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.
32 down, 20 to go!
In progress- Wildwater Walking Club