Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
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. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
From Close (The Smart One, 2013), a beach read for the election season about the friendship of two women whose husbands work in the Obama White House.In 2009, narrator Beth reluctantly leaves New York for Washington, D.C., when her politically ambitious lawyer husband, Matt, takes a job in the White House counsel's office. Beth is lonely and generally miserable until she and Matt meet Ashleigh Dillon and her husband, Jimmy, who works in the White House travel office, at a birthday party for another staffer. Despite her evangelical and artsy-craftsy leanings, Texan Ashleigh, who calls herself Ash in D.C., and Beth become intensely close friends, as do their husbands. But over the next four years, charismatic, easygoing Jimmy easily rises from one post to the next better one while diligent, hardworking Matt becomes increasingly frustrated as his work proves less interesting than he'd hoped. After the second inauguration, Matt is thrilled when approached to run for office in Maryland to fill a vacating seat, but his hopes are dashed when the incumbent decides to run again. The Dillons move back to Texas, where Jimmy is soon tapped to run for Texas Railroad Commissioner. Matt is excited when Jimmy asks him to manage his campaign, and Beth is game to try out Texas, but as soon as they move into the Dillons' mansion in a wealthy Houston suburb, the couples' relationships begin to show schisms: Jimmy and Matt grow increasingly hostile as the campaign falters; a preoccupied Matt doesn't give Beth the attention she wants; Jimmy doesn't help Ash with their baby; Beth has trouble relating to Ash, who has reverted to Ashleigh in name and personality; and then there's that sexual tension between Jimmy and Bethalthough, as usual, Close's depictions of troubled marriages are less interesting than her explorations of troubled friendships. Beth's tone veers between snark and whine, and to make matters worse, she couldn't care less about politics.This comedy about political insiders is surprisingly cheerless and weirdly apolitical. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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