Wednesday, August 31, 2016
When Beth arrives in D.C., she hates everything about it: the confusing traffic circles, the ubiquitous Ann Taylor suits, the humidity that descends each summer. At dinner parties, guests compare their security clearance levels. They leave their BlackBerrys on the table. They speak in acronyms. And once they realize Beth doesn’t work in politics, they smile blandly and turn away. Soon Beth and her husband, Matt, meet a charismatic White House staffer named Jimmy, and his wife, Ashleigh, and the four become inseparable, coordinating brunches, birthdays, and long weekends away. But as Jimmy’s star rises higher and higher, the couples’ friendship—and Beth’s relationship with Matt—is threatened by jealousy, competition, and rumors. A glorious send-up of young D.C. and a blazingly honest portrait of a marriage, this is the finest work yet by one of our most beloved writers. -- Knopf
I read a few reviews prior to sitting down to write my own for THE HOPEFULS by Jennifer Close, and they weren't what I expected. In fact, they weren't exactly raving reviews, and I had to wonder if I read the same novel. Entertainment Weekly, my go-to source for book reviews, however, gave it an A-... so I felt a bit redeemed.
I thought THE HOPEFULS was highly entertaining, very funny, and surprisingly insightful. It tells the story of Beth, a woman who moves from New York City to Washington, D.C. for her husband Matt's new job. He definitely has political aspirations and Beth dutifully follows him even if that means being less than happy about leaving New York.
Beth soon discovers that there is a lot to hate about D.C. and who can blame her? It's a whole new world where everyone seems to be obsessed with politics. And since Beth isn't involved in that world, except through her husband, people have little time for her... until she meets Ashleigh.
Ashleigh is married to Jimmy, an up-and-comer in the White House; and she and Beth immediately hit it off. The two couples begin doing everything together -- brunches, weekly dinners, vacations, and more. When Jimmy decides to return to Texas to run for office, Matt decides to leave D.C. to run the campaign. The two couples even live in the same house in the months leading up to the election.
The closeness of the couples highlights some differences in their lives, and their relationship takes a downhill turn. Matt has a hard time dealing with Jimmy's behavior and a harder time dealing with Jimmy's success. Meanwhile, Beth, who never was crazy about being a political wife, feels even more excluded from her husband's life.
I loved THE HOPEFULS! I honestly didn't want to put this book down; and as a result, I read it in the course of a day or two. Maybe it's because I worked in D.C. for almost a decade, but I thought the author's observations about the city were perfect. I loved Beth's wry comments about the quirks of the city, like the traffic circles, the Metro, and the dinner parties; and I found myself laughing out loud on a number of occasions while reading this book.
One thing that stood out to me was Beth. She was far from perfect, but I really liked her. The novel was written in her voice, and I loved her wry observations about... pretty much everything. She was very funny and extremely honest. And it was her honestly that made this book so good to me. Her insights into life and the way the novel captured her thoughts was so spot on. In fact, I could relate to (and laughed at) many of her thoughts even when I knew I shouldn't!
I think the real strength of the book, however, was in how the relationships were portrayed. There was definitely lot going on in Beth and Matt's marriage (as well as Jimmy and Ashleigh's!) In addition, there was some tension between Beth and Jimmy that was interesting to say the least. However, my favorite relationship in the book was the friendship between Beth and Ashleigh.
When Beth met Ashleigh, it was exactly what she needed -- a friend! They discovered they really liked each other and became almost inseparable. I could totally relate to this, and I suspect many women will feel the same way. The beginning of their friendship was almost like the beginning of a romantic relationship. They had such a wonderful time getting to know each other, and it definitely reminded me of some of the friendships I've had in my life.
I do think THE HOPEFULS would make a great book club read; however, I wasn't able to find any formal discussion questions. Don't let that be a deterrent to selecting this novel. There is really so much to talk about especially the complex relationships in the novel. Some of the themes you might want to explore include marriage, sacrifice, secrets, adultery, honestly, friendship, motherhood, adjustments, and politics.
I adored THE HOPEFULS and highly recommend it to fans of women's fiction.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.