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Summary and book reviews of All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss

All the Little Hopes

A Novel

by Leah Weiss

All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss X
All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss
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  • Paperback:
    Jul 2021, 368 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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About this Book

Book Summary

A Southern story of friendship forged by books and bees, when the timeless troubles of growing up meet the murky shadows of World War II.

Deep in the tobacco land of North Carolina, nothing's been the same since the boys shipped off to war and worry took their place. Thirteen-year-old Lucy Brown is precocious and itching for adventure. Then Allie Bert Tucker wanders into town, an outcast with a puzzling past, and Lucy figures the two of them can solve any curious crime they find―just like her hero, Nancy Drew.

Their chance comes when a man goes missing, a woman stops speaking, and an eccentric gives the girls a mystery to solve that takes them beyond the ordinary. Their quiet town, seasoned with honeybees and sweet tea, becomes home to a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp. More men go missing. And together, the girls embark on a journey to discover if we ever really know who the enemy is.

Lush with Southern atmosphere, All The Little Hopes is the story of two girls growing up as war creeps closer, blurring the difference between what's right, what's wrong, and what we know to be true.

Paperback original


We are an innocent lot, my two brothers, four sisters, and me, born on as ordinary a land as God ever made. Our tobacco farm in Riverton, North Carolina, is far from Oma's soaring mountains in the Black Forest of Germany, where tall trees dim the light of day and the tales of the Brothers Grimm grow out of the loamy soil. Where even a polished apple holds peril. Her stories raise the hairs on the backs of our necks, and fear prickles and chills our skin. Telling tales is Oma's best talent.

After, when prayers are said and we're tucked in our featherbed, and the house turns still as stone, I lie between Cora and Lydia, and we remember and clutch hands until our grips soften, safe in this place, for our grandmother's stories live far across the sea.

But they are real.

Because of the wolpertinger.

Oma's grandfather came upon the creature in 1881 while hunting, and he preserved it for all time. It is seventeen and a quarter inches long and is equal part rabbit, roebuck...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Lucy's mother points out that language is meant to communicate, not separate, which discourages Lucy from overusing her enormous vocabulary. Throughout the book, how do you see language used to communicate? To separate?
  2. What do you think of Bert's desire to stay a girl instead of growing into a woman? How do we see Bert and Lucy accept growing up throughout the book? What are the chief differences you see between childhood and adulthood back in the 1940s as compared to today?
  3. Describe the role of the Browns in their community. What are the broad effects of being a bibliophile?
  4. Bert tends to blame herself when things go wrong—her mother dying, her father sending her away, Violet locking her out. Why do you think that is? Is it more ...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Here are some of the comments posted about All the Little Hopes.
You can see the full discussion here.

Bert tends to blame herself when things go wrong. Why do you think that is? Is it more of a female trait? Are there things you blame yourself for that really aren't your fault?
Are there things you blame yourself for that really aren't your fault? Oh my. I have many times that I feel guilt, or wonder if I may have caused something to be the way it is. Possibly it's the fact of my ... - Suzanne

Describe the relationship between the Riverton community and the German POWs. What effect does Terrell Stucky have on the reputation of the POWs? How do the Germans come to be an accepted part of the town?
This was a special part of the story for me. It was something I wasn't aware of before and I felt it celebrated finding humanity in others. - ssh

Describe the role of the Browns in their community. What are the broad effects of being a bibliophile?
I agree with everything Gavi said. The benefits of being a bibliophile are beyond listing. The love of reading was instilled in me by my mother when I was very young. It is a gift I could never repay nor put a value on - irisf

Did anybody else know immediately what the ouija board’s answers meant?
In reading the responses to my original question, I agree with Bill and Jackie that even if we knew what the answer was, it really was the girls' mystery to solve. Good call. - jamiek

Did Lucy, Bert, and Irene do the right thing when they found Tiny Junior's souvenirs?
Yes, there was nothing to be gained by destroying Tiny Juniors reputation. - rco

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BookBrowse Review


The novel shimmers with the vivid voices of its two narrators, Lucy and Bert. The girls are different enough to offer two unique perspectives of everything that unfolds in Riverton, but similar in the important ways that foster a flourishing friendship. Readers might easily identify with Lucy, the bookworm who wishes more than anything that Nancy Drew was real, or tomboyish Bert who struggles with guilt related to her mother's death and later falls easily under the spell of a touring musician lothario. Both characters are charming and well-developed, and both will appeal to those with fond memories of encountering Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time...continued

Full Review Members Only (651 words).

(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

Shelf Awareness
Leah Weiss tells a gripping wartime story of family, honeybees and missing men in her second novel, set in North Carolina.

Publishers Weekly
Weiss expertly highlights how Lucy and Bert's innocence is altered by their experiences, with spot-on depictions of the rural Southern community. This is magnetic from the start.

Author Blurb Vicki Lane, author of And the Crows Took Their Eyes and the Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries
Small town North Carolina during WWII is brought vividly to life with German prisoners, missing husbands, and hidden stories. All the Little Hopes is abuzz with fascinating characters―Aunt Fanniebelle, Trula Freed, and especially Bert and Lu, two very different girls on the cusp of adulthood, learning about life's mysteries as they play Nancy Drew and investigate three puzzling disappearances. Lush, poetic prose, characters you'll not forget, and immersion in a past that has lessons for today make this a compelling read.

