Dancing with Disillusionment: Stay Up with Hugo Best

Originally published October 2019

Did you have an idol when you were a kid? Someone you wanted desperately to be? To meet? To love?

I remember standing in line somewhere, likely a bookstore, waiting to meet Judy Blume. somewhere along the path from childhood to here, I lost the autographed picture I received from her that day — a photo of her holding a cat, which of course was perfect because I also loved cats — but I remember being completely enamored by her and was just as giddy to see her speak only just a few years ago. I’ve never met her personally, and after reading “Stay Up with Hugo Best,” I’m comfortable with that.

Because June met Hugo. And sometimes, there are things that should remain a mystery.

In “Stay Up with Hugo Best,” an almost 30-year-old June Bloom comes face to face with her childhood idol (and now ex-boss), comedian Hugo Best, when his long-running late night television show ends and both are suddenly unemployed and similarly adrift when it comes to what is next.

June is an aspiring comedian herself and had only recently worked her way up to the writers’ assistant on Best’s show. And with no immediate prospects, she finds herself having to confront her lack of motivation. Is it fear? Laziness? Both?

Likewise, Hugo is grappling with his own inertia — the difference being he’s already successful and on the opposite end of a career arc. He is painfully aware the human moorings that have kept him seemingly on track over the last few decades are about to give way in a brutal fashion.

It’s in this setting that Hugo tempts June into a weekend at his estate outside the city. Each looking to see what the other can provide, the weekend becomes a window into the machinations of the young and the old to hang on to what they have or finally grab what they’ve been waiting for. And it’s a delightful ride.

I purposefully chose Hugo Best to follow up what has been some heavier reading as of late. I needed a weekend read that was entirely entertaining and did not leave me feeling emotionally drained. Author Erin Somers, in this fiction debut, does a fantastic job pulling readers into Hugo’s world of celebrity and the trappings of fame. I found the dynamic between June and Hugo immensely satisfying in that it is not one-note. It isn’t young person idolizing old person. It isn’t old person turning wise. It’s two human beings that demand both empathy and disdain from the readers that discover them.

Hugo is sad. But he’s also generous. He’s also disconnected. And duplicitous. And hurt. June is ambitous. But also not. She can be cruel. Maybe even a little conniving. These two, along with Hugo’s son Spencer, his manager Laura and June’s friend Julian, make “Stay Up With Hugo Best” a very good reason to stay up all night reading. I loved this more than I thought it would — don’t skip by this book!

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