Sharing Hope

Janine Stephens, a middle-aged perfectionist, is leading a perfect life – until her husband’s job is eliminated when his longtime employer downsizes the company.

While John Stephens seems content to see what unfolds, his wife, involved in many good works, is almost too busy to listen for God’s guidance. But when Janine does hear God’s call, they embark upon a new, unsettled, path.

Thus begins the West Hope Trilogy, a new series of inspirational novels by Wellsburg resident Mary Jean Bonar. The name “West Hope” is significant for a number of reasons, mainly because the author seeks to give hope to readers.

Bonar said she wants to tell readers: “Wherever you are, whatever you can do, seek out your purpose in God’s Kingdom.” She added, “I hope that some of my readers will take another look into the feelings and sometimes hopelessness of others around them and sincerely want to walk hand in hand with them.”

Writing professionally is a relatively new venture for the Wellsburg woman. In 2008, her first novel, “Overflowing with Hope,” was published by Tate Publishing. The first-time author said she received great encouragements to produce a sequel that was promised at the end of the novel, but her health diminished at the same time.

When her health improved greatly after back surgery in 2012, Bonar decided to revisit her book, and she partnered with Trafford Publishing to reformat her original novel into a trilogy.

“Look to the Hills,” the first book of the trilogy, was issued in December and “Blessed Abundantly,” the second book, was released in January. Bonar is writing the final book of the trilogy for publication this summer. The third book ends the trilogy and serves as the sequel to her original novel, “Overflowing with Hope,” she explained.

The title of the trilogy’s first volume, “Look to the Hills,” is taken from Psalm 121, “I lift up my eyes to the hills…” and speaks to main character Janine’s questions to God when the circumstances of her life change in middle age. As readers observe the Stephenses at home in the city of Innesport, Pa., the author tells parallel stories of the mostly elderly members of the Church of Hope in the western Pennsylvania borough of West Hope.

In “Blessed Abundantly,” the lives of the Stephenses and the elderly folks intersect at the Church of Hope, after the middle-aged couple retires to a nearby rural area. Readers can easily see the signs that Janine’s musical talents are needed by the church, but readers are likely to be surprised by a deepening relationship that develops between Janine and the elderly church ladies.

Tri-state residents also are likely to notice similarity between the fictional West Hope and several small communities in western Pennsylvania.