fiction / literary fiction

The Hopefuls: A novel by Jennifer Close


The Hopefuls is another book I got out from the library because it was available instantly for download for the Kindle. I remember hearing about her other book, Girls in White Dresses, when it came out but I honestly am not sure if I read it. I thought I had but then the description doesn’t sound familiar. The library had that too so I downloaded it.

Anyway! I liked The Hopefuls more than I thought I would. It’s the story of a woman, Beth, (in her late twenties I think?) who moves from NYC to Washington DC when her husband decides to leave his law practice and work in politics. He ends up with various jobs in the Obama administration and not so secretly harbors desires to run for office himself. They befriend another couple and drama ensues. The two couples are instant BFFs and spend a ton of time together, to the point where they almost seem like one liquid couple. The other couple, Ash and Jimmy, are from Texas and Jimmy is one of those super charismatic types that draws people in.  Jimmy keeps getting better and better jobs working closer and closer to Obama and Matt feels stuck in his behind the scenes role. Beth works for a DC gossip site after leaving Vanity Fair in NYC. All goes along well until Jimmy leaves for Facebook and the couple leaves DC. Some time passes and Jimmy is back in Texas wanting to run for the Railroad Commission (which has to do with gas and oil, not railroads) and Matt moves him and Beth to Texas to work on Jimmy’s campaign. They actually move into Ash and Jimmy’s house and that is fine for awhile until things break down. Matt is super stressed and not very nice to Beth who for the second time moved to a city she had no job or interest in for his career. Tensions rise and they separate for a bit but eventually get back together.

The story wasn’t super original but I enjoyed it. I really, really miss the Obamas and it was sad reading about them in the White House and knowing the monster that is there now. Close’s description of Washington DC and the personalities and dowdy clothes of the people who live and work there (especially in politics) was spot-on and basically reflected my own experience with DC residents. I appreciated that Beth wasn’t rushing to have babies even though her husband kept hinting about it in an annoying way and her reactions to Ash and her other friend having babies seemed realistic. I liked the parts where she talked about her feelings about her in-laws and things that bugged her. The how they met story was cute but not cheesy. How they became quick friend with Ash and Jimmy made sense. The book all seemed very natural in a way that some books aren’t.

The only things that bothered me about the book was that Beth was a little blah as a character. She was the protagonist (and this is one of the few books I’ve read this year with just one viewpoint) but I felt like she went with the flow too much. She moved for her husband, she went along with weekly family dinners even though her MIL was awful and they lived 45 minutes away etc. Also, the author had a strange tic of pointing out gay men in the book. It wasn’t just an editor she had in NYC, it was an exacting gay man. She also makes a point about the fashion of gay men at some point. It wasn’t offensive exactly but it was odd because there was no reason to point out the sexuality of people that only merited a line or two in the book. I also thought it was odd that most of the people in the book were white given DC’s demographics and the diversity of the Obama White House.

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