In this second novel by the author of Neon in Daylight, Luca looks back on his time as a 22-year-old with a job at a prestigious New York literary magazine during the Trump era, when he longed to stand on the right side of history yet found himself pulled by the lure of an older artsy couple, white like himself but with even greater wealth and privilege.
... intense and addictive ... With a touch as light as a single match, Hoby scorches the earth beneath hollow social activism and performative outrage among young, coastal liberals ... The novel is steeped throughout with Hoby’s penetrating observations on the moral underpinnings, absurdities and truths of contemporary social activism. The author is also just as much an artist, transforming words into stunning visuals ... When we engage in social activism, are we less virtuous if we signal it? What is our motive for engaging in the first place? Virtue considers such questions, but is too smart a novel to answer them.
Virtue tells the story of a backwater innocent seduced and disillusioned by a glamorous cosmopolitan couple. It is an old story, and a good one ... [A] skillful, sharp second novel ... Hoby’s gift is a sensitivity to the language of a given moment, and she generously cedes her own striking way with a phrase to the demotic of her characters ... Anyone wishing for a precise distillation of the manners and preoccupations of the early twenty-first-century moneyed American urbanite could do worse than read this book.
Hoby captures a relatable desire to appear better than we are—to edit our lives for each of our surroundings ... Luca meets the artist Paula Summers, heir to a gin-made fortune, and her husband, documentary filmmaker Jason Frank ... Hoby fleshes out the complexity of their relationship skillfully with overheard conversations, brief moments, and fights that Luca can’t help but listen to. But it’s the other interns who are more intriguing characters ... This is Hoby’s greatest achievement in the novel: she captures the struggle to balance living online and being present, of sharing a moment or framing a memory for consumption. Virtue beautifully explores the temptation to define yourself by other people’s expectations, and the risks of losing yourself in relationships where you don’t belong.