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The Hopefuls

Cover of The Hopefuls

The Hopefuls

A Novel
Borrow Borrow
A brilliantly funny novel about ambition and marriage from the best selling author of Girls in White Dresses, The Better Half tells the story of a young wife who follows her husband and his political dreams to D.C., a city of idealism, gossip, and complicated friendships among young Washington's aspiring elite.

When Beth arrives in Washington, D.C., she hates everything about it: the confusing traffic circles, the ubiquitous Ann Taylor suits, the humidity that descends each summer. At dinner parties, guests compare their security clearance levels. They leave their BlackBerrys on the table. They speak in acronyms. And once they realize Beth doesn't work in politics, they smile blandly and turn away. Soon Beth and her husband, Matt, meet a charismatic White House staffer named Jimmy and his wife, Ashleigh, and the four become inseparable, coordinating brunch, birthdays, and long weekends away. But as Jimmy's star rises higher and higher, their friendship--and Beth's relationship with Matt--is threatened by jealousy, competition and rumors. A glorious send-up of young D.C. and a blazingly honest portrait of a marriage, this is the finest work yet by one of our most beloved writers.

From the Hardcover edition.
A brilliantly funny novel about ambition and marriage from the best selling author of Girls in White Dresses, The Better Half tells the story of a young wife who follows her husband and his political dreams to D.C., a city of idealism, gossip, and complicated friendships among young Washington's aspiring elite.

When Beth arrives in Washington, D.C., she hates everything about it: the confusing traffic circles, the ubiquitous Ann Taylor suits, the humidity that descends each summer. At dinner parties, guests compare their security clearance levels. They leave their BlackBerrys on the table. They speak in acronyms. And once they realize Beth doesn't work in politics, they smile blandly and turn away. Soon Beth and her husband, Matt, meet a charismatic White House staffer named Jimmy and his wife, Ashleigh, and the four become inseparable, coordinating brunch, birthdays, and long weekends away. But as Jimmy's star rises higher and higher, their friendship--and Beth's relationship with Matt--is threatened by jealousy, competition and rumors. A glorious send-up of young D.C. and a blazingly honest portrait of a marriage, this is the finest work yet by one of our most beloved writers.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    Washington, DC
    2009
    Washington is a city of southern
    efficiency and northern charm.
    —JOHN F. KENNEDY


    Chapter 1


    This is what people talk about at an Obama campaign reunion:
    · How early they joined the campaign
    · What they did on the campaign
    · Who they slept with on the campaign
    · Good hotels
    · Bad hotels
    · How many Hilton points they have
    · How many frequent flier miles they have
    · Who worked for Hillary before joining Obama (This was whispered behind the backs of former Hillary staffers like it was a shameful secret. Sort of like herpes.)
    · Inside jokes about lost luggage
    · How amazing Iowa was (Usually you'd hear someone say something like "Weren't you in Iowa? Oh man, you should've been there. You missed out. It felt like we were changing the world." Then you'd brace yourself for about an hour's worth of Iowa stories.)


    We were at a bar near the White House called The Exchange, which had a lot of TVs and smelled like bleach and dirty rags. Matt ordered drinks for us at the bar and then we walked around, stopping every few seconds so he could give someone a handshake or a half hug and say, "Hey man, how've you been?" He was more hyper than usual—being around the campaign people made him jumpy like he'd been chugging Red Bull. All that Hope and Change will do that to a person. Every time he introduced me to someone, he'd put his hand on my back and push me forward a little, saying, "This is Beth, my wife." And when he'd tell me the name of the person I was meeting, he'd always include their job title. "This is Larry, an associate research director at the White House." Each time, I'd say something like "Wow, that's great." I had no idea what any of it meant, but I did my best to look impressed.


    Eventually we found ourselves standing in a circle of people listening to this guy, Billy, tell a story about one of the early fund-raising events. He was animated and everyone was hanging on his every word. "So, I was driving the Senator around Minnesota in a rental car," he said. "A Ford Fiesta, I think. This was sometime in 2007. And we hit a pothole and almost lost a tire."


