The Bookstop: Finding missing men with best friends, bikes and ouija boards

A review of North Carolina author Leah Weiss’ new book “All the Little Hopes”

Ansley Puckett, Reporter

In Leah Weiss’ newest contribution to Southern literature, Lucy Brown’s life is changed forever just two years after the United States enters the second world war. Not only is her older brother and brother-in-law off fighting the war, but she finds an unlikely friend in the form of Allie Bert Tucker, or Bert as she’s called, a sassy, curious girl from Asheville sent to live with her aunt in Lucy’s hometown of Riverton, North Carolina. 

When Bert’s uncle goes missing, her pregnant aunt is devastated and finds herself far from fit to take care of Bert. Left without care, Bert goes to live with Lucy’s family. The Browns are a large family of farmers and readers made up of Mr. and Mrs. Brown and their seven children Everett, Helen, Irene, Grady, Lucy, Cora and Lydia.

The family finds themselves as beekeepers producing honey for the government and the war effort, all while trying to stay positive about Everette and Helen’s husband, Wade Sully, fighting in the war.

After becoming one of their own, Bert finds herself adjusting to life with the Browns. However, Bert’s uncle isn’t the only man that goes missing, leaving the girls to piece together the string of disappearances in their small town.

Ansley Puckett

Things go from bad to worse when the family gets news of German prisoners of war coming to Riverton to work in the tobacco fields. Angry and fearing the unknown, the Browns welcome two POWs to work on their farm, quickly realizing they have more in common and more room in their hearts than they thought. 

The town must coexist with the camp, but the girls find that the unprecedented might not be so bad when the years of the war bring them adventure, friendship, purple honey and a connection to the town mystery Truly Freed. 

Taken from a story her mother told her of Nazi war camps in her rural North Carolina town, Weiss takes history and makes it her own. Her second novel, “All the Little Hopes,” is an uplifting story of what family and friendship mean when times get rough. 

Brought together by an unlikely tragedy, Bert and Lucy carry the story with heart and courage, making you wish you could travel back to when you were a child to experience adventure like only kids can. Weiss fleshes out every character, even the ones you never get to meet and turns them into old friends. 

Although set during World War II, Weiss’ story feels new and tangible, like you’ve traveled back in time. As a self-proclaimed romance fan, I worried the child’s point of view would leave me wanting more adult experience in the book, but no part of me was left unsatisfied by Lucy and Bert’s story. 

Throughout the novel, the girls grow into themselves and their childhood curiosity and hunger for adventure like Lucy’s idol, Nancy Drew, making Lucy and Bert’s story memorable but fresh, reminding me of classic literature and what it means to be transported by a novel.

After becoming an author later in life, Weiss uses pieces from her home state, research and experience to send readers to the mountains and waterways of North Carolina. Truly a tribute to the beauty and history of the state, “All the Little Hopes” takes several historical events and pieces them together to make a story that any history buff or regular reader would enjoy.

Weiss also addresses hard topics like sexual assault, prejudice and domestic abuse, weaving in these topics to make the story more real and tangible to issues young girls face even today.

However, sprinkled throughout the book are also the little hopes of the girls’ lives and the love that connects the family and the town even through heartbreak and hardship. 

As each chapter feels like a new story without losing touch with the main plot, this unforgettable book pairs well with summer days on the porch, the sticky, sweet heat of the south or the clear air of the Appalachian mountains. 

“All the Little Hopes” was released on July 27, and more information on Leah Weiss and her journey to becoming a writer can be found on her website.