A writer of wide experience, Ruth Suckow nevertheless remained focused on small-town life; one could even call her the Jane Austen of small-town America. Many of her characters were the “sparrows of Iowa,” ordinary folks whom she made extraordinary by writing about them. In her 1942 novel about the little community of New Hope, written during the desperate days of World War II, life is marked by unusual optimism, openness, mutual care, trust, communal spirit, democracy, and above all light.
Life in New Hope recaptures a feeling of youth that would seem overly idealistic if it were not for Suckow's unflinching realism. As seen through the eyes of its Edenic main characters—Clarence Miller, son of the town's banker and chief booster, and Delight Greenwood, daughter of the Congregational minister who serves New Hope during the two years of the novel—the town itself is the protagonist. Death, crime, and heartbreak intervene, but a sense of freedom and possibility, “where all were to share equally in the boundlessness of light and hope,” always illuminates the town. This sunlit novel, with its blend of romance and reality, reintroduces a regional writer whom H. L. Mencken called “unquestionably the most remarkable woman …writing stories in the republic.”