THE HOPEFULS by Jennifer Close


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From Close (The Smart One, 2013), a beach read for the election season about the friendship of two women whose husbands work in the Obama White House.

In 2009, narrator Beth reluctantly leaves New York for Washington, D.C., when her politically ambitious lawyer husband, Matt, takes a job in the White House counsel’s office. Beth is lonely and generally miserable until she and Matt meet Ashleigh Dillon and her husband, Jimmy, who works in the White House travel office, at a birthday party for another staffer. Despite her evangelical and artsy-craftsy leanings, Texan Ashleigh, who calls herself Ash in D.C., and Beth become intensely close friends, as do their husbands. But over the next four years, charismatic, easygoing Jimmy easily rises from one post to the next better one while diligent, hardworking Matt becomes increasingly frustrated as his work proves less interesting than he'd hoped. After the second inauguration, Matt is thrilled when approached to run for office in Maryland to fill a vacating seat, but his hopes are dashed when the incumbent decides to run again. The Dillons move back to Texas, where Jimmy is soon tapped to run for Texas Railroad Commissioner. Matt is excited when Jimmy asks him to manage his campaign, and Beth is game to try out Texas, but as soon as they move into the Dillons’ mansion in a wealthy Houston suburb, the couples’ relationships begin to show schisms: Jimmy and Matt grow increasingly hostile as the campaign falters; a preoccupied Matt doesn’t give Beth the attention she wants; Jimmy doesn’t help Ash with their baby; Beth has trouble relating to Ash, who has reverted to Ashleigh in name and personality; and then there’s that sexual tension between Jimmy and Beth—although, as usual, Close’s depictions of troubled marriages are less interesting than her explorations of troubled friendships. Beth's tone veers between snark and whine, and to make matters worse, she couldn't care less about politics.

This comedy about political insiders is surprisingly cheerless and weirdly apolitical.

Pub Date: July 19th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-101-87561-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2016


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