Author Blurb Kate Moore, author of the New York Times bestseller The Radium Girls and The Woman They Could Not Silence
All the Little Hopes is as warm-hearted as the sun that beats down on Lu's family's tobacco fields. With feisty heroines and a fascinating yet little-known piece of American history as a backdrop, this is a coming-of-age story with a mystery at its heart. Yet the novel's crowning achievement is Weiss's creation of the Browns - a family that, in keeping with the best literary traditions, every reader will long to be a part of.

Author Blurb Wiley Cash, New York Times bestselling author of A Land More Kind than Home and When Ghosts Come Home
Like all great southern writers, Leah Weiss's magic turns the local into the universal. All the Little Hopes is both a deep-dive into the life of a North Carolina town during WWII and a national portrait of an era with all of its attendant glories and pains. I love this coming-of-age novel - its portrayal of friendship, the complications of family, the threats that outsiders can bring. Lucy Brown and Allie Bert Tucker will break your heart, but Leah Weiss's beautiful writing will sew it back together again.

Author Blurb Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen House and Glory Over Everything
Wrapped in hope and mystery, this beautifully crafted story, set under a warm North Carolina sun, is full of heart. You won't want to miss this one.

Author Blurb David Gillham, New York Times bestselling author of City of Women and Annalies
With her latest novel All the Little Hopes, Leah Weiss confirms the place she's earned among top-notch historical fiction writers. Her thrilling, coming-of-age story of two young girls in the tobacco country of the Carolinas, growing up in the shadow of World War II, is compelling, alarming, and heart-breakingly satisfying. It grippingly explores the mysteries of one of my favorite themes: Who can really be trusted when the chips are down?

Author Blurb Bren McClain, author of One Good Mama Bone
Leah Weiss has done it again. Another powerful, masterly observed story. This time, firmly setting us down in tobacco land North Carolina with two teenaged girls at its heart and told in language that is uniquely Leah's. I read the novel with my jaw dropped open. For Leah's fans, prepare to be thrilled again. For future ones, get set to be.

Author Blurb Tommy Hays, author of The Pleasure Was Mine and In the Family Way, Retired Director of the Great Smokies Writing Program and Lecturer Emeritus at University of North Carolina Asheville
All the Little Hopes is the kind of wise, compassionate and deeply empathetic novel that we all need right now. In this heartening and heartrending book, Leah Weiss embodies a whole world in her affecting portrait of a small North Carolina tobacco farming community turned upside down by the loss and hardship visited upon its inhabitants during World War II. It's a novel with an irresistible emotional momentum, as we follow all the ways its characters cope with a war come home. Weiss's lyrical sentences are in themselves little wonders, tugging us along, delivering us to one surprising place after another and, in so doing, somehow restoring us to ourselves.

Author Blurb Renea Winchester, author of Outbound Train
I fell in love with Leah Weiss's debut, If the Creek Don't Rise, and have been waiting with toe-tapping anticipation for the release of All the Little Hopes. Set deep in tobacco country in North Carolina, Lucy Brown and Allie Bert Tucker capture readers hearts and won't let go. Weiss richly draws characters so vivid readers feel they are walking the tobacco fields of Riverton, North Carolina. We taste the deliciously rare purple honey, sing along with Glenn Miller, and cheer as Lucy and Bert piece together clues and solve a mystery fit for the pages of a Nancy Drew novel.

Reader Reviews

Lloyde N

All the Little Hopes
I found this book to engaging and although slow to start the story became rich with detailed description of the people, their ways and the community they lived in, The smoothness in which the story is told, including difficult parts such as the ...   Read More
Susan Roberts

Southern Fiction
My two favorite genres are historical fiction and southern fiction. So this book set in North Carolina in the early 1940s was a perfect book for me. It's one of few books that after I read the last page, I wanted to go back and read it for the first ...   Read More

Better Times
I really enjoyed this book. The time period of WWII can often seem overdone but the topics in this story were new and fresh. POW camps in North Carolina, the role of American apiaries to name a few. The female characters are strong and resilient. I ...   Read More

Wonderful Story.
In All The Little Hopes Leah Weiss uses historical fiction as the vehicle for an engaging coming of age story. She deftly weaves the themes of friendship, home, family, acceptance, forgiveness, belonging, and justice in a story set in rural North ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

POW Camps in the U.S. During World War II

German POWs board a train in Boston during WWII In Leah Weiss's All the Little Hopes, the Brown family's North Carolina farm receives an influx of laborers in the form of captured German soldiers sent from the nearby prisoner-of-war (POW) camp. Some readers may be surprised to learn that there were many such camps in the United States during World War II, and that it was not uncommon for these men to be put to work just as Weiss describes.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, more than 400,000 prisoners captured from the armies of the Axis powers (Germany, Japan and Italy) by the Americans and British came to the United States to be detained in POW camps from 1942-1945. There were 155 base camps and 511 smaller branch camps located in 46 of the 48 states, though most were ...

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