Study Guide

Deena in Hope Was Here

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Everything you need to know about Hope's mother you can know from the fact that she named her daughter "Tulip."

Deena, who left right after hope was born, is a perfect study of contradictions. She comes across as self-involved, flamboyant, and definitely not motherly. Hope says it best early in the novel when she's recalling the last time her mother paid a visit:

She told me I looked good, but didn't make eye contact.

She told me it's okay I changed my name and kept calling me Tulip.

She told me she loved me and never came back. (44)

The only time this flaky woman seems comfortable around her daughter is when she's sharing her knack for earning big tips.

Addie's been straight with Hope about her mother:

Once Addie told me that unless a genuine miracle happened, it was a safe bet that Mom wasn't going to change.

"I know it's hard to handle," Addie started, "but if I lie to you now it's only going to make things worse later on. It doesn't mean Deena doesn't love you. It means she doesn't have the tools she needs to be the kind of other you want her to be. She didn't lose them along the way, honey. She never had them to begin with." (44)

Do as I Say and Not as I Do

Deena's advice to Hope covers everything from low-fat entrees ("They sell well enough, but nobody's too happy after the meal") to men ("They tip better when they're not with their girlfriends") (43). Addie's made Hope write down all of Deena's words of waitressing wisdom in a "Best of Mom book," which might seem ridiculous, but Addie's got a good reason for it.

Deena's messages communicate something more important than the benefits of keeping the customers happy; they communicate her inability to keep her own daughter happy. It's like the woman knows what to do but not how to do it when it comes to mothering and is admitting to and apologizing for her shortcomings using the only language she knows.

For example:

  • Deena's Diner Speak: "Always treat your customers like you care"; "Talk to them, remember what they say, and ask them about it tomorrow." 
  • Translation: The Christmas letters I write (that show up on Groundhog Day) and the visits I make (with the same frequency as leap years) are my way of showing you that I care.
  • Deena's Diner Speak: "The customer is always right. The cook is always right. If the customer and the cook disagree, and you can't settle it, your tip is history." (43)
  • Translation: Your feelings that I'm the worst mother on the planet are justified. My feelings that I left you with Addie because I knew I'd be the worst mother on the planet are justified. If we can't meet in the middle here, we'll never be able to have a relationship.

Deena will never get the "Mother of the Year Award," but she deserves a little credit for trying.

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