A young woman breaks away from Catholicism and begins to move toward Buddhism, encountering a charismatic mentor who ultimately takes advantage of her vulnerabilities, exerting a hold on her even after she leaves him and tries to reinvent herself in New York City.
Hurley’s debut is a breathtaking performance, portraying not just the ugly corners of an abusive relationship but also how faith can color the contours of our lives. With absolutely spot-on descriptions of Boston, this spellbinding story adds much-needed nuance to the discussion of faith and what we’re willing to forsake in the name of absolution. Yes, the master is creepy and manipulative, but that’s almost beside the point. Even if Nicole could eventually break free, she would only be treating the symptoms and not the disease. That is the real horror.
The scenes shift fluidly over and over again from the current timeline to adolescent memories and reflections on koans (Zen Buddhist riddles). Nicole’s answers to her New York friend’s questions take the story back in time to a cross-country road trip, teenaged fumbling on a basement couch, or the temple room of an Asian art exhibit. They’re admissions, confessions, and Hurley has a remarkably deft manner of overlapping different points in Nicole’s life from one paragraph to another. By the end of the book, you’ll have gone through several crucial events in the lead character’s life without feeling disoriented by the speed at which it happens ... Hurley breathes life into winter nights in the Common, into the run-down apartment buildings near Boston University, into the kitschy streets of central Waltham ... each sidewalk in her childhood home resonates with her memories ... Her struggle could not be simpler and more complicated at once: what do you do when you meet the Buddha on the road? ... The Devoted is a personal journey ... Hurley leaves you thinking and sorting through feelings long after her final page.
Hurley's outstanding first novel tells an engrossing tale about a young woman seeking a spirituality that can only be found within herself. It also speaks to the motivations of those around her—some love her, some use her for their own needs, and others are too selfish to consider her desires at all ... All lovers of great fiction with complex characters as well as anyone fascinated by narratives about religious cults will want this insightful story.