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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Emily Giffin’s The One & Only

For her first novel with Random House, Emily Giffin’s The One & Only is, in some ways, quite a bit different from her other novels, revolving mainly around college football and the lives of those involved (directly or indirectly) in it. But, if you look beyond all of the sports discourse, you can see that, at its core, it is still a Giffin novel, just with love and relationships as a secondary focus instead of the main one.

The novel follows Shea Rigsby, a woman whose life completely revolves around football – something she has been passionate about since before she can remember. Her best friend, Lucy, is the daughter of famed college football coach Clive Carr, who not only is the head coach for Walker University – in the town of the same name that Shea grew up in – but also has been a role model and father figure to her due to her father’s absence. The Carrs are Shea’s second family, so when tragedy strikes them, naturally she empathizes and tries to do everything she can do to help them through it. But, with tragedy comes reflection; it’s what makes people reexamine their lives and make changes that they wouldn’t have done otherwise, and Shea is no different in that aspect. Maybe Walker isn’t everything. Shea makes big changes in both her personal and professional lives that, although seem to be the right paths for her, ultimately leave her wondering: what if everything she could ever want or need was there all along. What if Walker really was everything?

There is a major focus on football, but does it work for Giffin? Can her fans get passed the overwhelming assault of an emasculating sport or will they be thoroughly disappointed? Although I was slightly taken aback as to the sheer volume at which football comes into play in The One & Only, I think her writing stands for itself. What I love about Giffin novels is their ability to make me not only feel for and relate to the characters in the story, but also, their ability to make me turn inward and self-reflect. So many of us have aspects of our lives that we are not happy with, whether it be a job that doesn’t interest us, a love life that doesn’t challenge us, or just a melancholic feeling towards ourselves in general. Sometimes, changes have to be made in order for us to be happy, but often times, it’s just more a matter of changing our perception on things, as Shea experiences. Sometimes you need to take a step outside of yourself and your life to realize that everything you ever could have wanted has been there the whole time.

Sometimes you only get one shot. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury to think or wait or plan. Sometimes you have to reach out and seize your moment. Your best, last, or only chance.”

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Emily Giffin’s Something Blue

In honor of the recent release of Emily Giffin’s seventh novel, The One & Only, of which I am eager to delve into, I took a step back to the beginning of her writing career and reread her second novel, Something Blue, the sequel to Something Borrowed (will she ever bring back those characters again?), which brings back the beautiful, but self-centered Darcy as she travels to London to seek the comfort of her friend Ethan and start a new life away from New York, away from her ex-fiancé, away from her former best friend, and really, away from everyone who didn’t agree with the way she was choosing to live her life. With her impending motherhood, will Darcy be able to change her life for the better, or will she stay stuck in her ways?

What I love about Giffin is that not only is she great at getting the chick-lit story right, but she’s also a good writer which you don’t see a lot in that genre. Even though her stories have a light air to them, they also possess great strength and always make me take a step back and examine certain things about myself, decisions that I’ve made or haven’t made. All of her characters grow in one way or another. Take Darcy for instance. In the first novel we see her in she is extremely self-centered. She’s that way too in the beginning of Something Blue, but eventually learns that life can’t always be that way, and that if she were to stay on the path that she was going, she would never actually be happy. It’s a hard lesson for anyone to learn, but a valuable one. I leave you with a quote from the novel.

“Love and friendship. They are what make us who we are, and what can change us, if we let them.”

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Emily Giffin’s Love the One You’re With

In Emily Giffin’s Love the One You’re With, she explores the idea about what could happen if the one who got away resurfaced.  How would you react to the situation?  Would you let that person back into your life, or would you close yourself off and run in the other direction?  The answer seems like it should be black and white, especially if you’re in a place in your life where you are happy, but for Ellen, it is the hardest decision that she has ever had to make.  It had been almost ten years since she had laid eyes on him, but one fateful night, on a rainy NYC street corner, she runs into Leo and her life as she knows it may never be the same.

Ellen is a freelance photographer, something that she loves, and her husband, Andy, is a lawyer, working for a large firm and hating every minute of it.  Andy’s sister Margot is Ellen’s best friend, and the reason why she and Andy got together in the first place.  Ellen and Margot met when they were freshman in college and, as luck would have it, roommates.  They would go on to room together throughout their college careers, and then again when Margot decided to move to NY and take Ellen with her.  Naturally, when Ellen and Andy began dating, Margot was thrilled, especially when comparing Andy to Ellen’s last love, Leo.  Andy was everything that Leo wasn’t.  He was sweet and courteous, he didn’t think that the world revolved around him, and he was interested in what Ellen was doing and what she had to say.  All in all, they were a perfect fit, creating a good life with each other…until Leo came back into the picture.

When Ellen runs into Leo on the street corner, her first instinct is to run away, but she finds that she cannot contain her curiosity as to what he has been up to and if he’s still the same person that she once knew.  Leo offers her the job of a lifetime, which Ellen turns down, only to be offered the same job through her agent not soon after.  Ellen travels to LA with her sister Suzanne – the only person that she has told about Leo – for her photo shoot, and is surprised when none other than Leo is there.  This sets off a chain of events – one of which being that she and Andy move to Atlanta to be closer to his family and so he can work with his father in the family business – that leads Ellen to make the decision of her life.  Will she stay with her husband despite the not-so-idyllic new city they live in, or will she go back to the one who broke her heart?

Love the One You’re With is a tale about a woman in a crossroads of her life, and the way that she goes about dealing with the situation.  One may not agree with how she handles things, but, if you were put into a similar situation, would you not at least contemplate doing the same?  I love this story because it shows that we’re all just human, we all have faults and weaknesses, some of which – in Ellen’s case – may be stronger than others, but at the end of the day, we make the right choices (one would hope) for our lives, as Ellen does with hers.  I leave you with a quote!
 

“Sometimes there are no happy endings.  No matter what, I’ll be losing something, someone….But maybe that’s what it all comes down to.  Love, not as a surge of passion, but as a choice to commit to something, someone, no matter what obstacles or temptations stand in the way.  And maybe making that choice, again and again, day in and day out, year after year, says more about love than never having a choice to make at all.”