Hunting for Hope

Where the search begins...

Suppose your daughter is engaged to be married, and she asks whether you think she ought to have children, given the sorry state of the world.  Suppose your son is starting college, and he asks what you think he should study, or why he should study at all, when the future looks so bleak.  Or suppose you are a teacher, and one student after another comes to ask you how to deal with despair.  What would you tell them? 

My children and my students have put those questions to me--haltingly, earnestly--and I feel that I owe them an answer.  They are not asking for assurances of pie-in-the sky, for magic pills or guardian angels, for stories ending happily-ever-after, but for real and present reasons to face the future with confidence.

Let me make clear that these young people are not depressed, although each of them could name friends who are, for an epidemic of depression is sweeping through their generation.  I have met that illness and many who suffer from it; I know its contours and dark recesses.  I am speaking here of something else. My son and daughter and, so far as I can tell, the students who pose these questions are bright, healthy, stable, and competent. They have every reason for confidence in themselves; it is the earth they brood about, the outlook for life. They know we are in trouble.  Everywhere they look they see ruined landscapes and ravaged communities and broken people.  So they are asking me if I believe we have the resources for healing the wounds, for mending the breaks.  They are asking me if I live in hope. 

"Beauty" was selected for Best American Essays 1999

Praise for Hunting for Hope:

"This book is an act of amazing generosity--five decades of seeing and living distilled into deep draughts of hope. It could help the planet; it will definitely help you in your relationships with spouse, children, community, and earth." --Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature

"Scott Sanders is among America's finest living essayists, but he is also something else: a mortal who has felt loss in his family and in the land. And here we have a chance to hear how this caring heart and mind have found hope, and sustained it, in wondrous ways." --Gary Paul Nabhan, author of Cultures of Habitat

"This is one of the rare books in which hope seems reasonable, and the grace and economy of the prose nourishes the parched spirit." --Robert Taylor, The Boston Globe

"An extraordinary book by one of America's most elegant writers. It is a veritable treasure trove of wisdom served up with love, imaginative verve, and spiritual sensitivity." --Values and Visions Reviews Service

"Sanders has blended the essences of philosophers, teachers, poets and authors, all filtered through his own unique Midwestern heart and mind, into passionate, crystal-clear, prize-winning essays." --James Alexander Thom, Indianapolis Star

"A small, bright arrowhead of a book: carefully hewn, piercing, balanced; betraying in its form its very substance. . . . [Sanders's] particular, urgent voice wields that arrowhead of hope into the hearts of his children, his students, and his readers." --GraceAnne A. DeCandido, Booklist

"Throughout the meditations in Hunting for Hope: A Father's Journeys, Scott Russell Sanders "cannot turn off" his "fathering mind." In the essay "Mountain Music I," Sanders proposes a hiking trip with his teenage son to find the source of their constant quarrels. In anticipation of the trip Sanders is "primed for splendor," but soon into their hiking, the son stalks away. The active "fathering mind" can find itself consumed with his children's well-being. "One of the joys of reading a good essay is watching someone think on the page," says Jerald Walker, author of Street Shadows: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion and Redemption. In The Los Angeles Review of Books, Ned Stuckey-French recently talked about the "shared intimacy" between the essayist and reader being like "a fireside chat between two close friends."

"Watching Sanders traverse the trails of tension with his son makes me feel much more human after trying to propel my own son to do pretty much anything he doesn't want to, even though he is much younger than the teenage character. The candor and clarity of Sanders's pursuits in the fresh language of his rhythmic prose, make me want to buy Hunting for Hope for all my friends who are dads." --Huffington Post