The Devoted: Book summary and reviews of The Devoted by Blair Hurley

The Devoted

by Blair Hurley

The Devoted by Blair Hurley X
The Devoted by Blair Hurley
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2018
    320 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

A spellbinding confession of what it means to abandon one life for another, The Devoted asks what it takes, and what you'll sacrifice, to find enlightenment.

Nicole Hennessy's life revolves around her Zen practice at the Boston Zendo, seeking solace in the tenets of Buddhism to the chagrin of her Irish Catholic family. After a decade of grueling spiritual practice under her Master's tutelage, living on a shoestring budget as a shop clerk, Nicole has become dangerously entangled with her mentor. As Nicole confronts her past - a drug-fueled year spent fleeing her family's loaded silences and guilt-laden "Our Fathers" - and reinvents herself in New York City, her Master's intoxicating voice pursues her, an electrifying whisper on the other end of the phone. Somehow, he knows everything.

In deft, soaring prose that bristles with psychological and erotic tension, Blair Hurley crafts a thrilling exploration of Nicole's ecstatic quest for spirituality.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. All lovers of great fiction with complex characters as well as anyone fascinated by narratives about religious cults will want this insightful story." - Library Journal

"Not quite a spiritual thriller but a thoughtful exploration of faith, surrender, and ecstasy." - Kirkus

"This thoughtful novel carefully untangles the often knotty interconnection between romantic and religious love, revealing the dangers inherent in each without denying their value." - Publishers Weekly

"In Blair Hurley's beautifully written first novel, a young woman charts a spiritual journey into the rigors of Zen Buddhism in a Boston storefront Zendo, under the guidance of a charismatic Master who soon becomes her lover. The relationship between Master and student is candidly charted and wholly convincing. The intellectual austerity of Zen Buddhism is presented with all the clarity of Zen itself, a fascinating subject. ... A suspenseful and warmly engaging coming-of-age story." - Joyce Carol Oates

"Blair Hurley's first novel is a sharp-eyed account of the psychological and sexual hold a spiritual 'master' can get on a lost young woman. What could have seemed like a fable in other hands, in Hurley's is mordant and convincing. A spectacular debut!" - Edmund White

"Blair Hurley is a gorgeous writer. This novel brims with startling and organic metaphors that fuel, like Zen koans, the heart of a remarkable story. Unlike the Boston films of late, The Devoted gets the accents right." - Anita Shreve

"Blair Hurley's The Devoted is a thrilling, deep, fun, intense look at sex and faith, at East and West, and fraud and truth, at love and what it means to lose love. A remarkable debut, and more: a great read." - Darin Strauss

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Reader Reviews

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Maggie Rotter

The Devoted - A Real Woman
Lately I've been reading books about Muslim families - often multi-generational - facing inner and outward challenges. I've been thinking, why is there a dearth of such novels where the characters' Christian upbringing and family conflicts are so well drawn and compelling? Well, here is one, with the twist that the central character is struggling to preserve and enrich her practice as a Buddhist raised as a Catholic but devoted to this new belief. Painful challenges come not only from her family but also from the master to whom she has become attached. Nicole is a complex, engaging woman who navigates her life in the best way she can. I rooted for her as a young woman on the road and as she grew to an increasingly aware master of herself.

Nancy L. (Staunton, VA)

The Journey
In "The Devoted" by Blair Hurley, the main character, Nicole, is on a difficult journey. Although she takes us along on the physical journey from Boston to Colorado and then on to New York City, the real journey for Nicole is the struggle to find her way out of an emotionally abusive and controlling relationship. We watch her being drawn to the mysticism of Buddhism while breaking ties with the Catholicism of her Boston family. The journey is not narrated chronologically, but dips back and forth in time to reveal Nicole's path, as well as revealing how she got to her present difficulties. What is especially difficult for her is that her abuser is also her "roshi" or Buddhist Master. I was particularly struck by the parallels drawn between Catholic priest abusers and Nicole's controlling Master. This novel is full of beautifully poetic koans and is so well written that it captured me from the very beginning.

Elizabeth K. (DALLAS, TX)

Finding one's path in life
I really loved this book. It is not so much about Buddhism as it is about the pull of addictive relationships that can keep us from moving forward, especially when emotional needs are not met within the family. Once I started reading it was hard to put down, and the non-linear manner in which the story is told added to the intrigue.

Patricia E. (Sugarcreek, OH)

An Unhealthy Devotion
This debut novel by Blair Hurley is beautifully written. I enjoyed the pacing—relaxed but not stagnate, timing reminiscent of the discipline she describes in her book. Main character Nicole has been studying Zen Buddhism for more than a decade. As her relationships with both her religion and her master (teacher) become more complicated, Nicole questions both. Looking back at her teenage years, she sees that religion has always enslaved her, whether it is the Catholicism of her mother, the Buddhist escape she seeks as a teen, or the twisted devotion she practices as an adult. But for me this is more than a story of Nicole's addictions." It is also about the control that any religious belief or cleric can have over anyone who becomes as mindlessly "devoted" as Nicole does. I recommend this book for readers with open minds and an unwillingness to check their brains at the doors of any house of worship.

Becky S. (Springfield, MO)

Finding oneself
This book was about the journey of a teenage, Nicole, towards enlightenment . She, like so many of us in our teenage years, finds herself searching for something other than the familiar that she has grown up with. Her family and the Catholicism that she grew up with are both lacking in what she feels she needs for fulfillment. Enter a rebellious boyfriend, Jules, with some wild ideas of his own, and their mutual friend , Eddie, a quest to find the Karmapa and Nicole is on a runaway.. looking for that something to bring her understanding. Years later, she is still in search of that inner peace when she meets up with the Master, her Buddhist teacher.. the whole while she is searching for something more, her family is searching for ways to make her see where she really fits in, with them. I liked the way the author unfolded this story, flashbacks and forwards, real character development, and a believable but not predictable plot.

Jennie R. (Highland, CA)

No promises...
I can't promise my review isn't skewed by the fact I'm a Buddhist. At first, I thought this may have been the main reason I enjoyed this book so much, in spite of finding the main character, Nicole, a bit unbelievable at times; too many conflicted traits for one character! Even so, I rooted for her to get away from "The Master", an abusive and despicable womanizer who called himself a Zen Teacher. I'd like to give this book a 3.5, but as it's not an option, I'll err on the generous side as I read it faster than I read most books just to find out what happened in the end!

...14 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Blair Hurley

Blair Hurley is a Pushcart Prize winner whose work has appeared in West Branch and Mid-American Review, among other publications. A native of Boston, she now lives in Toronto, where she teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto.

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