Saturday, June 7, 2014

Hope Runs Review

Hope Runs: An American Tourist, a Kenyan Boy, a Journey of Redemption
Hope Runs by Clair Diaz-Ortiz and Samuel Ikua Gachagua
Find Diaz-Ortiz on TWITTER
Publisher: Revell
Publishing Date: April 15, 2014
Goodreads Summary: 
Sammy Ikua Gachagua had lost his father to illness, his mother to abandonment, and his home to poverty. By age ten, he was living in a shack with seven other children and very little food. He entered an orphanage seeing it as a miracle with three meals a day, a bed to sleep in, and clothes on his back.When Claire Diaz-Ortiz arrived in Kenya at the end of an around-the-world journey, she decided to stay the night, climb Mt. Kenya, then head back home. She entered an orphanage seeing it as little more than a free place to spend the night before her mountain trek. God had other plans.
Hope Runs is the emotional story of an American tourist, a Kenyan orphan, and the day that would change the course of both of their lives forever. It's about what it means to live in the now when the world is falling down around you. It's about what it means to hope for the things you cannot see. Most of all, it's about how God can change your life in the blink of an eye. 
I recieved this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. The Kindle version is $12.49 today! (6/6/14)

My Thoughts:
This is a book that I looked forward to in the way one looks forward to a missions trip--I wanted a touching story that would affect my life. Maybe even give me a broader perspective. And while the book did do some of that, I am not sure I could easily recommend it to others.

My largest issue? The writing. A lot of you may think me rude and say 'You try writing a book!' I know, I know, but when someone writes a book don't they want it to be the best it can be? I left this book with the distinct impression that not much effort was put into the writing and editing process. Sentences are very short, very direct, and very impersonal. It felt very rough and distracted me from the heart of the story.

Secondly, I missed the emotions. I never connect to Claire, one of the main 'narrators' of the tale, but whom seems to miss much of the events. I didn't learn about who she was, why she had such a travel, her relationship with Lara, her experiences and life lessons. I never got to know the true essence and drive behind Claire, Lara, and the Hope Runs organization. Most everything in this novel is pure fact ("I went there, did this, tried that."). Fascinating to be sure, but the book lacked the necessary elements to truly draw the reader in and care.

There was one good part and one redeeming quality. The good part: Sammy's story. I would have loved to read a more complete 'ending' to his story, but none the less his life story is interesting and inspiring. I wanted more and wouldn't raise the slightest fuss if they cut out Claire completely and renamed the book "Sammy's Story".

The redeeming quality? Claire tried to focus on how missions work really affects the people who remain. The central question of her college career: Would it be better to send money or go and visit personally? Often those mission trips are 2-3 weeks and then you never return. Does it truly make an impact? Does it help, or hurt? This is a fascinating realization to me, and one I find should have been obvious to me. It certainly has changed some of my viewpoints and has caused me to think more wisely about where I spend my money and time.
"The way to enact true social change in the world is to acknowledge that the biggest impact at work is often not in the conversational English skills or hygiene needs of the local populations but rather in the volunteer's own transformation. If it was really all about the locals, after all, many times we'd be much better off sending our money to organizations that employ locals on the ground to do the English teaching and the health work. However, by having one cross-cultural experience, then another and another, these volunteers - if given the right tools to recognize the importance of what they themselves are actually learning - have a good chance of one day doing something that can hopefully make things a little better. The volunteer's value to the local is not in that single three-month stint building a church or two but in the possibility that those three months can transform the volunteer into someone who gives for life." (pg. 29)
Overall, "Hope Runs" was not what I was looking for. It felt unemotional, factual, and I believe, could have used tighter editing. I have historically loved books published by Revell, but I find myself sorely disappointed in this one. I am rating it with a low 1.5 stars. I can only recommend it to those who have read a lot on the topic of poverty and Africa, and are only looking for another quick read through. I also wouldn't be beyond recommending only reading the chapters told from Sammy's point of view.

Know any other inspiring, life-affecting out of Africa books?? Please, recommend them to be below!!


  1. I don't think you're being rude by critiquing the writing. The fact of the matter is, it's a book. Not a movie or an audio recording where the visuals and tone and music can distract from or add to the words. It's a book, and it's only mode of communication is the writing.

    If the writing is sub-par or doesn't flow, it affects the reading experience. It's a shame the stories here weren't presented in a more engaging way, but nothing to be done at this point but let the publisher know the content/design ratio was off. Thanks for the great review!

  2. Thanks Kel! I like your attitude :)