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Gabriel Thomas Stoop seems too good to be true.
Well, he's a fictional character, so we guess he can be as good as the author needs him to be. He's unfailingly kind, honest, humble, compassionate, generous, civic-minded, and selfless. When G.T. Stoop stands in front of the people of Mulhoney and announces his plan to run for mayor, he promises to improve the day-care situation, fix the over-crowded schools, renovate the old community center, create jobs for young people, help the poor, and get the largest business in town to pay the million dollars it owes in back taxes—all while battling terminal cancer.
Right, G.T…and while you're at it, could you find the time to be the nicest man on earth, become the perfect father, and prove to the youth of America that all it takes to be a true leader is being a truthful person?
Apparently, yes. G.T. is a man of his word. He manages to do every single thing he said he would and leaves a long-lasting impression on the town and in everyone's heart. Plus, he can flip sausages backhanded.
Even before she meets him, Hope gets a glimpse of the the kind of man her new employer will be. She reads what's printed on the back of the menu of G.T.'s diner:
Welcome, friend, from whichever way you've come. May God richly bless your journey. (13)
It's not just his motto—G.T. lives by that sentiment. He's warm and smiling from the moment he meets Addie and Hope. He puts them at ease immediately with his honest, open, self-deprecating manner. He reassures Addie that,
"[…] you're going to elevate the food in this place like I never could, Addie. I know it." (24)
When Hope gets embarrassed that she might have offended him two minutes after she meets him, G.T. tells her,
"Be yourself around me. I don't give many orders, but that's one of them. […] Don't have to mince words, either," he added. "The only thing we mince around here is garlic." (25)
Hope knows she's gonna like this guy.
When G.T. takes over the microphone at the annual Memorial Parade and announces his plan to run for mayor, the townspeople are taken by surprise. So is Millstone. The big bully immediately goes on the defense, but he's no challenge for the bigger bombshell G.T.'s about to drop. G.T. tells the people he's discovered that:
"The biggest company in town, the Real Fresh Dairy, hasn't paid any local taxes for five years and owes three-quarters of a million dollars in back tax revenue." (33)
That's no small sum for one small town.
Later, when G.T.'s future constituents ask him how long he's known about the unpaid taxes, he admits he's known for six months or so, and had planned to go public with the information but got sidetracked when he was diagnosed with leukemia.
"But leukemia hit. It was all I could focus on for a time. I apologize to all of you for being selfish." (39)
What kind of person apologizes for having a terminal illness? The man is a saint.
Some of the folks in town can't seem to understand what makes a man with no political experience qualified to run for office. As one eloquent resident puts it, why they should vote for a guy who flips burgers for a living and who's dying of leukemia? We'll let the young people tell you why.
Let's start with Braverman:
"When my mom was out of work, G.T. gave me a job waiting tables, then he taught me to cook." (46)
Then there's Leon:
"G.T. gave me a job busing tables when my dad had an accident and couldn't work." (49)
Next up, Jillian:
"G.T. let my cousins live in his extra apartment when they couldn't pay the rent on their house." (49)
"G.T. sent food every week to my family when my mom was in the hospital." (49)
Apparently, it's still not enough to convince one long-time resident of Mulhoney who's known G.T. for 25 years. "There's no denying he's a fine man," she exclaims, "but that doesn't qualify him to be running for mayor." The woman reconsiders once Braverman politely reminds her that this same fine man got the dangerous steps fixed at the high school and was instrumental in establishing an emergency medical center in town so people wouldn't have to drive 25 miles to reach the nearest hospital. That seals the deal for her.
Lots of politicians vow to take the high road but end up slugging it out in the gutter with their opponents, spending money on attack ads and saying anything to get elected. Not G.T. He's persuaded to hire a spin doctor but refuses to spin anything. He takes dirty punch after dirty punch from Eli Millstone but won't hit back below the belt.
When Millstone hires a guy to park a hearse in front of the diner to remind his constituents that G.T.'s sick, G.T. invites the man in for breakfast and thanks him for the reminder that life is short.
"And we all need to live our lives just a little bit like the hearse is outside ready to cart us away—make the days count. […] I thank you for that reminder, my friend." (66)
Even though he won't play dirty, G.T.'s not the kind of guy to back down. He won't let Millstone's dirty tricks stand:
"Give the mayor a message for me. Tell him that lies and dirty tricks never win in the long run. Tell him that fear is no way to govern people. He can refuse to meet with me from now until Election Day, but I will not be silent!" (100)
G.T.'s strategy does pay off in the long run, but it's a struggle. Millstone has to resort to election fraud to win, but the fraud's uncovered. G.T. gets to work cleaning up the town's corruption and fulfilling his campaign promises as best he can with the time he's got left.
Sparks constantly fly between Addie and G.T. about who's in charge in the kitchen. Of course, that means they're in love. In the middle of an argument about meatloaf, G.T. asks her on a date, and as soon as he learns he's in remission, he asks her to marry him. It occurs to Hope that this would make him her father, kinda, sorta, but she cringes at the thought that G.T. might not feel that way.
But Hope hopes so.
As soon as G.T and Addie get back from their honeymoon, G.T. says those magic words:
"Hope, I was wondering if you'd consider letting me adopt you, because I'd like more than just about anything to do this father thing officially." (171)
At last, Hope can drag out all the scrapbooks she's been saving for her father. She asks G.T. if he wants the long story of her life or the Cliff's Notes version. (She didn't know about Shmoop yet.) He replies,
"I don't want to miss a thing." (171)
Hope thinks that's just about perfect. G.T. listens eagerly and sympathetically to the whole story. After he's done the nicest thing in the world for Hope, what does he say?
"I am so glad you did this for me." (172)
Can it get any better? Yes, reader, it can. G.T. grafts branches from two saplings he's been growing in his house over the winter. Then he says to Hope,
"We didn't start from the same tree, but we're going to grow together like we did." (173)
Even though Hope only has G.T. for a couple of years before his death, she says that the strength and steadfastness of his love will last her a lifetime. His goodness more than makes up for all the bad stuff she's lived through.
Although she's not with him when it happens, Hope is able to sense the very moment G.T. passes away. She describes feeling,
[...] a brush of angels' wings, and sensed those angels coming up the welcome stairways, one from the left and one from the right, to guide G.T.'s spirit on the flight up to heaven. (180)
G.T. was an angel, and no one appreciated it more than Hope.