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A Read with Jenna Bonus Selection

An “immersive…illuminating” (Booklist) and life-affirming novel following the residents of an idyllic Connecticut town over the course of a year, A Little Hope explores the intertwining lives of a dozen neighbors as they confront everyday desires and fears: a lost love, a stalled career, an illness, and a betrayal.

Freddie and Greg Tyler seem to have it all: a comfortable home, a beautiful young daughter, a bond that feels unbreakable. But when Greg is diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer, the sense of certainty they once knew evaporates. Throughout their town, friends and neighbors face the most difficult of life’s challenges and are figuring out how to survive thanks to love, grace, and hope.

“A quietly powerful portrait of small-town life…told with wisdom and tenderness” (Mary Beth Keane, author of Ask Again, Yes) A Little Hope is a deeply resonant debut that immerses the reader in a community and celebrates the importance of small moments of connection.

This reading group guide for A LITTLE HOPE includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Greg Tyler has a successful career, a loving wife and daughter, and a dizzying cancer diagnosis that has him asking himself hard questions. From there, A Little Hope sprawls out through the Tyler’s network of friends and neighbors, and each character finds they are far from alone in experiencing pain, loss, and fear.

A Little Hope is a deeply affecting debut novel about the personal struggles of friends and family living in a Connecticut town. It is a story that celebrates the power of small but genuine interactions in the face of challenging times.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Greg confronts his diagnosis in a head-on, almost aggressive way. What do you make of his emotional response?

2. Do you or have you lived in a small town? What is your network of friends and family like? How does your own compare to that of the characters?

3. Consider Ahmed and Damon’s friendship. How do you think their relationship compares to most male friendships? What does their dynamic add to the novel?

4. When Alex and Kay tell Greg and Freddie about Alex’s daughter, Freddie reflects she could forgive Greg for anything, “if it meant they could get to Alex and Kay’s age.” Each relationship informs others throughout the novel. What can be learned from having a variety of perspectives at different stages of life?

5. Missed or lost connections are an important theme throughout A Little Hope. Consider what could have been for some of these characters if things had been slightly different. How do they cope with the reality of their situations?

6. Several difficult conversations take place throughout the book. Pick a conversation that resonated most with you. Do you feel sympathy for one character over the other, or is it not so clear-cut?

7. Some characters are dealing with fresh grief while others are managing grief from events years prior. How do people process grief differently? What does the novel suggest about mourning?

8. Toward the end of the book, Darcy, Luke’s mother, buys her granddaughter Lizzie a red kite. This moment is reflected on the front cover of the novel. What do you think the kite might represent?

9. The novel begins and ends with Freddie’s thoughts on “nothing.” In “Rain Day” she thinks, “This thing with Greg might keep being nothing.” What do you make of her thoughts at the end? Discuss your ideas in the context of the overall story.

10. A Little Hope features a variety of sympathetic and complex characters. Were you drawn to any particular character? Discuss who your favorites were and why.

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Ginger reminisces about Luke performing on stage in chapter five, “Yes to Love.” She says that “he could switch from Sinatra to Elton John to Bon Jovi.” Pick your favorite range of songs from these artists for a book club playlist.

2. The chapters “Trying to Wake Up” and “The Star in the Box” are letters between Luke Crowley and his mother. Write a letter to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while or someone you’d like to reconnect with.

3.Consider buying a kite and going to your local park to fly it!
Photograph © Ethan Joella

Ethan Joella teaches English and psychology at the University of Delaware and specializes in community writing workshops. His work has appeared in River TeethThe Cimarron Review, The MacGuffin, Delaware Beach Life, and Third Wednesday. He is the author of A Little Hope, which was a Read with Jenna Bonus Selection and A Quiet Life. He lives in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, with his wife and two daughters.

Praise for Ethan Joella and A Little Hope

Named a Best Book of 2021 by TODAY.com!

