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Fiction Review    

True Hope
by Frank Manley
Carroll and Graf Publishers, 2002
Hardbound $25.00 (274pp)
ISBN: 0-7867-1020-9




Haunted by the death of his wife, Kate, Al Cantrell, a painter by day and a drunk by night, has just been released from prison. Deciding he's served his time and is longer a threat to society, Cantrell sets off in search of his wife's father Tom in direction violation of his parole. He hopes to share his memories with his former father-in-law and see all the photographs of his wife one last time. 

Tom, who spent his entire career in the military, welcomes Al, reminding him that he was never good enough to be a husband to Kate, a fact his former son-in-law readily admits. The two men, an ex-convict and an ex-military officer forge an unlikely friendship. 

While Al has sobered up, he finds the world around him to be surreal even without the assistance of alcohol. He meets Captain Bilbow, who's been addicted to Filipino brides since World War II; a ninety-one year old used car salesman who insists on an extra $10 for the battery in the car; Bubba Jones, a Bible-thumper who takes in ex-cons for a fee; and Benny, a corrupt, vicious politician who attempts to mentor Al in the ways of his city. Each encounter helps Al lose a few more of his inhibitions. 

Al, finally willing to believe in the redemptive power of love, risks his newfound freedom falling into a slow and steady relationship with Annie Laurie, part-time prostitute and wistful mother. 

True Hope, an unpretentious novel, is filled with quirky characters, failed expectations, and lost dreams. Through it all, narrator Al Cantrell, never loses his optimism or hope. 

Frank Manley's earlier works include two short story collections Within the Ribbons and Among Prisoners, a book of poems, The Emperor, and a novel, The Cockfighter, which was selected by both the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune as one of the best books of 1998.

Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

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