Marion Halligan tells a story of Wendy, a pretty young woman, who works, saves, marries, honeymoons on a package trip to Fiji, has three children, is abandoned by her husband who drinks and runs up gambling debts, and continues to work raising her children alone, buying the occasional lottery ticket. In other words, it's a story of a life that is pretty commonplace in a certain kind of society at a particular time. It takes seven pages to tell. Halligan then asks the reader to count the hopes in the story, as one would count the animals hidden in the puzzle picture in the newspaper. The author has planted fifty-five hopes in this brief and realistic tale, and reckons that some readers may spy more. “It's a story full of hopes. Some easy to see, some hidden. Hopes for a good skin by using certain cosmetics, for the good life in a planned city, for a bridal bouquet bringing a husband, modest hopes many of them, and domestic, but none the less hopeful for their simplicity.” Halligan says of Samuel Johnson's quip that remarriage is a triumph of hope over experience: “That's a description of life.”
Hope appears as the warp in the everyday weave of the imagined Wendy's life; it defines the shape of the garment over varying lengths – planning a beauty treatment for a summer, saving for a vacation holiday, anticipating the adult life of a tiny child.