The Hopefuls followed Beth and Matt on their journey into the political and social world of Washington D.C. When Beth lost her job, it was suddenly easier for Matt to convince her to move from New York to the Nation’s capital so that he could pursue his political ambitions. This novel examined their marriage while also focusing on Beth’s life and the direction she wanted it to take. In the first few chapters, I was struck by the author’s ability to nail the details of the city. She described the factual aspects, such as the weather, traffic, and points of interest with such accuracy that the setting almost became another character. The overall atmosphere of the novel were enhanced by the way the author depicted the social scene. The people Beth came into contact with were name droppers who loved to whip out their blackberry and spoke in a dialect filled with slang and acronyms known only to D.C. insiders. Beth felt those traits made the general D.C. population pretentious and that made me like Beth. As Beth attended more parties and gatherings with Matt, she became more of an outsider because she didn’t have that same need to impress strangers that Matt and everyone else did.
Much of the story revolved around Matt and Beth’s friendship with Jimmy and Ash, another D.C. power couple. Ash and Beth wasted time shopping and tanning, until Jimmy decided to run for office and hire Matt as a key man in his entourage. Matt and Beth followed Jimmy and Ash to Texas for Jimmy’s campaign and also moved in with them. Despite the great descriptions of D.C. politics, the author didn’t give the same attention to Jimmy’s campaign, and with less description his run was boring to read about.
Even though I liked Beth in the beginning of the novel, by the time she was in Texas, I wasn’t as enthusiastic about her or her marital problems. She never found a job, and became this lazy slob who didn’t care how late she slept in or that she wasn’t doing anything productive with her days. Beth’s relationship with Matt deteriorated as her interactions with Jimmy became less platonic, but that plot developed far too slowly. The flashbacks to Beth and Matt’s courtship only emphasized the fact that they were mismatched from the beginning and that their marriage was doomed to fail. With a floundering foundation, I expected their marriage to fail and wasn’t surprised when there were problems.
This should have been an emotionally charged novel, but instead it was a slow read without much of a climax.