Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Limited Draw of Suburban Angst

This next book was kind of low on my list and got pushed up after a slightly funny story - I had put Emily Giffin's latest, Heart of the Matter, on my reserve list a few months ago.  When it finally arrived (a month after it was published I might add) I got it out and put it in mind to read on the quick side, because as a new book, it would be difficult to renew.  Then, about a week later, I noticed it wasn't on my list online so I naturally assumed that there must have been some technical glitch... and I wasn't in a rush to read it at all, because apparently there was no record that I had it out :) so good... so I put it rather farther down on my list, being that it didn't look at all promising... fast forward a few weeks.  Tzvi asked me to renew his books because they were overdue, so I did - at which point I got a response, two books could not be renewed because there were hold requests on them... one was Tzvi's and the other one was my Emily Giffin.  Oops :) forgot I asked Tzvi to pick it up for me from the library.  So it moved up to #1, it being overdue and all. 

I had a four hour or so car ride up to CL this week, and nothing to do but read... but that's not an uncommon occurrence and it doesn't always make for a fruitful drive.   This time though... I read almost the entire book in the car! So what does that say about this book, you ask? Was it so incredible that I couldn't put it down? Did the writing just grab me and keep me turning the page? Not so much...  I'm really not sure what made it so easy to read, if it wasn't the on the larger side font. 

Emily Giffin writes relationship books.  Really, straight up relationship books, with nothing else in them.  Now I have absolutely no complaints to make about this, I'm not really one for plot anyway :) But I read her books because they tend to be pretty much feel good, sometimes romantic, if not chic lit totally girly books... and if you can't tell by now, that's pretty much right up my alley :) This one carried on with the tradition, the whole book was basically about a married couple's relationship along with a single mother's tied in with them.   Her last two were about married couples too, but if they were as angsty, I don't remember it.  Basically, the marriage isn't in great shape and I really had trouble sympathizing with either side too much.  The man was definitely the villain of the two, but I couldn't really get in to the woman's side either.

The problem is, Emily Giffin tries to explore these deep questions about trust in relationships, and what true love is, and faithfulness, but she is totally lacking in what I consider the appropriate moral basis to do so (and yes, that would be traditional frum values :)) So all I can think is, b"h this isn't my life.  Yes, you people all have major issues, and there are no easy answers to the difficulties you are experiencing in your relationship - because a relationship isn't *meant* to be easy! It's work... not cookies and milk (as if I have any right to lecture - don't worry, I know I don't :)) but I just don't have patience for these people to sit here and work it out.  So basically I spent the entire book being annoyed with the characters and thinking, what's the point?

Her books are actually all like this, with the exception of her second, which has a bit more of a chic litty feel - the rest are all, but I want this, but what's the right thing but whatever, i.d.c.  But the rest all come with a satisfying ending at least! and I have a *little* more sympathy with whatever the dilemma is.  This one, as I said, just was *not* on my wavelength... b"h for that.   And I thought the ending would be a divorce... which was the only saving grace of the book - and I'm spoiling here - it isn't :) In the last chapter, she actually finally gets around to giving the preachy result of all this back and forth.  And lo and behold.... a relationship is about work, love comes from years of life together... yes, yes, yes, but why did this take you so long? But at least she gets it right in the end :)

So I did not enjoy this book... but like I said, it was easy reading - and that's because Emily Giffin does a good job with her genre - she's good with all the minutia of daily suburban life, with making it interesting, to some extent at least, if not completely sympathetic.  As Huvi would say, she's a good writer, that why I read her :)   Fine, I'll give her that...

...but it's not much... for decent writing and ending it right, I award 2.5/5 to this rather disappointing novel by a promising writer

...which I would compare with the cold cuts I ate today - from my usual diet, a food I generally like, if not my favorite in the world, but just not as good as usual today... kind of bland and with a bit of strange taste too


  1. i definitely agree about it being an easy read- i also finished it waaay faster than usual... but for being an easy read, written well, AND having the right ending i would give it more than a 2.5.. i would give it at least a 3..i cant believe u thought it would end in divorce! i thought it was pretty obvious it wouldnt but i was relieved when i saw it didnt so i guess not completely obvious but i guess you really didnt relate/sympathize with the characters. i did- even with nick at times...i do wish the end was a lil happier..a lil more satisfying but i still loved reading it for some reason- even if it wasnt feel good- at all. so basically i agree with you on most points but kinda shocked that (and a lil confused why)u didnt sympathize with the characters.

  2. rochel this was an excellent review. like 2 minutes ago i pretty much said the exact same thing on the gg (if with less words and not as clear). the only thing is so not into the food comparison. im not a major fan of the whole food thing in general as u know but there is no way that emily giffin is like cold cuts