Review: WHERE WE BELONG, by Emily Giffin
Review by Alison Doherty
Where We Belong
St. Martins Griffin, 2013
There are some authors I read because I know exactly what I’m going to get and other authors I read to just to see what new and exciting narrative they’ve created. Emily Giffin definitely belongs in the former category. I’ve bought and read all of her books, because I know what kind of story she will write and I know that I will like it. Her latest book, Where We Belong, is no exception.
In order to avoid botching the summary, here is the description of the book from goodreads.com:
Marian Caldwell is a thirty-six year old television producer, living her dream in New York City. With a fulfilling career and satisfying relationship, she has convinced everyone, including herself, that her life is just as she wants it to be. But one night, Marian answers a knock on the door . . . only to find Kirby Rose, an eighteen-year-old girl with a key to a past that Marian thought she had sealed off forever. From the moment Kirby appears on her doorstep, Marian’s perfectly constructed world—and her very identity—will be shaken to its core, resurrecting ghosts and memories of a passionate young love affair that threaten everything that has come to define her.
For the precocious and determined Kirby, the encounter will spur a process of discovery that ushers her across the threshold of adulthood, forcing her to re-evaluate her family and future in a wise and bittersweet light. As the two women embark on a journey to find the one thing missing in their lives, each will come to recognize that where we belong is often where we least expect to find ourselves—a place that we may have willed ourselves to forget, but that the heart remembers forever.
Giffin combines highly conceptual plots, innovative story structure, and spectacular character-development into each of her novels. She is really good at getting into the heads of women. She picks out the details that are important to them and, more impressively, manages to convey to the reader the differences between how they view themselves, how others view them, and who they really are. She then uses the structure of her stories, moving between character POV and time, to make you switch your loyalty between the characters.
Where We Belong is Giffin writing at her best. It’s especially good because of the heightened emotional stakes that come along with parenthood as the story’s primary relationship. Although fear not, both characters do have romantic involvements! Unlike her previous novels, in this story none of the characters development is ever really finished. The novel does not contain a traditional beginning, middle, and end, but instead portrays spirals of beginnings and middles as both women come to terms with the new identities their growing relationship with each other creates. As a reader and aspiring writer I really enjoyed the idea of constant character growth.
This is a fun, quick read perfect for a plane ride, day at the beach, or particularly long bubble bath. If you’ve liked Giffin’s other novels then I feel like I can almost guarantee you will enjoy this one. If you don’t like Giffin’s writing or don’t like the somewhat condescendingly termed genre “chick lit” then I suggest staying away from this novel. I also wonder how you made it through my whole review.
Alison Doherty can be found on Twitter @AlisonCDoherty or on her blog: http://www.hardcoversandheroines.com.