The Hopewell Hotel and its owners finally found something to hope for when Mrs. A moved into the Empire Suite.
It wasn't the summer Scarlett Martin had hoped for. It wasn't even the summer she'd expected. The summer she turned fifteen was unexpected in every way you could imagine. The Martins owned and lived in the Hopewell Hotel in mid-town Manhattan. Built in 1929, it had been an elegant Art Deco landmark for years. But now it was shabby rather than elegant, and instead of making money for the Martins, it sucked up all the money they could pour into it. And it was on Scarlett's fifteenth birthday, after a birthday breakfast that was closer to an ordeal than a celebration, that Scarlett, Lola, and Spencer found out just how bad things had gotten.
Three years before, Marlene, the youngest Martin, had gotten leukemia, and the hotel had had to take second place. She'd been in remission for two years, but there were still thousands of dollars in medical bills to pay, and not enough left over to keep the hotel in good repair and pay the employees who ran it. They were let go one by one, and quick fixes replaced expensive repairs. The Martins were determined to keep the hotel open, but everyone would have to pitch in and work together. And since both Spencer and Lola had full-time jobs, "everyone" meant Scarlett. She'd have to work for her parents for free instead of getting a job she'd actually get paid for, leaving her with no money when school started for clothes, and movies, and anything else above and beyond eating lunch and getting her Metrocard for the subway.
But things changed when Mrs. Amberson arrived for the summer, and turned the Martin family upside down. She was an aging actress, a world traveler, an amateur photographer, an adventurer with piles of money to throw around, and the very personification of "high maintaintence." She stayed in the Empire Suite, the most expensive room in the hotel, and the one that Scarlett was in charge of, so it was up to her to give Mrs. A the personal service the hotel was famous for. In other words, anything and everything she wanted, from organic tea, to a laptop computer, to matches, to sushi, to dance tights, and just about everything in-between. Life around Mrs. A was always unexpected, and never dull. What did that mean for the Hopewell and the Martins? Check into the Empire Suite and find out.
This booktalk was written by university professor, librarian and booktalking expert Joni Richards Bodart.