Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summer Reading Review: "Where We Belong" by Emily Giffin

***You can find more of my book reviews over at Goodreads; I do a monthly update on my favorites here too, the most recent of which you can find here and here

Edited to Add: Macmillan Audio contacted me about putting up an audiobook clip of this, and as a big audiobook fan - my book nerdiness embraces all media forms - I'm only too happy to oblige (for free, I should add). Enjoy this sneak preview:

 http://media.us.macmillan.com/video/olmk/macmillanaudio/WhereWeBelong.mp3

***

Emily Giffin's great talent lies not in her prose, which can be pedestrian (ooh, fancy SAT word!), but in her light hand with complex emotional landscapes*. She manages to make difficult life situations relatable without oversimplifying or being glib.

*And also the author's whole going from being a fancy Manhattan litigator to London resident to bestselling author and glamorous Southern mother. Now there's a life plan this fellow retired lawyer would cheerfully maim somebody for.

But back to this book . . . this is the story of Marian Caldwell, a thirty-six-year-old Manhattanite producer who seemingly Has It All - dream job, perfect boyfriend, smarts, looks, and money. That is, until a secret from her past literally walks through the door in the form of eighteen-year-old Kirby.



Giffin elegantly navigates the resultant implosion of Marian's carefully constructed world, asking the inevitable questions - what do you do when your past threatens the present for which you've worked so hard? What if that seemingly perfect present isn't what you wanted after all?

The book's narration alternates between Marian and Kirby, and I did find Kirby's sections the weaker of the two. Something felt forced about some of Kirby's teen speak and pop culture references, though that could be my bias as one much closer in age to 36 than 18.

[***POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT, THOUGH I DON'T REALLY THINK THERE'S MUCH OF A SURPRISE OR SPOILER HERE VERSUS AN INITIAL PLOT POINT THAT LEADS TO OTHER THINGS, BUT CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED IN ALL CAPS JUST IN CASE. THANK YOU FOR UNDERSTANDING. THE END.***]

From a personal point of view, Giffin nails the ambiguous feelings surrounding issues of parenting and adoption. Though I was never formally adopted, I was raised by my grandparents and could completely relate to Kirby's conflicted feelings about her birth parents, that yearning to know the people who made you while resenting them for apparently not loving you enough to keep you. The author does a terrific job of exploring this and the equally mixed feelings towards Kirby's adoptive parents as well.

I also applaud Giffin for not taking the easy, cliched ending here - Hollywood will surely change this for the worse in the inevitable movie version, mark my words - and leaving things as ambiguous as I imagine they might be in real life.

I loathe the term "chick lit", so let's go with this - this was a quick, enjoyable read that was also weightier than that confection of a title and cover suggest. As is always the case with Giffin's best, some of the themes will stay with me long after I've put this down.

5 comments:

California Wife said...

I really wasn't a fan of Giffin's last two books, but found myself loving this one! Such a great quick summer read.

Courtney said...

LOVED this book! She left me wanting more, which is my favorite thing about any book.

Perfectly Imperfect said...

I'm a huge Emily Giffin fan and can't wait to get my hands on this one. So you should pick me on FB. Just saying.. ;)

{Jessica} said...

Does anyone know if she's doing a sequel to this? I HAVE to know what happens after they parted ways in the end!!!

Nat said...

I couldn't decide if I wanted to pick this up or not since I pretty much hated her last one but I'm happy to hear this one is good!

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