Emily Giffin’s All We Ever Wanted

I finished this novel on the bus this morning, but there was only one problem: I couldn’t ugly cry.

I was sitting in the aisle seat next to someone because there were no empty rows available, and with only about forty pages left, I hesitated to open it.  Knowing that it was an Emily Giffin novel, and that I always end up crying towards the end (and, more importantly, hadn’t cried yet), I knew that it was a gamble, but I also NEEDED to know the ending.

Giffin’s last couple novels departed a bit from her usual storytelling style, but with her powerful new novel, All We Ever Wanted, she brings it back home – and this is truly one of her GREATS (it may even surpass my up-til-now fav, Love the One You’re With).  As a fan of her novels for many years (I’ve read ALL 9 books and gone to 3 signings), I’m already waiting in anticipation of two years from now when her next novel will (fingers crossed) be out.

In All We Ever Wanted, Giffin deals with complex issues of truth, values and family – the lengths that you would go to protect someone you love while also staying true to yourself, the truth, and your values.  Told in three different voices, the novel follows: Nina Browning, a woman who grew up in a middle-class family, married into Nashville’s elite, and whose son may be behind a scandal; Tom Volpe, a single and overprotective dad trying to do the best by his daughter (also Giffin’s first ever male narrator); and Lyla Volpe, Tom’s teenage daughter who, after one drunken night at a party, finds herself the subject of a social media scandal.  Who’s telling the truth?  Who’s lying?  Questioning themselves and their relationships with those closest to them, Nina, Tom and Lyla are thrown together as they search for a way to live truly meaningful lives.

Just published this week by Ballantine, this is a novel that you DO NOT want to miss.  And, as I warned my boyfriend this morning, I will be rereading the ending over the weekend so that I can properly cry.

 

“Maybe he’s thinking about his younger self—and what Nina saved me from all of those years ago.  But maybe, I hope, he’s simply thinking about his mother—and how she somehow managed to save him too.”

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Emily Giffin’s All We Ever Wanted. Ballantine Books 2018.
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Holly Seddon’s Try Not To Breathe

“Some secrets never die. They’re just locked away.”

These days, my reading list has become more diverse as I’m branching out, picking up books that I never thought I would, and loving them. There are a few genres that I keep going back to, ones that time and again prove to me why I love them so much. Nothing beats the feeling that you have when you get caught up in story and its characters and can’t let it go, obsessively drinking in each and every word. These are not always easy to come by, but once found, make me remember why I fell in love with books to begin with.

From the moment I read the description of Holly Seddon’s debut novel, Try Not to Breathe, I knew what kind of novel that it would be to me, that it had the power to stay with me – and I was not wrong. It centers around Alex Dale and Amy Stevenson, two women that have lost everything due to very different circumstances who come together to solve a 15-year old crime.

Alex is an alcoholic who threw away her husband, unborn child, and journalism career because she could not put down the bottle. Her days generally beginning with her waking up in urine-soaked sheets and ending a few hours later when she turns off her phone, unplugs her computer, and starts on her first of many glasses. Every time she starts craving a drink, I wanted to leap into the pages and pour it all down the drain, or at least for someone (anyone?) to realize the shape that she was in and force her to get help. But as much as I want to feel bad for Alex, I have a hard time doing so, because I feel like she doesn’t even try – in the beginning at least – to get past her self-destructive habits.

Amy, on the other hand, has no control over what happens in her life, because she has spent the past fifteen years in the hospital in a vegetative state after a horrific crime left her broken on the grounds of a neighborhood park. Except her mind is still intact, and she is reliving the experience over and over again, wondering if it is real or imaginary. In a way, I found it a bit comforting that, even though Amy’s mind was still working, she was not really aware of the state that she was in. Imagine if she was? How terrifying it would be to not be able to talk or move or communicate your thoughts with anyone. I can’t even begin to understand the agony of it all.

Although it seems to be totally accidental that Alex stumbled upon Amy at the hospital – she had been there doing research on a freelance article she was writing – it turned out to be the best thing for the both of them. By making the decision to write Amy’s story and try to solve the crime, Alex is transported out of her small world and finally has a cause worth living for. Even though Amy doesn’t completely understand what is going on, she does come to rely on Alex’s visits. As Alex gets closer to solving the case, her and Amy form a unique friendship, one that helps both of them to finally move on.

try not to breathe
Try Not To Breath, Holly Seddon.
 Ballantine Books 2016