    Everyone laughed like this was really funny, so I did too, but it gave me kind of a creepy feeling. Billy was telling this story like it was about potholes or Ford Fiestas, but it wasn't. The real points of the story were:


    1. Billy knew Obama when he was a senator and he knew him so well that sometimes he just forgot that he was the president now and still referred to him as the Senator. Such a simple mistake.
    2. He joined the campaign so early that there weren't even drivers yet, which means that Billy drove around Minnesota with Obama in shotgun. How crazy is that? How jealous is everyone?
    3. And again, just to repeat it, he joined the campaign early. So early. Earlier than everyone else. Before you, definitely. He always knew Obama would be the nominee. Possibly, he was the first person in the world to know.
    As everyone laughed at the hilarious Ford Fiesta story, Matt put his hand on my back and I braced myself to be introduced to someone else, but he just leaned down and whispered, "We can go soon, okay?" I nodded and tried to look like I was having fun, like I loved being at this reunion. (Which by the way was a really weird thing to call it—a reunion—because all of these people lived in DC and most of them worked together. If they wanted to reunite, they could do it over lunch or coffee or running into each other in the hallway.) And so, I just shrugged and said to Matt, "Sure, we can go whenever...

About the Author-
  • JENNIFER CLOSE is the best-selling author of Girls in White Dresses and The Smart One. Born and raised on the North Shore of Chicago, she is a graduate of Boston College and received her MFA in fiction writing from The New School in 2005. She worked in New York in magazines for many years. She now lives in Washington, D.C., and teaches creative writing at George Washington University.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 23, 2016
    In Close’s (Girls in White Dresses) uneven fourth novel, writer Beth Kelly reluctantly leaves New York City to move to Washington, D.C., due to her husband, Matt, and his promising job in politics. He hopes to run for office one day, having been groomed for glory since childhood by his overbearing mother, Babs. Unfortunately, though he has the drive, Matt lacks the charm and charisma that his handsome friend Jimmy Dillon has in excess. With jealousy and admiration, Matt watches Jimmy fulfill his ambitions with ease. In the meantime, cosmopolitan Beth forges an unlikely friendship with Jimmy’s unrefined but sweet wife, Ash. Though Close’s novel is initially snappy and engaging, it becomes a slog once Beth follows Matt to Texas, where he begins work on Jimmy’s local campaign. Unemployed Beth endures endless days of monotony and repetitive election talk, growing apart from Matt and Ash as Ash turns maliciously gossipy and Matt irritably begins to shut her out. The formerly tight foursome begin to get on one another’s nerves, although Beth starts to think of Jimmy as more than a pal. The novel’s strengths lie in documenting how stress changes people, the work that marriage requires, and the importance of having a passion of one’s own. A welcome tension returns to the story as an inevitably fruitless election night looms, but not enough to recover the lost momentum of the book’s tedious middle pages.

  • Ron Charles, The Washington Post "The Hopefuls captures everything we love to hate about Washington... A hilarious gripefest... Here, finally, is a novel witty enough to match your secret loathing -- and tenderhearted enough to make you realize how much you love this damned cesspool after all... [The] winking humor and especially the real affection between Beth and Matt make The Hopefuls a pleasure to read... [Close] has a light, precise touch about the way a young marriage works when the partners are caught between old ideals and new realities... But the real heart of The Hopefuls is the tension between idealism and cynicism inherent to politics... A welcome mixture of humor and wisdom about the good people who run this country -- or, for some reason, want to."
  • Meredith Turits, Elle "The author of Girls in White Dresses delivers her latest novel about a couple navigating the political ladder in D.C. Inspired by Close's own experiences moving to Washington for her husband's work on the Obama campaign, The Hopefuls is blisteringly honest about the circus of American politics and Washington's exhausting culture of competition--one that that renders people outside of political circles virtually invisible."
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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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The Hopefuls
The Hopefuls
A Novel
JENNIFER CLOSE
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