Book of the Month: The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

Welcome back to the book of the month! I love doing these because people love reading these haha. The book of this month is “The Hopefuls” by Jennifer Close. The thing about giving summaries of books is they are never quite enough. And I’m admittedly not the best with summaries but I’ll try. It tells the story of a young wife who follows her husband to Washington, D.C. to follow his political dreams in the newly minted Obama administration. Matt, the husband in question, is a White House staffer (who was also a campaign staffer) perennially frustrated and antsy about his career. Beth, the protagonist and from whose perspective the entire book is written, is a writer unsure about everything. And when I say everything—I literally mean everything and everyone.  Early on in the novel, at a birthday party for another White House employee, Beth meets Ash and Jimmy. Ash is a Texan who also moved to DC for her husband, Jimmy’s, work as an Obama staffer. The foursome quickly become close, going on vacations today, sharing everything including a “cleaning” lady. The book uses the discomfort of a new DC transplant to tell the story of important themes  of marriage, friendship, career, political campaigns, and envy.

It was creative how the author uses Beth as a symbol to describe most of what is irritating about D.C.: The way everyone takes themselves sooo seriously. The Ann Taylor suits. The traffic circles. The lonely dinner parties where if you don’t work in politics, they treat you like dirt. The comparison of security clearance levels (ok back up, this one is particularly odd and I think may even be false). So much that I think the author was a little unfair in her description of D.C. I also think there was a storyline or the build up to something grander that didn’t quite happen or that felt like it was not quite developed. And folks, those are my only issues with the book. I love EVERY OTHER THING. 

I especially love how she dealt with important issues. This book would be a great book club book because it facilitates so much discussion. For instance, envy might as well have been a character on its own. I won’t say, who, but as one entity of the foursome got more successful, envy crept in another so much that it threatened the relationship. How do you deal with that? Is envy ever a problem for you? Do you find yourself reeling when your friend seems to be achieving things YOU dreamed of? To be honest, I never really deal with envy. I don’t envy my friends because I consider their achievements mine too. Lol. And frankly, and this will seem a little narcissistic, but I don't pay that much attention to other people's paths. If it's great, I rejoice with you. If it's not, I commiserate with you.   But tell me below if and how you’ve dealt with envy in the past.

Another theme is that perpetual angst in your 20s (30s? wait, how old is Beth supposed to be? hmm); all the decisions you have to make, how unsure you are of everything. It can feel like a lot: All the choices you get to make (or have to—depending on your perspective). 

This book was all shades of juicy. There is a lot of positive nod to DC too to make those familiar with it yearn for it: 14th Street, Old Ebbitt, Panda Cam, Inauguration balls. But this book is way more than DC stereotypes that make you roll your eyes. The book is funny. There were parts that were laugh-out-loud funny, and you know I love that. Jennifer Close is also masterful with dialogue and her keen sense of observation. Her description of everything (EVERY SINGLE thing) is so apt as to be surreal. Whether it’s the meddlesome mother-in-law, DC suburbs, restaurants, Texans…her writing style is really astute. 

I know this book is set in the political world, but I don’t know that I would describe it as a political story per se. The author definitely did her homework because some of the references to the Obama campaign were sooo reall and we got a good glimpse of how campaigns work. 

In all, this is a very enjoyable book, no doubt. I know this because I didn’t want the book to end. I realized that at the end, most of the things that happened—all of the it, really—had been gradually built up. Nothing was dropped suddenly on our laps. And isn’t that the true mark of a good novelist? In my mind, I know who the true villain is but I’m not going to spoil it for you. I couldn’t put this book down, really. It was appropriately funny, it showed nuances of all of us. And for that and so much more, it is the book of this month!



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