A brilliantly funny novel about ambition and marriage from the best-selling author of Girls in White Dresses, The Hopefuls tells the story of a young wife who follows her husband and his political dreams to Washington, D.C., a city of idealism, gossip, and complicated friendships among the young aspiring elite.
When Beth arrives in 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 brunches, birthdays, and long weekends away. But as Jimmy’s star rises higher and higher, the couples’ 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.
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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, DC, and teaches creative writing at George Washington University.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Washington is a city of southern
efficiency and northern charm.
—JOHN F. KENNEDY
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 you want.”
Matt smiled at me like he knew I was lying, which I appreciated. I was making an effort to be positive about moving to DC, but these people didn’t make it easy. Everyone at that happy hour seemed just a little off, in a way I couldn’t put my finger on. When I mentioned this to Matt, he said, “It’s all people who work in politics. Nature of the beast, I guess.”
But as we stood there that night, listening to another story about Iowa, I had a realization. All of the people there reminded me of high school student council members, the ones who fought for pizza lunches and dance themes with great passion. They were all so eager. (And borderline annoying.) Was Matt one of them? Had I never noticed? Had he always been this way or just become one of them when I wasn’t paying attention?
I’d been in DC for about a week at that point, and I kept waiting for the newness to wear off, for it to feel less strange. Matt had already been there for months by the time I moved—he’d started working for the Presidential Inaugural Committee right after the election—and he seemed to have no trouble fitting in to this new city. I visited him often while he was working on PIC (the horrible acronym everyone used for the committee, which made me think of fingers in noses), and as I met his work friends and walked around the monuments, I tried to imagine what our life would look like there, tried to see the good parts of DC. But each time I left to return to New York, I was relieved. I’d get off the train at Penn Station, breathe in the smell of urine, popcorn, and dirt, and feel like I was coming home.
After the inauguration, Matt was offered a job in the White House counsel’s office and I knew we were really moving to DC. It was what we’d talked about, what we’d planned for. It was the whole reason Matt joined the campaign in the first place. It was too late to back out now.
We found a place just north of Dupont Circle, on a tiny block with six town houses, diagonally across the street from a Hilton. The day we’d gone to look at the apartment, Matt had pointed at the hotel. “Do you know what that is?” he asked.
“What? The hotel?”
“Yeah, that right there. Look at the doorway. Does it look familiar?”
“Not at all? Just look at it for a minute.”
Matt was always doing this, always insisting that I knew things I didn’t. Once, when we were on opposite teams during a Trivial Pursuit game with friends, he refused to let me pass on the question “Who once warned, ‘Never eat more than you can lift’?” I didn’t even have a guess, but Matt wouldn’t let it go. “Come on, Beth, you know this,” he kept saying, as our friends sat there and I got embarrassed and then mad. “I don’t know,” I kept insisting. (The answer was Miss Piggy, and to this day, I have no idea why Matt was sure I knew the answer, but it still remains one of the biggest fights we’ve ever had. We didn’t play Trivial Pursuit for years after that.)
Standing in front of the apartment, I didn’t have the patience to play Matt’s game and guess what was special about the Hilton. “Just tell me,” I said.
“It’s where Reagan was shot,” he said. “It’s the Hinckley Hilton. Look, that’s where he was coming out of the hotel, and right there is where he got shot. Crazy, right?”
“Crazy,” I said. I was tired of walking around and looking at apartments, and knew that my attitude was putting a sourness over the whole afternoon. Matt was just trying to lighten the mood, but it was a little weird to try to cheer me up by showing me the spot of an attempted presidential assassination, wasn’t it? (Although I soon found myself pointing it out to everyone who came to visit. When a friend from college who lived in Brooklyn told me that Sesame Street was filming on her block, I quickly came back with “From our front door, you can see where Reagan was shot.” Take that, Elmo.)
When we signed the lease, the broker took notice of Matt’s jacket, a fleece with an Obama-Biden logo embroidered on the chest. These jackets were given to the staff on election night, and you saw people wearing them all over town, like badges of honor.
“Did you work on the campaign?” the broker asked, and Matt nodded.
“It’s so great he won,” the broker said.
“It really is,” Matt agreed.
“I mean, for business it’s great,” the broker said. “All the real estate agents here are thrilled. We’ll be renting so many more places. Republicans don’t live in the District, you know, they live in Virginia.” He said this like it was a fact everyone knew.
“Isn’t that weird?” I said to Matt later.
“Not really.” He shrugged. “It’s like anything else divided down party lines. Republicans like Fox News and NASCAR and Democrats like MSNBC and Starbucks.”
“Simple as that?” I asked, and he said, “Absolutely.”
Our new neighborhood was nice—that was my answer to everyone who asked. And then I’d add, “I mean, it’s not New York, but it’s fine.” Dupont Circle was just so different from Manhattan—residential and much quieter; one step closer to the suburbs.
If you walked over to Eighteenth Street, there were a couple of restaurants and a gay bar called Larry’s Lounge that advertised “Yappy Hour” on the patio from five to seven, a time when customers could bring their dogs to hang out with them while they got drunk. If you walked five blocks down, there was a stretch of shops and then some more restaurants. Everything looked a little worn, like it was past its prime. Also, we lived just a few houses down from the “original” Ron Hubbard house, which to be honest freaked me out just a little. I wasn’t thrilled to have Scientologists as neighbors.
