Hope McDaniels is a 13-year-old magician’s assistant in her father’s vaudeville act in 1910. On the road since her mother died, Hope longs to be in a real house, preferably back in her hometown of Chicago. When her traveling show returns to Chicago for a few weeks, Hope decides to earn some extra money so that she can support her father and convince him to stay in the city and quit his job (or get fired; she doesn’t care which). Hope soon notices that the people of Chicago are panicked about Earth passing through Halley’s Comet (which happens every 75 years or so) and decides to sell anti-comet pills to the people—whom she calls “Coins” since she just sees them as a source of profit. She hooks up with 15- year- old Buster Keaton (a real person! He was a hugely popular silent movie era star famous for his physical comedy) who helps her sell the pills to the gullible hysterical masses who think the world is about to end.
It sounds like Hope is a terrible person, taking advantage of people’s fears, but that is really the heart of the book. Is she stealing their money? Or offering them comfort and, well, hope? She struggles with this question herself, as well as wondering about her love for her father, missing her mother, and exploring this new-found friendship with Buster.
Selling Hope has many memorable and fun characters—several of them, like Buster Keaton, were real people in the vaudeville world—and Hope has many silly one-liners that provide a good laugh in this often serious book. For those interested in more about Buster Keaton and his antics, consider attending the PRPL Legends of Laughter series, starting March 10. More information can be found at the Legends of Laughter website.
Posted by: Cindy