Monday, July 9, 2018

Review: All We Ever Wanted - Emily Giffin

All We Ever Wanted
by Emily Giffin
Published: June 26, 2018 by Ballantine Books
Genre: Women's Fiction

In the riveting new novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of First Comes Love and Something Borrowed, three very different people must choose between their family and their values.

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenage girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

4 Stars

Nina Browning sometimes can't believe the life she is leading. From the wrong side of town, Nina has married into money and found herself among the elite; she's friends with the wives and is raising a son expected to go on to Princeton. It's almost a dream come true, except she can't help but feel like she's strayed from the girl she once was, especially when her approach to an incident is very different from her husband and their friends.

Tom Volpe does everything he can to give his daughter, Lyla, the life she deserves. A scholarship to the prestigious Windsor Academy makes him relax, but Lyla still doesn't feel like she fits in and one drunken night proves that even further. A photo from a party is spread around, with Nina's son the account the photo originated from and Windsor Academy becomes the hotspot for controversy and blame.

Nina, Tom, and Lyla are thrown together, each trying to discover the right way to handle the incident and questioning if the path they're going down is the correct one. Nina sees herself in Lyla, an innocence she wants to preserve even if it goes against everything her husband is telling she and her son to do. Tom want his daughter to be equal, but even he has to question if he's doing the right thing for his daughter.

All We Ever Wanted is Emily Giffin's latest release and her third book, in my opinion, that tackles present day scandal. It's classic Women's Fiction with a deeper meaning, delving into one's believes, the difference between right and wrong, and the strength it takes to go down the path least travelled. The story of a girl having her photo shared around school is not new to us, we hear about it in the news more often than we'd like to admit, but the story of her parents and the accused parents, that is new. All We Ever Wanted introduces us to Lyla and Nina's son, we know who they are and we have a general idea of how this is impacting their lives, but we get to spend the most time with Nina and Tom. Nina doesn't agree with her husband's methods for "handling it" and Tom doesn't either. They forge an unlikely friendship, their meetings leaving each introspective and aware that a change must be made, that how they handle this is a lesson for their children going forward.

I really liked Nina, I liked how aware she was of her wealth, that it hung on her more like a chain to drag than a necklace. She's previously been passive, accepting that she must be someone new and leave her old self behind, but the photo incident brings her back to college and the strength she wished she would have had then. She channels her energy into Tom and Lyla, befriending them, offering her company, and ultimately turning her back on her husband and son. While she wants the best for her son, that much is obvious, she's also aware that idly letting her husband control the outcome will teach him nothing. She wants better for herself, better for Lyla, and better for her son. Tom is difficult, he's gruff, unexpectedly soft in some ways, and too aware of the class and racial differences he and his daughter have with the other students and parents at Windsor Academy. I say too aware, because he allows them to be different, to be divided based on Lyla's skintone, unaware that he is making her school situation more difficult. The class and racial bias is also a major part of the plot with the photo and leads to lessons for some and shows us the ignorance of others. Lyla just wants someone to hear her, to fit in for a moment, to believe in her. How these two parents decide what is right or wrong is an excellent story and how Nina brings Lyla out of her shell is fantastic. We see two women who care, who are lovers, and who have a desperate want for humanity and Tom, well in him we see a protective single father who wants more for boys and girls, specifically for his daughter.

I really enjoyed this book, Emily Giffin has given us something that is so timely it's hard to believe it's a fiction novel and not another true story in the paper. The characters are realistic and the plot painfully so as well. It's a book that I'd call "unputdownable," not because it's an easy book to escape into, but rather because it is written so well and is so very relevant. I loved the focus on growth, right and wrong, and the lessons that come from mistakes. It's not a light read, it is rather heavy and deals with many difficult topics, but it is an important read and I'm grateful it's written by Emily Giffin, an author I consider one of my favorite and an author I know cares about society and humanity.

ARC provided. 

About the Author

Emily Giffin, a Chicago native, graduated summa cum laude from Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia School of Law. After law school, she moved to Manhattan and practiced litigation at a large firm for several years while she paid back her school loans, wrote a novel in her very limited spare time, and dreamed of becoming a writer.

Despite the rejection of her first manuscript, Giffin persisted, retiring from the legal profession and moving to London to pursue her dreams full time. It was there that she began writing Something Borrowed (2004), a story of a young woman who, upon turning thirty, finally learned to take a risk and follow her heart. One year later, Giffin’s own gamble paid off, as she completed her manuscript, landed an agent and signed a two-book deal on both sides of the Atlantic. The following summer, Something Borrowed, hailed as a “heartbreakingly honest debut” with “dead-on dialogue, real-life complexity and genuine warmth,” became a surprise sensation, and Giffin vowed never to practice law again.

Dubbed a “modern day Jane Austen” (Vanity Fair) and a “dependably down-to-earth storyteller” (New York Times), Giffin has since penned six more New York Times bestsellers, Something Blue (2005), Baby Proof (2006), Love the One You’re With (2008), Heart of the Matter (2010), Where We Belong (2012), The One & Only (2014) and First Comes Love (2016). Her eight novels, all filled with endearingly flawed characters and emotional complexity, have resonated deeply with both critics and readers around the world, achieving bestseller status in a number of countries, including the United States (#1), Canada (#1), United Kingdom, France, Brazil and Poland (#1). The books have been translated into thirty-one languages, with over eleven million copies sold worldwide. In addition, five of her novels have been optioned for the big screen and are in various stages of development. The first, Something Borrowed, hit theaters in May 2011, starring Kate Hudson, Ginnifer Goodwin and John Krasinski.

Giffin now resides with her husband and three young children in Atlanta. Her ninth novel, All We Ever Wanted, will be released on June 26, 2018.

Post a Comment

© Carlene Inspired. Made with love by The Dutch Lady Designs.