Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book #32 LibraryLove June 10, 2010

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

Book description~ Tessa Russo is the mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon. Despite her 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. 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.

Having read each of Emily Giffin’s previous novels, I couldn’t help but have extremely high expectations of her latest release, Heart of the Matter. I met Giffin during her summer tour with some of my best girlfriends beside me. At her event, Giffin was endearing, hilarious, and so accessible as a wife and mother of three small children.

HOM stresses the importance of life’s subtle nuances and hammers home the idea of not taking life for granted, especially for Tessa and Valerie, whose lives intertwine as a result of a tragic accident and an even more tragic circumstance. Tessa’s husband, a top surgeon, is married to his job and must leave her side when his pager beeps to go tend to another family.  Valerie is a single mother struggling to give her son the life he deserves. Early on, the book draws you in as the character development begins. I was right there with Tessa, the eternal optimist, as the daily minutiae set in of such things as what snacks to pack for her child’s classmates and gossip around the school. It is while Tessa’s friend April shares the latest town gossip, that Valerie and Tessa’s stories become interconnected. I was still 100% on board until I predicted the outcome 100 pages into the 350+ page novel. The book was not only a bit too formulaic for me, but the subject matter is one that disgusts me. If you’ve read Something Borrowed, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And although it was bad in SoBo, what unfolds about 200 pages in to HOM is despicable. Every book needs a protagonist, a villain, I get that. But the situation in SoBo didn’t involve a married couple. Nick, Tessa’s husband, is so quietly self-contained that Tessa’s mother’s frenetic ways basically give away the plot early on, picking at their marriage and creating an aire of doubt within the reader, making it tough to fully commit to connecting with Valerie and Nick’s characters, knowing what’s to come. I just couldn’t help but feel like this story was one that was told 1,000 times before. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Giffin’s writing style, so conversational. But pair the awful subject matter, which is completely unoriginal, with the way this book was constructed and it just went off the deep end for me. The story is written in Tessa’s first person POV and then switches back and forth between Valerie’s third person POV. I would have liked this book better if, as the reader, we could’ve been inside Valerie’s head too. Authors make very specific choices for a reason. The next time I get the chance to chat with Giffin, I’d like to ask her why she constructed the book this way. If you happen to know, please drop me a comment and let me know why you think it was done. I’ve seen it done before and it worked from authors like Jennifer Weiner, Jodi Picoult, and Anita Shreve; I just didn’t feel it this time. I’m sure she had a great reason and I’d love to find out what it is.  Regardless, Something Borrowed and Something Blue will still remain intact as my two favorite Giffin novels so far.

I look forward to hearing what my fellow book club babes think of HOM when we discuss next weekend.

While you’re here, make sure to enter our Second Sizzlin’ Summer Giveaway for your chance to win a copy of Beth Hoffman’s awesome novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt!

3/5 stars

32 down, 20 to go!

In progress- Wildwater Walking Club




2 Responses to “Book #32 LibraryLove”

  1. Alyssa Says:

    Great Review Pretty Lady!!
    I feel as though I was reading my own thoughts about HOM that were somehow spilled all over your page.
    I am going to preface this with the fact that I don’t think anything will ever top Something Borrowed. Although I enjoyed Something Blue- SoBo is one of my favorite books of all time.

    What I like most about Giffin’s writing is her character development. I feel as though she creates such dynamic and relatable characters that are flawed yet, so perfect(ly) written.
    Within HOM, I totally agree with your discussion of the book’s predictability. I feel like the book falls off a cliff of sorts fairly early in. Once a foundation of the characters is set up- I assumed that only one plot direction would be followed, and Giffin writes just that: Nick has an affair, Tessa and Nick try and work it out.

    The subject matter of this book left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. Reading things like this make me start to wonder, to doubt how life has so many chances to take a wrong turn. I feel like Giffin tries to compliment the Tessa/Nick relationship and conflict with that of Rachel/Dex. Tessa and Nick are struggling- and Rachel and Dex are too good to be true. I wonder what Giffin’s intentions are with this element. Does she write Rachel/Dex into HOM to reassure readers that devoted and faithful relationships exist as opposed to the conflict that she discusses with Tessa/Nick? Or does she write in Rachel/Dex to please those hardcore SoBo aficionados in an attempt to carry on the SoBo legacy? Or maybe both?

    In regards to the conclusion of HOM, although I didn’t particularly LOVE the book- I want more from Valerie. I feel like her plot was cut off- left hanging. As was discussed at the book signing, Tessa has the first and last chapter of the book and I was more impressed with Giffin’s creation of Valerie’s character as opposed to that of Tessa (even though both were extremely predictable.)

    Thanks for all of the reviews, Hillary. I’m going to the library to pick up a few good reads for the weekend! Happy Friday!



  2. Alyssa, thank you so much for contributing your insights; I’m SO glad I’m not the only one who feels this way (but I’d be fine if I was)!! I hope predictability isn’t a trend for Emily Giffin because I really enjoyed her first two novels but felt that BabyProof was also quite formulaic and “went through the motions” at times. As part of the book reviewing community, I feel a personal responsibility that if folks are going to look to us for suggestions and for our reviews, we stay committed to being genuine, whether it’s unpopular to do so or not. If you follow this blog, you’ve noticed by now we’re not shy and we tell it like it is regardless of the circumstance. Time is a valuable commodity. Like everyone, we have busy lives and don’t want to waste time when there are so many fantastic books to be discovered. We prefer to deliver thoughtful and thoroughly respectful critiques the books we choose to pick up, not just say “yep, it was great, 5/5 stars” every time– there’s nothing thoughtful or introspective about that. If nothing else, you get honesty when you come here looking for book suggestions!


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