The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close (Literary Fiction — audio book)

Writing:5/5 Plot: 3/5 Characters: 4/5

Matt and Beth are the “Hopefuls.” A young couple — Matt a Harvard trained lawyer eager to run for office and Beth a literary type earning a pittance at various writing / editorial jobs. They move to D.C. shortly after Obama is elected, Matt having worked for the campaign and eager to get into politics full time. When their best friends (Jimmy and Ash) decide to move to Texas to run for the coveted role of Railroad commissioner (hint: apparently has very little to do with railroads!), Matt and Beth go with them, Matt running Jimmy’s campaign. Jimmy is a democrat running against a well funded Republican — in TEXAS — so to say it is hard going is a bit of an understatement.
Beth is the narrator, so the point of view is far more focused on relationships (among all four of them) than on political strategy. She is quite observant, and the unfolding story is full of the kind of nuance and detail that makes people so interesting (and irritating and in this case — a bit whiny for my taste).
The writing is excellent, the story completely believable. My big problem — I did not like any of the characters. None of them were bad people, but they were not people I would have wanted to spend any time with. None of them. Matt was super intelligent and focused but clammed up when he was frustrated, and he was frustrated a lot. Beth didn’t do anything. She was so passive that I wanted to kick her.
Listened to it on audio, and the reader was excellent. The slower pace (I read very fast) really showed off the detail that I might have missed, and the reader really “got” the emotions in the narration. But it also meant a longer time dealing with characters who were irritating me!!

Marrying the Ketchups by Jennifer Close (Fiction)


Writing: 4/5 Plot: 4/5 Characters: 4/5

Cousins Teddy, Gretchen, and Jane alternate perspectives on their not-quite-mid life crises in Chicago as Trump wins the election and the Cubs finally win the World Series just weeks after their biggest fan — famed restaurateur Bud Sullivan — passes away. His eponymous restaurant is the center of most of the action as Teddy struggles with an affair with his recently-ex, not engaged boyfriend, Gretchen is forced to leave her band, pondering her “failed experiment with adulthood,” and Jane uses a cheating husband to examine what she wants in life (hint: it turns out not to be him).

It’s a fun story with a decent amount of insight as characters figure out how to keep going in a world that seems to be falling apart. Great family dynamics and social commentary.

Thank you to Knopf Doubleday and Custom House and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on April 26th, 2021.