A writer of dexterity and imagination.”New York Times Book Review
The nationally best-selling Hughes returns with a darkly brilliant Mad Men-esque drama of family secrets and professional lies reminiscent of Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road and James Salter’s Light Years.
From the outside in, the Devlin family lead almost-perfect lives. Dashing father, Nick, is a successful businessman long married to sweetheart Jean, who upholds the family home and throws dinner parties while daughter Lily attends Catholic school and is disciplined into modesty by the nuns. Under the surface, however, the Devlins are silently broken by the death of their little boy. As Nick’s older brother, a man driven by callous and rapacious urges, inducts Nick into the cut-throat world of cosmetics the Devlin family are further fragmented by betrayals, and victims of the cruelest kind of hurt.
In The Loved Ones Hughes takes her gimlet eye deep into the secret places between men and women to give an incisive portrayal of one family’s struggle to stay together against stacked odds of deception, adultery, and loss. Years in the making, this is Hughes’ astonishing and compulsively readable break out, a sweepingly cinematic novel of relationships defined by an era of glamour and decadence.
The latest from Hughes (Wavemaker II) begins just before Christmas 1969: the snow is coming down fast when Jean Devlin pulls out of her driveway and pauses in the quiet hush of the storm in part because she can't see, but also to think and remember. The pages that follow set the tempo and sensibility for the rest of the novel, a patchwork of present and past, stitched together so seamlessly it can be unclear when one ends and another begins. This fluidity feels honestly captured and articulated, but a basic clarity is often sacrificed as a result. While Jean alludes to the pain of her past a dead son, a wayward husband, and a beloved but unruly brother she watches the snow and feels her solitude deepen. Hughes's novel is tender and sympathetic, but the cascade of familial references, and the snippets of memory that aren't fully explained or connected, never quite catch. As the book evolves and time moves along, through 1970 and into 1971, who, exactly, the characters are continues to feel too slippery, too subtle, too elusive. Despite the gorgeous precision of nearly every sentence (or perhaps because of it), the essential grounding of time and place feels obscured more often than not like something in a snowstorm that's right there but can't quite be distinguished.