Title: The Loved Ones by Mary-Beth Hughes
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Genre: Historical (60s, 70s), Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: C
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
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 Loved Ones by Mary-Beth Hughes is a poignant novel about a family trying to cope with the death of their child.
The emotional divide between the members of the Devlin family is soon compounded by an unwanted move from their beloved family home in the US to London. Nick is coerced into taking a position in a cosmetic company by his manipulative brother Lionel and after his relocation to the UK, Nick tries to bury his grief with illegal drugs and extramarital sex. Jean is less than thrilled with the move but she eventually capitulates and she, along with their daughter Lily, join Nick in London where she continues to distance herself from both Nick and Lily. Poor Lily was already struggling to fit in at her old school in the US and she does not find it easier to make friends or find her niche after the move.
Numerous characters are introduced early in the novel and it is virtually impossible to keep up with them or their relationships with the key players. With the exception of Lily, the main characters are difficult to like and despite feeling compassion for their loss, they are rather unsympathetic.
The Loved Ones is a somewhat difficult novel to follow. The narrative is rather disjointed and the shifts between past and present are not clearly marked. Despite the descriptive passages, there is a vagueness to the overall storyline that makes it impossible to connect with neither the plot nor the characters. A lack of quotation marks adds to the confusion and when the dialog lasts longer than a few sentences, it is hard to keep up with which character is speaking.
There is no doubt that Mary-Beth Hughes is a gifted storyteller. The Loved Ones is a well written novel with a decent storyline that is unfortunately buried in the midst of the rambling, confusing narrative. The story’s conclusion is quite unexpected and although a little abrupt and somewhat ambiguous, it is satisfying.