And there were so many trees and so much grass that it was disorienting. Maybe it was just more oxygen than I was used to. After we signed the lease, Matt and I took a walk around the neighborhood. He held my hand and squeezed it. “I think you’re really going to love it here,” he said.
I hoped he was right, I really did. I reminded myself that I’d once gone to a six-week boot camp class in Central Park, where a man yelled at us as we did push-ups and squats in the grass at 7:00 a.m. If I could convince myself that I liked that, I could do anything.
I spent my first couple of weeks in DC going to as many social gatherings as I could. We said yes to every invitation, asked people to dinner, made plans for almost every night of the week. Matt kept saying, “Once you meet people and get settled, it will feel like home.” And I believed him. (Or at least I wanted to.)
So we went to a dinner party where everyone—I swear to God—went around the table and announced their level of security clearance. As people said “Secret,” and “Top Secret,” the rest of the guests nodded and murmured. When they got to me, I looked at their expectant faces and then finally said, “Nothing. I don’t have clearance for anything.” There was a small pause and then the man to my left picked it up and said, “SCI,” which apparently stood for sensitive compartmented information, and got the most approving reaction of the night. I just took a bite of my chicken and concentrated on chewing. What a bunch of nerds.
And then one night, we went out with Alan Chu, one of Obama’s personal aides who sat just outside the Oval Office all day. Alan was slim and always perfectly dressed, although there was something fussy about his look that suggested he spent twenty minutes picking out his tie and sock combinations in the morning. Alan and his boyfriend suggested we go to La Fourchette, a French restaurant on Eighteenth Street, and I had high hopes for the evening, until it became clear that every one of Alan’s stories started with “One time POTUS said” and “POTUS was in a great mood today.” I tried to steer the conversation away from work, asking Alan where he was from and where he went to college. Each time, he’d answer me quickly and then resume talking to Matt as if they were the only two there. Alan’s boyfriend, Brett, looked just as bored as I felt, and at one point he started playing with the little candle in front of him, tilting it back and forth, letting the wax drip onto the tablecloth.
On top of everything else, the service that night was terrible—there was a private party in the back room and the whole staff (our waiter included) kept rushing back there and ignoring the tables in the main dining room. As the waiters pushed the curtain aside to get back there, we caught a glimpse of Newt Gingrich’s round and red smiling face. “It’s his birthday,” our waiter whispered to us later. He was breathless with excitement. “Welcome to DC,” Matt said to me, and I gave a little laugh.
After we left dinner that night, I said to Matt, “When Alan talks about the President, he sounds like an infatuated boyfriend.”
“He’s not that bad,” Matt said.
“Sure,” I agreed. “In the same way that stalkers are just passionate.”
Trying to make new friends was like dating—meeting so many new people and feeling them out, trying to find common interests and topics of conversation. It was harder than I’d thought it would be. I tried to adjust, tried to remain positive. But the one thing I could never get used to when we were out with these people was the BlackBerries—oh, the BlackBerries that everyone kept close by, right next to their beers or their plates, just in case someone was trying to get ahold of them. If we were with a big group, chimes and dings and bike bells rang out constantly. The table buzzed and beeped, and each time there was a new chirp, everyone reached for their phone, certain that it was theirs, clicked away on the keyboard just to make sure they hadn’t missed anything, each of them believing themselves to be more important than the next.
Our unpacking process was slow. No matter how many boxes I got through each day, there were always more, almost like they were multiplying behind my back. Bubble Wrap was strewn everywhere—on the coffee table and the floor and couch. Matt came home one Thursday night, a couple of weeks after we moved in, to find me standing in a circle of boxes, unsure of where to put any of it.
“Hey,” I called, as he came up the stairs. I was trapped in of middle of everything and he came over to kiss me hello.
“How’s it going?” he asked.
“I don’t know how we have so much stuff. We’re just going to live out of boxes forever,” I said.
“Okay,” Matt said. “Fine by me.”
“Seriously, this apartment is like twice as big as our last place and I still don’t know where to put anything.”
“Ugh,” Matt said, leaning over to look into one of the boxes, which was filled with the most random of our possessions—Post-it notes, a shower cap, a pair of wooden lovebirds. “Let’s just toss it.”
“Deal,” I said. I stepped over the pile of stuff around me and sat on the couch as he went to the kitchen to get himself a beer.
“How was work?” I asked.
“Good,” he said. He sat down on the couch with a sigh and leaned his head back. “I’m so tired.”
“Too tired for a trip to the grocery store? I was thinking we could go to the Giant up on Connecticut.”
“Why do you want to go all the way up there?”
“We need so much stuff. It’s not that far. I can’t eat Chipotle again for dinner. The employees are starting to recognize us and it’s getting embarrassing.”
“I know,” Matt said. “The manager seemed genuinely excited to see me last night.”
“We basically have no food in the house. I just think the Giant is our best bet.”
There were two Safeways within wal...
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Descripción Knopf Publishing Group, United States, 2016. Hardback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A brilliantly funny novel about ambition and marriagefrom the best-selling author ofGirls in White Dresses, The Hopefulstells the story of a young wife who follows her husband and his political dreams to Washington, D.C., a city of idealism, gossip, and complicated friendships among the young aspiring elite. When Beth arrives in 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 brunches, birthdays, and long weekends away. But as Jimmy s star rises higher and higher, the couples 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. Nº de ref. de la librería ABZ9781101875612