A Pleasant Surprise from Emily Giffin

Emily Giffin
I've read several of bestselling author Emily Giffin's books and never considered them "good." I love a light, quick read, and her books fit the bill, but almost always induce several affectionate eye rolls from me before the last page is turned. But her latest, "Where We Belong," kept my eyes firmly on the page and out of the back of my head. I can unapologetically say I liked it.
The story is written from alternating points of view - that of Marian, a high-power New Yorker who gave up a daughter for adoption eighteen years ago and never told anyone, and Kirby, her now eighteen-year-old daughter, who, by finding her, forces her to reexamine her life and her choices. The story also alternates between the events of the present and the memories of the past.
Giffin does a great job of switching between voices, capturing that of a modern teenager's especially well. When Kirby, the daughter, starts a shy romance with a boy, the dialogue is touching in its realness - refreshing for those who get sick of reading flirtatious banter that's so clever it's cheesy. Kirby's character also manages to thrive through the book by not being dramatized as the manic pixie dream girl so many authors favor for their female (especially teenaged) characters.
The emotional parts of the book that explore the relationships between each of the characters are extremely poignant. I usually pride myself on not falling prey to the emotional traps of "chick lit" but because the relationships in this book are so relatable and are mostly non-romantic, they really did surprise me with their strength.

"Where We Belong" is not literary in nature - I'd still consider it a light and fast read. But it still feels just a little different, and a little reminiscent of author Melissa Bank.  I'm happy to say that I didn't visualize the book as a typical romantic comedy, starring Katherine Heigl and Vanessa Hudgens as mother and daughter, respectively. Rather, I saw a real story with real characters and good acting, maybe say, by Charlize Theron and Ellen Page. If you've ever been turned off by Giffin before, now's the time to give her another chance.


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