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.
...capitivating ... [an] intimate, fluid debut ... The beauty of The Devoted lies in its intricate descriptions of religion’s hush and ritual ... One breathes deeper reading these passages, in all their tender generosity — but we’re not allowed to linger. Hurley’s quick to remind us of religion’s ugliest traits, too: its intolerance, partition and patriarchy ... Hurley balances the heavy plot points, allowing them to converse rather than overcomplicate. Ultimately this is a novel as tender and fervent as a prayer.