Hope Shines: Prize-winning and short-listed stories from The Hope Prize
Simon & Schuster, Cammeray, NSW, Australia, 2018
ISBN-13: 978-1760850142

Hope Shines 4

This collection of 10 short stories was gathered out of the winners and short-listed entries to last year's Hope Prize, the second such prize awarded by the Brotherhood of St Laurence for works which "explore resilience in the face of adversity".

Judged by the former Governor-General Quentin Bryce, actor Cate Blanchett and author Kate Grenville, the selected stories were deemed to be the best among the more than 900 entries received for the prize. They all represent attempts to reflect the lives of those who live on the margins of society and, like any collection, the results are something of a mixed bag. 

The subject matter is diverse - from Finegan Kruckemeyer's first prize winning 'Like Dresses In A Tree' which tells the story of Nella Sands, who, deserted by her husband makes a new life for herself, through to second prize winner Tess Rowley's 'The Girl Who Wanted To Paint The Moon' about an Indigenous girl named Biddy and her passion for art, and Young Writer category co-winner Eleanor George's 'Biographies of the British Monarchy' which tells the story of highschool student Lucas who it's suspected has Asperger's syndrome.

There's some particularly confronting stories among them, reflections of the hard hand life can sometimes give and the dark circumstances in which humanity can find itself. Elisa Hall's highly commended work 'Radiance' is one of these. Not for the faint-hearted, it tells the story of a young artist, Marnie, eking out an existence during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Third prize winner Kim Kelly's 'Messerschmidt' is another, telling the story of a woman and mother and the emotional abuse she suffers at the hands of her mentally ill husband.

The works carry with them a strong, but not overpowering, sense of Australian-ness - there's talk of the nocturnal chirping of cicadas, catching eels and fish from the creek to cook over an open fire, and the aftermath of bushfires, for example - but there's also a broader appeal to the general state of humanity within these pages.

Evocative, certainly not always easy reading and, at times, rewarding, Hope Shines makes for an interesting and thought-provoking read. And, as a bonus, all royalties from the sale of the book, which also features a foreward by Quentin Bryce and an introduction by Conny Lenneberg, the executive director of the Brotherhood, are being donated to the organisation.