THE HOPEFULS by Jennifer Close

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I think this was the review snippet that got me to pick up this book:

“Jennifer Close’s fresh, smart, realistic portrayal of two young Washington couples is a must read for House of Cards junkies…. [D.C.] almost functions as a fifth character in the book, with its own quirks and dynamics and idiosyncrasies.” —Kimmery Martin, The Huffington Post

I love House of Cards (British version even more so,) love politics (although this election season has just about driven me around the bend) and I am a West Wing fanatic (re-watching the entire series to follow along with the West Wing Weekly podcast, amazing!) So this sounded like a book I would love.

I didn’t love it, but I did enjoy it. It was more about the relationships between husbands and wives and friendship than about politics. Although that is not a bad thing, it wasn’t what I expected. And D.C. was a very minor plot point.

Beth and Matt are newly arrived in Washington D.C., where Matt has secured a job in the Obama White House after working on the campaign. Beth hates it immediately, missing New York City. Matt loves it. He comes from a family that models itself on the Kennedy’s, with ritual Sunday family dinners, super competitive football in the yard, and a week every August at the family compound on the shore.

Matt is Harvard smart and dreams of running for office himself one day. Beth isn’t so sure about any of it. They befriend another young couple, Jimmy and Ash. Jimmy has a great job as advance man for Obama, and Matt envies his career path and the easy way he charms every one he meets. Ash is a Texas Southern belle, but quickly she and Beth become the closest of friends, two fish out of water in D.C. and clinging to each other.

The book follows the ups and downs in their lives and is told mostly from Beth’s point of view, so it is a complete bitchfest, although there are some very funny moments that help balance it out. When Jimmy runs for Railroad Commissioner in Texas (yes, there is such a thing, and even though I lived in Texas for five years I never heard of it) Matt becomes Jimmy’s campaign manager. The two couples move to Texas, share a huge house and a life until ten months later the election is slipping away. All their relationships have slipped away as well. Matt and Jimmy are fighting. Ash and Jimmy are fighting, Matt and Beth are just ignoring each other, and even Beth and Ash drift apart.

Eventually things work out the way they are supposed to, Matt finds a better job in DC, as does Beth, and they live happily ever after. We hope.

11/16  Stacy Alesi AKA the BookBitch™

THE HOPEFULS by Jennifer Close. Knopf (July 19, 2016). ISBN 978-1101875612. 320p.

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