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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Hopefuls: A Novel

The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close was a book I picked up at this year's Book Expo, and it was well worth carrying this one home in my suitcase.

After Matt joins the 2008 Obama campaign, he gets a job post-win in the legal office of the White House, sending his journalist wife Beth into a new world of politics in Washington, D.C. She misses her home and her friends but tries to get along the best she can. When she meets Ashleigh and her husband Jimmy, who also works for the White House, the couples have found their soul mates and are attached to the hip. When Jimmy moves back to Texas to follow his own political ambitions, Matt and Beth follow to work on his campaign. Can the friendship sustain the huge shift in worlds, or will each of their choices have consequences that will change the course of their relationships, both romantic and friendship?

I will say at the start that I had very high hopes for this book. I am a Close fan, and I was expecting a good book. This one met my expectations, and even surpassed them in some ways. I thought this book was incredibly mature, and that Close's voice has grown with her over time. Though the characters start at roughly the same age as those in Dresses, there was a deeper sense of grown-up-ness about Beth and Matt in this story. I could see the stronger sense of understanding of oneself reflected in this story and these people that Close created on the page. The characters were complex and flawed but still so very human, and I was able to think back to my late 20's (that was a joke --it was half a decade ago, practically yesterday) and remember that feeling of flailing in my career.

The relationship between Beth and Matt is also interesting and worth taking note of.  It was clear to me that he loved her, but when I started to pull back and look at the larger scope of the relationship in relation to the world in which they lived, I found myself wondering whether or not he fell in love with her because of the life they could have together or because of the wife she could be to him in his pursuit of politics. I then wonder if that's callous of me and that the world has made me hard. Which, in turn, is the point of the story. The life these two have chosen to live has made them callous in their own ways and hard toward each other. Hard choices can do that to people. But it's not the hard times that define you, it's how you work your way out of them.

My only beef with this book that I enjoyed tremendously is that the ending felt expected. I was hoping for something more daring or unexpected, but at the end of the day, the safe ending is what most people want anyway. I just know that life doesn't always have safe endings, but thank goodness that literature does. That being said, I did enjoy this book and found myself drawn to it after I had put it down. I felt the lives of the characters to be magnetic, and I thought Beth was a fantastic protagonist and one that drew me in as a reader and kept me around as a woman floundering in her own career. 

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