Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Hopefuls

Title:  The Hopefuls
Author:  Jennifer Close
Publication Information:  Knopf. 2016. 320 pages.
ISBN:  1101875615 / 978-1101875612

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "This is what people talk about an Obama campaign reunion..."

Favorite Quote:  "When a friendship ends, people don't always give it the same amount of thought that they do relationships ... most of the time, friendships end in a different way - slowly, and without declarations. Usually people don't really notice until a friend has been gone for a while and then they just say they grew apart, or their lives became too different."

The Hopefuls is the story of a marriage surrounded by the political process of the United States. Beth and Matt are the best of friends and husband and wife. They leave their life in New York in pursuit of Matt's political ambitions in Washington DC. Beth puts her career and aspirations on hold to support Matt in pursuit of his.

Along the way, they meet Jimmy and Ashley, another young, up-and-coming political couple. The two couples become the best of friends to the point of even living together at one point. The cracks appear for Jimmy's career seem to blossom while Matt always seems a step behind. Yet, the friendship remains.

The peripheral story of this book - its environment - is the political process at a national and local level. It offers a view of the ambitions, the competition, the deals, the frantic pace of a campaign, and the disappointments. Part of that context is the presidential campaign. In this election year, this view on a campaign is an especially fascinating one.

Another level of this story is the story of friendship. In a friendship between couples, what is the interplay of the relationships between the four individuals? What is a political alliance versus a friendship? Is a relationship a friendship if one is using another to further his own goals? How does friendship survive working together? What are the boundaries of friendship - the lines that should not be crossed? What actions and betrayals can a friendship survive?

The main story of this book is that of Beth and Matt's marriage. How does a couple find balance between their differing aspirations? How do you support a spouse even when it involves a sacrifice of your own desires? How do you keep communication going instead of letting frustrations build and build? What can be a point of no return in a relationship?

The story is narrated through Beth's voice. So, it is her side of the story we hear. It is her perspective on events we hear. Beth follows Matt from place to place because of his career ambitions. She finds herself out of place and out of sync. This perspective works well as an outsider's view of the machinations of politics.

The issue with that perspective is that Beth is not always a sympathetic character. For most of the book, she seems passive. Things seems to happen to her without exerting much control over the direction in which her life goes. Really late in the book, the book acknowledges that as Beth's personality. "'You're always letting things happen to you ... You just wait to react. Do something.' ... I just looked at her, not knowing how to respond. She was right, of course. But I didn't know how to change that about myself - didn't know if it was even possible." This acknowledged characteristic adds perspective to the entire story and makes Beth more sympathetic, but it unfortunately occurs too late in the book. For most of the book, I find myself telling Beth to just say something or just do something. That never happens. Her entire story is a reactionary one.

Perhaps, the best part of this story is the fact that the people and emotions of this book ring true. Their struggles and frustrations seem real. The book seems to follow the pace of real life as well. Not much happens; yet, a lot seems to happen within a relationship. Much of the action seems to be routine life within a political context, and routine repeats. That's okay because this book is much more about the relationship - a story in which many people will recognize the joys and pitfalls of marriage.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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