DiscoverHistorical Fiction

Hope City

By

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Two teenage boys seek adventure and fortune in the gold-mining towns of Alaska.

Synopsis

Hope City is the adventure story of Samuel Rothman and his best friend, Liam Kampen, two teenage boys from San Francisco who, in the summer of 1898, venture into the goldfields of the Alaskan wilderness.

Warned by his father to conceal his Jewish heritage from the ruffians he may encounter, Samuel changes his name to the less conspicuous Percy Hope. This fateful decision gives a yet-unnamed mining village a new identity and catapults Percy into a world where the good and the righteous must face greedy and ruthless adversaries.

Along a waterway known as Turnagain Arm, the newly named Hope City and the more established Sunrise are like opposite sisters. The good and virtuous Hope, with a Catholic church led by the influential Reverend O'Hara, admonishes residents against committing the seven deadly sins. In Sunrise, villainous saloon owner Magnus Vega tempts prospectors with whiskey, gambling, and women.

Hope City weaves the tale of a young man falling down a proverbial rabbit hole of unexpected toils and hardships and struggling to find his way back out, amid a wild and unforgiving environment where ambitious men and women seek their fortunes.

Seeking adventure and a fortune, Sam Rothman and his best friend Liam leave Washington State for Alaska in the summer of 1898. Sam is encouraged by his parents to change his name so no one discovers he is Jewish. As Percy Hope, he steps off the boat and is chosen to be the namesake of the new town – Hope City. While he and Liam try to seek an honest go of finding gold, they are both tempted by the neighboring town’s saloon owner Mr. Vega at almost every turn to go down the wrong path. 


Percy then meets Ella Carson, who turns his head and encourages him to go to church with him – a Catholic Church. He can’t blow his cover and let anyone know he’s Jewish so he goes along with her. The reverend then points him out as a person sent to help their town since the town is now named after him. Only 17 years old, Percy feels his life slipping out of his control.


Hope City is a coming of age story set amongst the wildness of an untamed Alaska. The towns of Hope and Sunrise are opposites of each other – one has a church and one has a saloon. However, as Sunrise looks to bring law and order due to its size, the church’s influence is felt since half of the people in Sunrise attend church in Hope. Mr. Vega runs for mayor and wins, but even he finds out he can’t be above the law.


While the Alaskan setting and life in a gold town back then is true to life, there is some language that doesn’t fit the setting. Readers will learn how gold mining is done and how the gold rush affected people’s lives and morals. There is some Norse mythology that some characters follow that some readers might be unfamiliar with. 


There is slight romance and some crude thinking, as is probably true to any 17-year-old boy. While Percy stumbles and falls, he also has a wisdom that most boys his age would not possess. It most likely comes from working long hours in his father’s dry goods store.


The church leader being called a reverend instead of a priest might bother Catholics who read the book. He gets to decide to move to Alaska with all his possessions, when priests are told where to go and usually have few possessions. Also, Percy just fits right in at a Catholic service, while in real life, anyone not familiar with the rituals of a Catholic service would feel out of place. 


Hope City has many twists and turns that will keep the reader wondering what will happen next. The hero is not perfect and the villain is not completely callous. Friendships and love are tested. In the spirit of their high school graduation speaker – Jack London – both Liam and Sam find life is an adventure if you take chances.

Reviewed by

I love to read and my friends and family seek me out for book suggestions. I have a blog with more than 300 book reviews now. I am also a freelance writer and am working on a novel.

Synopsis

Hope City is the adventure story of Samuel Rothman and his best friend, Liam Kampen, two teenage boys from San Francisco who, in the summer of 1898, venture into the goldfields of the Alaskan wilderness.

Warned by his father to conceal his Jewish heritage from the ruffians he may encounter, Samuel changes his name to the less conspicuous Percy Hope. This fateful decision gives a yet-unnamed mining village a new identity and catapults Percy into a world where the good and the righteous must face greedy and ruthless adversaries.

Along a waterway known as Turnagain Arm, the newly named Hope City and the more established Sunrise are like opposite sisters. The good and virtuous Hope, with a Catholic church led by the influential Reverend O'Hara, admonishes residents against committing the seven deadly sins. In Sunrise, villainous saloon owner Magnus Vega tempts prospectors with whiskey, gambling, and women.

