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The Devoted
Cover of The Devoted
The Devoted
A Novel
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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.

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.

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About the Author-
  • Blair Hurley is a Pushcart Prize winner whose work has appeared in West Branch and Mid-American Review, among other publications. A native of Boston, she now lives in Toronto, where she teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    June 1, 2018
    A young woman's life is controlled by her Zen Buddhist master in this debut novel about spirituality and sexual power.Nicole is having an affair with her Zen master. He spies her, a damaged spiritual seeker, in his Boston Zendo, "pretty in a half formed way," and he begins to groom her to abandon her sense of self while he takes advantage of her naiveté. She has a troubled past, and she goes to the Zendo in search of a connection that he is happy to abuse during their backroom private sessions. Nicole is haunted by guilt from her Catholic upbringing and a harsh secret involving her past as a teenage runaway; her master uses this to wrap her around his finger. "You are mine," he tells her. "No other teacher will want you, once you have been shaped by my instruction." Though her master makes a point of distancing himself from the patriarchal structure and rules of Catholicism, Nicole--who once wanted to be a nun and who rebelled against a strictly religious mother--is drawn to his firm commands. Even when she wants most fervently to escape him, her body responds to his voice "like church bells, like the smell of incense." Their sexual relationship lasts a decade. "They were teacher and student, very old, accustomed friends; [yet] each time he let his hand travel up her skirt, the shock was fresh." When Nicole realizes the relationship is too controlling and tries to take some liberty by moving away, making a new friend, and finding a new Zendo, her master creeps his way into her new life. He finds her and forces her hand: Abandon life as she knows it to be rid of him, or submit and be his.Not quite a spiritual thriller but a thoughtful exploration of faith, surrender, and ecstasy.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 4, 2018
    The complicated and often treacherous relationship between religious master and student fuels Hurley’s quietly chilling debut. In her early 20s, aimless, and grieving the recent death of her father, Nicole begins attending a zendo in the Boston area and is drawn to the master who dispenses wisdom there. He selects her out of the group for a secret sexual relationship, which continues for years. The bulk of the novel takes place 10 years after their meeting, with Nicole attempting to break away from their dysfunctional relationship by moving to New York, where her brother lives with his family, and making a life for herself. It backtracks through the intervening years and through Nicole’s childhood and adolescence, when she began to doubt the Catholic faith she was raised on and became drawn to Buddhism as a replacement. Though Hurley occasionally enters the point of view of the otherwise-unnamed master, he remains a shadowy figure. Nicole’s spiritual journey is realistically convoluted, and Hurley subtly brings out the parallels between the potential for sexual abuse in Buddhism and Catholicism. This thoughtful novel carefully untangles the often knotty interconnection between romantic and religious love, revealing the dangers inherent in each without denying their value.

  • Library Journal

    June 15, 2018

    Nicole Hennessey was raised in a devout Catholic home in Boston. Then in her teens, she discovered Buddhism, which moved her in a way far beyond her family's religion. Despite her dabbling in sex and drugs, Nicole seeks answers from Zen Buddhist teachings, or koans, and eventually finds a spiritual teacher. However, the guru's hold on Nicole evolves into something complicated and unyielding until finally she runs away to live near her brother in New York. 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. As she moves through tragedy after tragedy, Nicole continues to find strength in her Zen beliefs and makes a new life. VERDICT All lovers of great fiction with complex characters as well as anyone fascinated by narratives about religious cults will want this insightful story.--Andrea Kempf, formerly with Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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    W. W. Norton & Company
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