Every so often, a novel comes along that makes you feel uncomfortable.
That may sound like a negative thing. It isn’t. I’m talking about a book that gets you to rethink some things, and that makes you realize how surprised you can be by someone you thought you really knew.
This edition of Book Notes is about Emily Giffin’s new book, All We Ever Wanted. It’s told from the viewpoints of three different characters: a wealthy “society” mom who appears to have a golden life; a teenage girl who often feels like a fish out of water (looking back, didn’t we all); and a dad who has gone to great lengths to protect his daughter.
The book begins with an innocuous enough sentence, that you soon realize holds a dark promise: “It started out as a typical Saturday night.” The story goes on to reveal a single incident at a teenage party that got out of control (think, a terribly inappropriate photo that goes viral), which has now torn apart the lives of several families.
We get to know the families’ backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, and secrets. I sympathized with each of the three POV characters in different ways. Of the additional characters, though, not everyone is telling the truth, and I found my allegiances and conclusions shifting at a couple different points in the story. Once the truth finally comes out, several characters are left to pick up the pieces and put them back together into something resembling a life.
I won’t give away more details about it, except to say this: both as a woman, and as the mother of a teenager, the party incident that caused all the trouble was uncomfortable. And that’s where the wondering begins…
… Will “kids be kids” no matter how “good” they are or whether they come from a “nice” family? (As one of the characters indicates: kids do this all the time to each other!)
… What happens when we try to raise our children to be decent, moral human beings, and we don’t get the result we expected? How about if one parent has a very different set of values than the other?
… How do we spend our entire lives protecting our child from harm, but step back and let them take the fall when they’ve done something terrible?
I don’t have the answers. But I think it’s clear that this novel touches on so many issues being discussed these days: consent (#metoo & sexual boundaries); the role & responsibility of social media; an “entitlement” culture that lets a certain few think they’ll never suffer consequences for their actions.
All We Ever Wanted was hard to put down. I read half of it one evening and didn’t want to stop, but forced myself to go to bed around 3am. Oops. I finished the other half in one sitting this morning. I needed to learn what really happened, discover how each of the characters ended up, and process how I felt about it all. I’m still working on the last part.
This was an insightful, thought provoking, and relevant story, and I’m betting a lot of people will be talking about it this summer. Ms. Giffin’s latest released in June and you can order it here. Make sure you’re well rested before you begin. 🙂
Well, the bar for my favorite summer read is starting off pretty high! This is definitely a contender. How about you… what new books have you discovered? What haven’t you been able to put down? Share with us in the comments! Happy reading!
(I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of this title from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.)