Hope City weaves the tale of a young man falling down a proverbial rabbit hole of unexpected toils and hardships and struggling to find his way back out, amid a wild and unforgiving environment where ambitious men and women seek their fortunes.

CHAPTER ONE—REPORTS FROM FARAWAY

“Did you see the morning paper, Sam?” Liam, red-faced, held up the early edition of the San Francisco Examiner.

I shook my head. “No, I haven’t had a minute since we’ve opened,” I said, standing on the second to the top rung of the sliding wooden ladder, and reaching overhead to put away the back stock of coffee beans.

“The headline says,” he began, lowering his voice, trying to sound like one of our teachers from school, “JUNE 6TH, 1898—REPORTS FROM FARAWAY LAND, WHERE THE EARTH SEEMS LINED WITH GOLD.”

“Wow, that’s something,” I said, trying to sound interested, and pointed to the bags on the floor. “Hey, Liam, do me a favor and hand me one of those.”

Liam put down the newspaper, bent over to grab a ten-pound burlap sack of beans, and lifted it up to me.

“Sam, we should go to seek our fortune. You’ll never get rich working in the store for your dad, and I’ll never make a living slaving away in that saloon, cooking and cleaning tables for those drunkards.”

“Sounds good, Liam,” I whispered, “but please stop talking about it. Father doesn’t like conversations unsuitable for customers.”

Liam looked around. “There’s no one in the store,” he said, picking up the newspaper again. “It says people are flocking to Alaska by the thousands. So far they found more than a ton of nuggets.”

“You believe that crap?” I said, climbing down the ladder, and grabbing a broom to sweep up the errant coffee beans scattered across the floor.

Liam tapped the paper with a finger, and said, “If it’s printed here, it must be true.”

I shook my head and exhaled. “You’re naïve.”

“Doubt me at your own peril. But when I’m rich and living in one of those mansions up on Nob Hill, you’ll be stuck here helping customers.”

“That’s right, Liam. But you’re forgetting that this will be my store when Father retires, and maybe, if you’re nice to me, I’ll give you a job sweeping the floor when you return from your silly dreams of seeking your fortune.”

Just then the bells on the front door rang. I raised my eyebrows to Liam, and whispered, “I’ll see you later.”

“Good afternoon, Mr. Hawthorne. How may I be of service,” I said, keeping my gaze upon Liam, and jerking my head toward the door, encouraging his departure.

Liam smiled at the schoolteacher, and said, “Good day, sir,” and pushed the front door of Rothman’s General Store open, and exited onto Market Street.

Mr. Hawthorne glared suspiciously at me, and said, “Good morning, Master Samuel.”

I leaned the broom back in its corner and approached Mr. Hawthorne. “How may I be of service, sir?”

“Do you spend much time with young Liam?” he asked, removing his hat and placing it on the counter.

I furrowed my forehead at the derogatory phrase

young in front of my friend’s name—after all we were the same age. “Liam and I are buddies,” I replied with an honest shrug.

Mr. Hawthorne leaned over, bringing his hawk-shaped nose close to mine, and wagged a finger at me. “Stay away from that boy, Samuel. You have a future. I assume that one day this store will be yours, and your buddy will work for wages, somewhere in the city,” he said, flicking his fingers, like he was dismissing a servant.

I forced a smile, and said, “Is there something I can help you with, sir?”

Mr. Hawthorne squinted his eyes to emphasize his words. “You’re seventeen years old, Samuel, and graduating high school in a few days. It’s time to think about your future, not fraternizing with people beneath your station.”

“Good morning, Mr. Hawthorne,” came the words from my father, Benjamin Rothman, who was walking down the wooden staircase from our rooms above the store.

“Ah, Benjamin, I was just telling your son about socializing with people who can help elevate his position in life.”

“I heard what you said, John, and I would appreciate if you would stick to your subjects of schooling, and leave his life’s lessons to me,” Father said.

“Of course, Mr. Rothman,” he replied, with reddening cheeks.

“Now, please tell me how I may be of service,” Father said with a smile. 

About the author

Neil’s writing have been described as organic; meaning he works with a general storyline for his characters and plot, rather than with a formal, detailed outline. This encourages his writing to offer surprising twists and unexpected outcomes, which readers have celebrated. view profile

Published on June 20, 2020

Published by

80000 words

Genre: Historical Fiction

Reviewed by

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