Trendy clothing lines, fancy shoes, and popular sightseeing spots in New York. That’s what makes novels by Emily Giffin stand out. Unless you’re well-versed in fashion and entertainment, you’ll probably need to have a Google App on hand when reading Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and other novels. And what’s up with all questionable behavior choices the characters make? I mean what kind of a woman will steal her best friend’s fiancé, pine over her ex while being married, or not want to have kids in her thirties? A human one, as it turns out. We’re all prone to having conflicted feelings or being in situations where there might not be one right answer.
I discovered Emily Giffin’s novels back in 2010 during The Word On The Street Festival, where I was working as a cashier for an independent bookseller. I remember seeing those cute book covers and reading a couple of the book descriptions. The synopses seemed interesting, but there was nothing out of ordinary. I ended up stocking my bag with a bunch of other discounted books at the end of the shift, but for some reason, I passed Giffin’s novels. It wasn’t until a year a year later that I looked her up and borrowed a few of her novels from a library.
Looking back, I realize that my sudden interest in chick lit might have had something to do with the “serious” environment of a grad school I was attending at that time. While I totally loved the intellectual challenge of my Master’s program, I often looked for sanity-restoring diversions. When you spend days (and often nights!) trying to figure out whether this particular text from the Dead Sea Scrolls belongs to pre-exilic or post-exilic period, you’ll naturally look for ways to unwind after a long work day. Giffin’s light writing style and juicy story lines seemed to make the cut. I still remember one funny incident when I was sitting at a computer at the Robarts Library, preparing a paper for a university conference, when a classmate walked in. I instinctively hid a cute, pink-colored paperback under a pile of oversize books on Syro-Palestinian archaeology and Dead Sea Scrolls. Looking back, I realize that I did not have to be ashamed of my reading choices. Despite the stigma associated with women’s fiction and romance, these two genres are still preferred by many.
What draws me to Emily Giffin is her honesty about relationships. Unlike the typical romance novels, her books don’t paint the character world in black and white. She often explores forbidden terrains that involve situations that we wouldn’t want for ourselves in the real life. What happens when a long-time friendship goes sour? Something Borrowed is not just about an intrigue between Dex and Rachel but also about a toxic female friendship that ultimately pulls all characters out of their comfort zones. Or what if you’re expected to want certain things by a certain age but are simply wired differently? Such is the case for Claudia from Baby Proof, who, despite being happily married to a wonderful guy, is not interested in having children. Although all novels in happyish endings, the author leaves room for questions.
This year, Giffin ventured into a new territory, deciding to explore the themes of underage drinking, cyber bullying, and sexual abuse. All We Ever Wanted focuses on the lives of two families from Nashville, TN. Married to a rich businessman, Nina Browning seems to have it all. Her husband, Kirk, recently made a fortune from landing a successful deal, while their son, Finch, got accepted to Princeton. Tom Volpe is a single father working multiple jobs while raising a teenage daughter Lyla who attends a prestigious Windsor Academy on a scholarship. The characters’ comfortable world is shaken when a risqué photograph of Lyla gets snapped in a drunken moment at a house party. Suddenly, the Windsor community is shaken by controversy, and everyone is taking sides, blaming the other. Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced to come together and examine their lives and find the true meaning.
Written during the age of social media and the #MeToo movement, All We Ever Wanted is a must-read for all parents. It creates a realistic picture of teenage struggles and makes you prepared for the challenges to come. You’ll probably shed a tear or two during the scenes where Nina remembers her now-spoiled son as a baby in a stroller or a young boy building sand castles at a beach. If you have a son, you’ll wonder if your baby is capable of doing something as bad as what Finch has done. In the end, you’ll sigh with relief after everything ends well for the main characters. They will be forced to go through some of the major life changes but will eventually move on and evolve as individuals.