Monday, March 26, 2012

Heart of the Matter - Emily Giffin


Goodreads:  Tessa Russo is the mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon.  Despite her own mother's warnings, Tessa has recently given up her career to focus on her family and the pursuit of domestic happiness. From the outside, she seems destined to live a charmed life. 

Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six-year-old Charlie--a boy who has never known his father.  After too many disappointments, she has given up on romance--and even to some degree, friendships--believing that it is always safer not to expect too much. 

Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, the two have relatively little in common aside from a fierce love for their children.  But one night, a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined.  

In alternating, pitch-perfect points of view, Emily Giffin creates a moving, luminous story of good people caught in untenable circumstances. Each being tested in ways they never thought possible. Each questioning everything they once believed. And each ultimately discovering what truly matters most. 


I will say what the synopsis leaves out as it is rather vague - this is a novel about an affair.  This was an excellent novel that really explores sense of morality.  Giffin plays this up by choosing to have Val and Tessa narrate, so it is difficult to really dislike any of her characters and you feel their pain as well as the pain they inflict on the other characters equally.  She explores how affairs happen in a way that really makes everyone seem blameless - but does this in a way that does not detract from the impact it has and the tragedy it brings.  Giffin has a way of writing that explores every situation from multiple sides - the affair, the incident that led to Charlie's burn, relationships - really any incident mentioned is very well rounded.  I make this sound like some didactic lesson in morality, but it really is very well written. Giffin writes beautifully, allowing us to love all her characters, and writing them in a very realistic situation.  This plot can (and has) often become too soap opera-ish.  Giffin knows exactly where to play up and play down the situation so that it is not undersold, but does not become overly dramatic.  Overall this was one of the best books I read last year.  But be forewarned - any book that dives into the human psyche this deeply will not always be a comfortable journey.

Character development - excellent
Plot - excellent
Prose - well written


Heavy chick lit readers; readers who enjoy reading about moral dilemmas; heavy realistic fiction readers

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