The Loved Ones

The Loved Ones by Mary-Beth Hughes

Nationally bestselling author Mary-Beth Hughes returns with a darkly brilliant novel of relationships defined by an era of glamour and decadence.

From the outside in, the Devlin family lead almost-perfect lives. Dashing father, Nick, is a successful businessman long married to sweetheart Jean, who upholds the family home and throws dinner parties while daughter Lily attends Catholic school and is disciplined into modesty by the nuns. Under the surface, however, the Devlins are silently broken by the death of their little boy. As Nick’s older brother, a man driven by callous and rapacious urges, inducts Nick into the cut-throat world of cosmetics, the Devlin family are further fragmented by betrayals, and victims of the cruelest kind of hurt.

In The Loved Ones Hughes takes her gimlet eye deep into the secret places between men and women to give an incisive portrayal of one family’s struggle to stay together against stacked odds of deception, adultery, and loss. Years in the making, this is Hughes’s astonishing and compulsively readable break out, a sweepingly cinematic novel of relationships defined by an era of glamour and decadence.

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“Mary-Beth Hughes is a gorgeous writer. For years her masterly short stories have been passed among readers with an adoration and fervor that borders on religious. With The Loved Ones, the secret is out: the story of perfect swinging sixties scions Nick and Jean Devlin, their sprite of a daughter Lily and their mourned boy Cubbie, delves deeply beyond surfaces and eras, into the people we wish to be and the people we unfortunately are. Sly and immersive, sensual and wise, The Loved Ones firmly places Hughes alongside Paula Fox and Alice Munro.”
— Charles Bock
“Mary-Beth Hughes’ compulsively readable novel The Loved Ones is a beautifully written book about the mystery of family, the suspense of growing up, and the ways in which women—young and old—make their peace with the world around them. Written with clockwork precision, Hughes’ portrait of the Devlins’ glamorous world—cosmetics fortunes! Baccarat tables! The Dorchester Hotel!—is a shimmering background for the dramas created by their conflicting desires, their colliding egos and their money. The story’s women—Jean, a gorgeous, classy bombshell and Lily her confused, yearning and loveable daughter—are both lost and found in this sea of privilege and desire.”
— Susan Cheever
“Mary-Beth Hughes is a quietly devastating writer, reminiscent of Evan S. Connell and James Salter in her delicate almost surgical ability to peel back the thin skin of normal life and to lay bare our painful truths, contradictions, the stains of grief and betrayal. The Loved Ones is a beautiful haunting novel of a time, place and the Devlin family.”
— A.M. Homes
A book about leavetaking is inevitably a book about returning. In Mary-Beth Hughes’ new novel, departures of all kinds—by air, by ocean, by illness, by alienation, by death—lead the characters to circle one another as though in an entranced dance, looking for a safe place of arrival, hoping, perhaps, that their losses would feel less unbearable there. Hughes is a master of understatement, and deftly captures the subtle undercurrent of family life and the danger from the ever-changing world in the 1970s.
— Yiyun Li
In Mary-Beth Hughes’s electric novel The Loved Ones sexual currents surge as a bruised but glamorous couple strive to go on “making life gorgeous” after the death of their young son. Underhanded transactions and self-serving characters threaten these ambitions, and the privileged life in New York and London, late sixties, is not without its costs. Hughes writes with stunning economy: fully realized characters are made with a stroke in this most seductive, irresistible fiction.
— Christine Schutt
“An extraordinarily assured performance delivered in the quiet confidence and high style of a master of the form. The astonishing compression in the sentences quivers with that elusive quality of timeless art. Hughes’s psychological acuity and unerring instincts as a dramatist combine with her tough-but-tender take on humanity to produce a work that will be read as long as any of us are alive—and far longer, if there is justice.”
— Matthew Thomas

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