“This is Joella’s first novel, and it’s an assured performance, full of nicely observed detail. It may not have a Big Theme, but it has lots and lots of heart."
—New York Journal of Books

"The small moments of life are the ones that make the biggest difference in the characters’ lives. No hyperbole, just real life... A  Little Hope is a breath of fresh air."
—Bookreporter

"A Little Hope gives an urgency to each character’s dilemmas and demonstrates that, although the personal issue is singular for the person facing it, human drama is not isolated in a community. What affects one person touches many. Caring pervades."
—California Review of Books

“This soft-spoken debut is a surprising page-turner, as your hopes for the cast of beleaguered small-town character build and burn bright. Its calm wisdom about bearing the toughest losses—sometimes lightened by unexpected gifts—makes this novel a comforting companion for difficult times.”
People

“Poignant and quietly powerful…Joella is particularly deft at deconstructing quiet moments in small-town life and amplifying their significance…[A Little Hope] impressively balances a cast of thoroughly realized personalities grappling with momentous events…these characters transform over time, make amends and see one another more honestly and fully. Their evolution is inspiring — and more than a tad hopeful.”
New York Times Book Review

"A well-connected community of characters who feel like people you know or people you could be all strike a familiar and fully human chord... Joella’s poetic side shines in his moving novel... From beginning to end, A Little Hope finds the grace of the everyday and homes in on the surprises (both heavy and light) that each day can hold."
BookPage

“In A Little Hope, a heartfelt, life-affirming novel, we follow the many stories of the inhabitants of a small Connecticut town…It is a beautiful novel, and as the title suggests, its moving characters and beautiful writing might just give you a little hope.”
—Alexandra Daddario, Book of the Month

"Joella has an eye and ear for suburban pathos, highlighting tragedy and growth in equal parts. . . . Joella pays particular attention to the aftershocks of loss in the residents' lives but he doesn't dwell on the maudlin. . . . readers of Meg Wolitzer will gravitate to this immersive, illuminating novel."
Booklist

“The residents of a small Connecticut city navigate grief and hope in Joella’s tender debut, a series of vignettes marked by a sense of connection and community…Throughout, the overlapping story lines keep readers turning the pages.”
Publishers Weekly

"Joella captures the rhythms of life in Wharton and is skilled at identifying both shifts in the weather and events that mark the passage of time in moments so subtle as to be almost undetectable. Readers who enjoy fiction that reflects the struggles and joys of their daily lives will find much that will resonate here."
Kirkus

"A Little Hope is a sweet and tender take on small town heartbreak, where everybody hurts, and everybody finds some saving comfort, whether in the world or in one another." 
Stewart O’Nan, author of The Night Country and Songs for the Missing

"Ethan Joella has written a powerful and compelling novel about people whose lives are on the cusp of collapse in this richly textured story of hope and love. A Little Hope is an absorbing, propulsive, and elegantly written debut. I absolutely loved it."
Brandon Hobson, National Book Award finalist and author of The Removed

"Ethan Joella's emotional and riveting debut tells the story of the Tylers at the moment their lives change forever. It's all here—community, family and friendship, how we love, grieve, let go and hold on when fate takes its course. The author has crafted a story of ordinary moments that connect and eventually transform us in extraordinary ways. Forgiveness and redemption are the soul of this novel, but it's the love you will remember long after you put it down."
Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of Lucia, Lucia and The Shoemaker's Wife 

"A Little Hope is a quietly powerful portrait of small-town life, about how the private worries and dreams of a set of characters intersect, told with wisdom and tenderness."
Mary Beth Keane, author of Ask Again, Yes
 
"I can't promise you won't cry, but I can promise deft, minimalist prose, flesh-and-blood characters you'll want to hug, and a love story for the ages. With A Little Hope, Ethan Joella establishes himself as an unforgettable new voice."
Diana Spechler, author of Who by Fire and Skinny

"Wonderfully observed and immensely touching, A Little Hope is a beautiful portrait of the poignant moments in life that change us, move us, and connect us, written in deft and powerful prose. A true gem of a novel that I won’t soon forget." 
Ashley Audrain, author of The Push

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