You ever read a book where you want to be friends with the character for maybe a few hours, then you want to slowly “ghost” yourself out of their lives? Yea, The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close is kind of like that!
Beth and Matt Kelly are Washington D.C. transplants. They leave New York when Matt is offered a job on the Presidential Inauguration Committee after working on Obama’s 2008 Presidential Campaign. Beth hates her her home, where levels of security clearance serve as stimulating dinner conversation, the roundabouts eternally confuse her Australian GPS, and where no one seems settled in their current career.
Things get worse when they meet Jimmy and Ashleigh Dylan. Jimmy works in the Advance Department. The four become inseparable, going on golf dates, coordinating brunches, and planning long weekends away.
But, as Jimmy’s star rises higher and higher, jealousy develops between the couples. Hopefuls chronicles eight years in The Kellys lives and examines ambition, friendship, marriage, in a refreshingly honest way.
When I take started listening to The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close all I could think is, this book is the perfect fit! Of course, I would pick up a book about Washington D.C.! Of course, I would decide to listen to the story of young people moving to D.C. a week before Scandal premieres its final season, and while I am knee-deep in a binge of The West Wing! Of course, this sounds like a good idea for someone who doesn’t stop reading articles about current affairs.
Saying that though, the book is nothing like watching either of those series.
The thing is, all of the characters in The Hopefuls are really passive and there’s nothing I really latched onto. Beth is a young wife who’s followed her husband to D.C. after losing her job as a writer at Vanity Fair, Ashleigh is the same way, just a bit more bubbly, Matt, hates his job in the White House Council’s office, and Jimmy is the guy who everyone hates because of how he seems to keep advancing in his career despite not appearing to work very hard at all.
I can love unlikeable characters, but I had issues with Beth. She’s the narrator, and she’s unmotivated, just floating from one scene to another because that’s what people expect of her. She has a husband with political ambitions, she uprooted her life, she looking for a job that isn’t going to match the one she had, but somehow after some initial anger, she’s completely fine with it!
I had high hopes for The Hopefuls at the beginning. I loved Beth when the novel starts and she’s talking about an Obama campaign reunion and the things they talk about (things like who they slept with and good hotels). Then a page later stating very plainly how ridiculous this reunion is:
(Which by the way was a really weird thing to call – 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.)
This initial sassiness was what I loved about Beth, but she didn’t keep this up for the entire book, and instead receded into the background.
While I can appreciate what Jennifer Close it doing with these four characters and their interpersonal relationships, I wanted there to be more to it, and I thought the book lacked the depth it could have had in the chosen setting.
The one thing I will say is that they chose a great narrator for this book. For whatever reason, the decision to cast Jorjeana Marie’s narration worked for me, and I think her delivery is a big part of why I finished this book. Even when Beth is relaying facts and telling us how things are transpiring, her voice is still engaging.
So while the book isn’t my typical fare, it was still light and enjoyable as an audiobook so I would recommend it to anyone looking for those themes.
FINAL RATING: 3 Stars
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