Review: A Hope At The End Of The WorldA Hope at the End of the World by Sarah Lark
Published by Amazon Publishing on March 7th 2017
Genres: Fiction, Historical
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In the chaos of World War II, Polish teenagers Helena and Luzyna Grabowski have lost everything. Without parents or a home, they are shipped to a refugee camp in Persia, where the days ahead hold only darkness. When they hear that orphans are being selected for relocation to New Zealand, Helena is filled with hope--until the officials say they have a place only for her younger sister.

On the morning she is to be transported, Luzyna fails to join the chosen group, and Helena takes her place. But the horrors of war--and her guilt at abandoning her sister--follow Helena on the journey across the sea, as a man from her past preys on her fear and remorse.

Though the people in New Zealand embrace her, the traumas Helena has suffered threaten her peace and blind her to the devotion of James, a charming, heroic young Allied pilot. If Helena can let go and dare to hope again, she may finally step out of the long shadow of her past to find a future made whole--a new community, a new family, a new love.

I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, particularly WWI and II. I’m also a New Zealander, of Ngai Tahu descent. I had never heard of my country taking in Polish refugees, nor are stories around my culture common, so this book intrigued me instantly.

Learning about that part of our history was enlightening, as was discovering that it wasn’t just the Jewish that were persecuted by Hitler (Helena’s family are Polish Catholic). But, while the book was meticulously researched, the depiction of Maori and Maori culture lacked insight and depth. I couldn’t get past some of the Maori character names, which I’d never heard before. They didn’t make sense to me, and as I was reading them with Maori pronunciation, they refused to roll off my tongue. Likewise, certain terms. I’ve never heard “manuka myrtle”, for example. It’s just manuka. Hei-tiki is just tiki. Baskets are traditionally woven from flax, not reeds. And it’s iwi, not tribe. These little things added up and ruined the book for me. Perhaps a little unfairly, but I couldn’t help it.

On top of that, I found Helena unsympathetic and tired quickly of her whiny “poor me” attitude. But, it could just be that my difficulty in finding personality in the depiction of my culture affected my ability to empathize with the characters. Some plot points also had me pushing the little “I Believe” button usually reserved for unbelievable TV shows. I mean, come on. You just happen to meet some guy and his cousin on the road, who immediately, without thinking, invite you home and then, once hearing your sob story, invite you to move on in? Why can’t I have that sort of luck? Oh wait, I’m married. Never mind.

Despite the things I didn’t like about it,  “A Hope At The End of the World” was well written and I can’t deny that the author did her homework, although it was less of a wartime story, more of a historical romance (with predictable romance plot twists). It’s my first Sarah Lark novel, and while I may skip anything to do with my heart home, I’d be willing to give her another chance.

My Verdict: