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  1. Book ImageThe Devoted: A Novel

    Blair Hurley

    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.

Discussion Questions

  1. Family and romantic relationships are at the center of The Devoted. In what ways do different relationships define the paths each character takes? How does ending or beginning a relationship impact others in Nicole’s life?
  2. Blair Hurley employs a variety of juxtapositions in her narrative: peace and guilt, East and West, youth and adulthood. How do these juxtapositions help to create depth in the story?
  3. Setting the novel primarily in Boston is imperative because of the city’s stout Catholic community. Nicole’s quest for peace takes her away from the dominant religion, that of her childhood, and into Buddhism, a religion that is not centered in Christianity. How do the vast differences between the religions of Nicole’s past and present impact her worldview and her relationships with others?
  4. Ice cream has a recurring role throughout the novel. What purpose does it serve? Is it a substance in which Nicole can take solace, a point of nostalgia, or something else entirely?
  5. Jocelyn quickly becomes Nicole’s friend and confidant after Nicole arrives in New York. She is the first person to hear Nicole’s story. What is it about Jocelyn that draws Nicole in? Do experiences from Jocelyn’s past help to gain Nicole’s trust?
  6. Hurley bookends the novel with interactions between Nicole and Helen. The first one has a sinister feel (9–13), whereas the last is much more peaceful (290–92). What changes in these women’s circumstances to affect the interactions? What is the significance of placing these interactions at the beginning and end of the narrative?
  7. As a child, Nicole is fascinated with Catholic nuns, even dressing up as one in the privacy of her bedroom (73–74). Later it is revealed that her mother was hoping to become a nun but fell in love and had children instead (304). What influence does this lost ambition have on Nicole and her mother?
  8. During her runaway year, Nicole, Jules, and Eddie travel in search of the Karmapa. They decide not to stay in Toledo, even though things are going well for them there, because “Enlightenment is waiting” (189). Do they ultimately find the enlightenment they are seeking?
  9. The prologue reveals that the Master carefully studied Nicole before choosing her. What drives the Master’s need for Nicole?
  10. Nicole decides to take Paul up on his offer to move to New York after clearing her shower drain of her own hair (45) and realizing she has submitted to the will of the Master for ten years. What does she see in that hair that frees and prompts her to take a step away from the Master’s control?
  11. Sean’s living space goes from sparely furnished to overcrowded with old furniture between the time he meets Nicole and when she tells him she’s moving to New York. How is their budding relationship reflected in his furnishings?
  12. Why must Nicole make a physical break from her Master to truly be free of him?

About Blair Hurley

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.

Books by Blair Hurley

  1. Book CoverThe Devoted: A Novel

    Longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize

    “As tender and fervent as a prayer.”—New York Times Book ReviewMore