House of Good Hope (Paperback)

A Promise for a Broken City

By Michael Downs

Bison Books, 9780803260122, 326pp.

Publication Date: April 1, 2007

List Price: 19.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


It was a crumbling city, like so many others. But in Hartford five gifted young men, who met as high school athletes, promised their lives to the hometown that shaped them even as it was coming apart. They intended to go far. They would, they pledged, bring back college degrees and commit themselves to living and working in Hartford. This is the story of those five men and how they kept, or broke, that promise—told by a writer whose own family history and departure are also part of Hartford’s struggle. It is a story of hope and heartbreak; love, sacrifice, and murder; big-time college football and police brutality; a drug sting that fells a high school coach; and, finally, a reunion of friends who have learned how hard it is to honor the past and live for the future in a place like Hartford.  Through it all Michael Downs comes to terms with his own decision to leave his hometown and abandon his ailing grandparents to a city that shows little mercy. His is very much a narrative of our nation of migrants and immigrants, where we must forever ask: What happens to those we leave behind? And how can we make peace with ourselves when we can no longer help the places we once called home?

About the Author

Michael Downs is a writer and journalist.

Praise For House of Good Hope: A Promise for a Broken City

“Combining a reporter’s eye for detail, the breathless narrative rush of an action movie and the generous heart of a hometown boy desperately trying to make sense of a place gone terribly wrong, Downs examines the social and economic disintegration of Hartford, Conn., in the 1990s through the coming-of-age of five African-American teenage boys. . . . The first half of the book flows with the power and grace of a finely tuned magazine article.”—Publishers Weekly

“Amid the broken glass that glitters on abandoned lots, amid the sense of abandonment and hopelessness, there beats the heart of an ancient city that refuses to die. And we’re still here. At its heart, House of Good Hope: A Promise for a Broken City is a lavish love letter to Connecticut’s capital city.”—Susan Campbell, Hartford Courant

House of Good Hope is just a beautiful book, filled with the poignant bittersweet of hope and loss. Michael Downs writes about friendship. He writes about the promises we try to keep. He writes about poverty and despair. The subjects are agonizing, but they shine with the poetic clarity of Downs’s prose.”—Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and A Prayer for the City
-Buzz Bissinger

“With poignant story-telling, descriptive prose, and compelling neighborhood characters, Michael Downs captures the heartbeat of Connecticut''s multi-cultural and poverty-riddled capital city. Downs is obviously a guy who loves his hometown—warts and all—and is enamored of its past, its shortcomings, and its potential.”—Stan Simpson, columnist for the Hartford Courant and radio talk show host for WTIC NewsTalk
-Stan Simpson

“A huge story hiding in plain sight, House of Good Hope recounts Hartford’s losses with a clear-eyed intimacy. Through the lives of five inner-city kids striving to be responsible men, Michael Downs asks what allegiance America owes its failing cities and what we all, as individuals, owe the places we call home.”—Stewart O’Nan, author of Everyday People
-Stewart O'Nan