So, what is The Hope Merchant about? It's a series of stories that eventually tie together showing us the power we all have to change and also how little control we really have over things.
It's pleasant easy reading. I turned pages from curiosity not from the stressful anticipation or the fear you'd find in a mystery or crime novel. Berkowitz explains more in an interview he gave:
-What inspired you to write this particular story?Moving to Israel certainly had an influence. Here I am, speaking a strange language, writing in the wrong direction, and being called by someone else's name. Personal transformation is the most powerful form of magic. The Hope Merchant is all about people discovering that the original life plan is not enough and a new car or next years hot new gadget won't make the awful feeling go away. I am in awe of people who are open to change and constantly question the values they were raised with. I don't think life is about sticking to a 100 year schedule.Life really is full of surprises, and it gets really good when we learn to trust in G-d and not make too many plans.
I must admit that I read the book close to a month ago, before my recent two week visit to the states to see my elderly father and other family members. So details aren't all that fresh in my mind. But honestly, it's not the specific plot and character details one is supposed to take with us from The Hope Merchant. It's the ability to let go of the superficial details and discover what's really important. We'll find ourselves surprised and full of hope. Sometimes we must do a one hundred eighty degree turn in our priorities to go in the right direction. What we think is right and "smart" is totally wrong. We've been misled. That's what happens to some of the characters in the book.
The book is not preachy, not at all. It's gentle and for some even mesmerizing. As I read it, I kept saying to myself that it isn't my usual type of book, but I couldn't put it away nor return it to my neighbor. Yes, I definitely recommend the book. It's not of a specific genre according to the author.
I have an ongoing disagreement with my publisher about what genre the book is. I wrote one of the chapters when a literary agent asked me who the book would appeal to. I don't think it has a genre or a specific audience. I would call it slipstream, which may be accurate (or not) but it is too obscure a genre to be a useful handle for the average reader to grab onto.That would mean that pretty much everyone can get something good from The Hope Merchant. We all need hope. Don't we?