In the little North Carolina town of Hope Springs, the Sanders family is gathering for Christmas at the home of their matriarch, Grandma Jeri, for a reunion. Granddaughter Stephanie is attending with her physician husband, Lindell. Stephanie feels guilty that she has missed family reunions and has failed to really get to know her grandmother, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to back out at the last moment. Fortunately, her husband Lindell prevails and Stephanie ends up being very glad that she made the trip.
Also in attendance is Janelle, along with her young son and daughter. Janelle has been widowed for a couple of years, but still terribly misses her husband, David, as do the children. The reunion brings her face to face with old flame Kory, but Janelle knows he is married and has a young daughter.
Free-spirited Libby, an event planner, also arrives with Al, her latest boyfriend. Although her relatives are impressed with Al and it is clear that he cares for Libby, she emphasizes that she has no intention of entering into a committed relationship — with Al or any other man. Besides, the reunion brings her back together with Travis, the pastor of her family’s congregation, who is also still single.
And the sudden death of Pastor Jim Dillon, Grandma Jeri’s long-time next-door neighbor, brings his son, Todd, and daughter-in-law Becca, along with their boy and girl, to town for the funeral. Todd is a part-time pastor, but he does not preach. Meanwhile, Becca has just joined a popular traveling ministry geared toward women. The opportunity has catapulted her own ministry into high gear and landed her a book deal.
News about Grandma Jeri rattles the whole family and sets in motion a series of events that change all of their lives, while proving that the old adage is true: hope does indeed spring eternal, especially for the faithful.
Hope Springs is the story of the Sanders family and their relationships with each other, as well as with their friends and neighbors in quintessential small-town America. Like any family, they are close-knit and loving, but also have disagreements. They experience grief and loss, as well as tremendous joy. Also like any family, they have secrets.
Author Kim Cash Tate centers the story around eighty-six-year-old Grandma Jeri. It is at her home where the Sanders gather as they have been doing for more than forty years. And it is in that very home, next door to the Dillons, that things took place many years ago about which Grandma Jeri has not spoken with any of her sons, daughters or grandchildren for a very long time, if ever. Grandma Jeri is a woman of deep faith and conviction who has always done her best to raise her family in accordance with Scripture, while serving as a role model. But Grandma Jeri, beloved by everyone in Hope Springs, is not perfect. And that, after all, is the point.
Grandma Jeri, elderly and ailing, is not proud of how she has handled one family situation in particular. And she would like to have peace, clarity, and reconciliation before her earthly life draws to a close. But reconciliation is a two-way proposition. Will the Sanders family be fully reunited by the time Grandma Jeri takes her final breath? More importantly, what will Grandma Jeri’s legacy be, in light of the revelations about the past? And how will the outcome impact the rest of the family?
In addition to exploring that major theme, Tate also brings several other characters face to face with their pasts, causing them to reevaluate their feelings, choices, and relationships. In particular, Janelle, lonely without her deceased husband, sees her first love, Kory, for the first time in many years. But Kory’s personal life is in turmoil. His wife left him for another man, abandoning their young daughter, as well. Kory is still reeling as he acknowledges his unresolved feelings for Janelle. They may have a future together if and when Kory is unmarried. Janelle’s faith is tested and she learns to be careful what she prays for.
Becca and Todd face their own challenges. Just as Becca’s professional future looks brighter than ever, Todd is called to take over his father’s ministry in Hope Springs and they must prayerfully discern where they are being led. Sometimes the slamming of a door is a bitter reality, at least until one feels fresh air wafting through the window that simultaneously opened. Upheaval brings valuable lessons about discipleship.
Stephanie feels pulled to Hope Springs as a result of a recent sermon she heard about what it really means to be a servant. She believes that she has been sent to servant “boot camp,” but is a willing, if somewhat befuddled, recruit. She soon settles into her new role, however, and the rewards are tremendous.
Each character in the story faces crises of varying proportions and none remains unchanged by the book’s conclusion. Tate effortlessly shifts the focus without losing sight of the ties that bind them all together, sustaining reader interest in the book’s overarching theme of redemption, forgiveness, and accord. In the hands of a less skillful writer, the numerous separate storylines could easily have become disjointed and confusing, but Tate manages to intersect the lives of the characters in ways that heighten reader interest in the myriad complications. Tate even broaches the issue of diversity and racial tensions in the south when women from the two neighboring congregations — one black, one white — come together for weekly Bible study. They inspire the two male pastors, Travis and Todd, to explore ways to bring their parishioners together on a formal basis without merging the two churches or fully surrendering their unique identities and heritage. Hope Springs is replete with references to spirituality, as each character is motivated by and steeped in their Christian faith. Not all of the characters’ stories are fully resolved which is a good thing because that means readers can look forward to future visits with the Sanders family and other residents of the delightful little town of Hope Springs.