Blair Hurley's "The Devoted" is a beautifully written and expertly crafted story that follows a woman named Nicole, raised Catholic in Boston, who finds herself ensnared in the life of a predatory teacher of Zen Buddhism. As we follow Nicole's tale, from her childhood in Boston with a fervently religious and mentally unstable mother, to her time as a teenage runaway with her first love and a trip that ends in tragedy, to her new life in New York trying to escape from the psychological hold of her former master, Hurley weaves in relatable meditations on why humans search for faith and grasp tightly to their beliefs in an ever-changing, unpredictable and unsteady world.
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.
About the Author
Blair Hurley is a Pushcart Prize winner whose work has been published in West Branch and Mid-American Review, among others. A native of Boston, she now lives in Toronto, where she teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto.
A rich and entertaining novel about a woman, a seeker, whose life, existence and relationships are all centered around a devout Buddhist meditation practice in Boston—until they aren't. I couldn't put it down. — Anne Lamott, author of Almost Everything: Notes on Hope
[An] intimate, fluid debut...The beauty of The Devoted lies in its intricate descriptions of religion's hush and ritual... [A] novel as tender and fervent as a prayer.
A belated coming-of-age novel with a quest at its core, The Devoted is an assured and promising debut.
Provocative... [A] terrifying but insightful warning not to look for easy answers offered by false prophets.
[Hurley's] hand is confident and steady as she layers Zen teachings into the already complicated history of her novel's focal character... Hurley leaves you thinking and sorting through feelings long after her final page.
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…A suspenseful and warmly engaging coming-of-age story. — Joyce Carol Oates, author of A Book of American Martyrs
The Devoted is a beautifully written story of the seductions of faith, its many desperations both light and dark. A most absorbing and psychologically astute novel that announces Blair Hurley as a brave new talent.
— Chang-rae Lee, author of The Surrendered
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, author of The Stars Are Fire
Blair Hurley’s The Devoted is a thrilling, deep, fun, intense look at sex and faith, at East and West, at fraud and truth, at love and what it means to lose love. A remarkable debut, and more: a great read.
— Darin Strauss, author of More Than It Hurts You
In luminous prose, Blair Hurley explores the lines between devotion and entrapment, between the search for self and the attempt to lose oneself entirely. Beneath each measured line is a fiery intelligence. The Devoted is a beautiful debut.
— Kirstin Valdez Quade, author of Night at the Fiestas