abuse.  A Teacher’s guide to Hope in Patience, created by the author, can be found here.

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Read a couple of paragraphs from the first few pages of the book
  • Talk about mothers, what mothers are “supposed” to do compared to what Ashley’s mother was like.
  • Talk about post traumatic stress disorder, starting with soldiers coming home from war and how some people get PTSD from events in their own homes.

Reading Level/Interest Age: 15-19 years

Challenge Issues: This book contains multiple graphic references to sexual abuse.  It also contains cursing and has a lesbian character.  In response to any challenges, there are several positive reviews of the book, for example, Booklist, School Library Journal and YALSA all reviewed the book favorably.  YALSA named Hope in Patience a 2011 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.  The book deals with real topics that are difficult for many people to think about, let alone explore in depth, but that is exactly why this book is important to have available.

Why is this book included? Fehlbaum has managed to put together beautiful, honest writing with a compelling, rich story about a topic so disturbing the main character often tries to hide from it.  This book is an important part of a teen collection for many reasons.  It could be therapeutic for survivors of abuse to read.  It speaks out loud about things that happen, but are often hidden and should be brought to light.  Hope in Patience, at its core, tells a story of a young woman who has to dig down deep and find the strength and courage to live and be happy, and we all can learn from that.

References:

Fehlbaum, B. (2011). Bio. Retrieved from www.bethfehlbaumya.com/bio.htm

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