Friday, October 19, 2012

Where We Belong by Emily Giffin — 384 pgs

Marian Caldwell has a life that anyone would envy. At thirty-six, she is the producer of one of the hottest shows on television and is dating a handsome heartthrob television executive, hoping to take it to the next level. She’s living the dream in New York, but somehow, something is missing. When a bickering session with her boyfriend sends her home one evening, she’s surprised when a knock on the door reveals a young girl named Kirby Rose, whom she thought she’d never see again. Kirby is Marian’s daughter, who she had given up for adoption only three days after her birth. Marian is stunned and caught off guard that the eighteen year old has come looking for her now that the adoption records have been unsealed. Young and reckless, Kirby has never felt that she fit in with her adoptive family. Of course they love her and have seen to all of her needs, but Kirby has has always felt that she plays second fiddle to her more vivacious and outgoing sister, born only eleven months after her adoption. After a whirlwind weekend in New York, Marian bustles Kirby back home, nervous and unsure how to handle the girl’s sudden appearance. But there are questions that must be answered, and Kirby will have no hedging. Who is her father and why does Marian refuse to speak of him? What really happened all those years ago when she was forced to give up her only child to a couple of strangers? In this touching and engaging read, Emily Giffin imagines the life of a woman who ran away from motherhood and the daughter who has come running back to find her.

After reading Emily Giffin’s first book, Something Borrowed, I knew that I would someday read another of her works. It was my lucky day when the Books, Babes, and Bordeaux book club picked this little gem for their October read. I knew that this book would be light but meaningful, and the buzz on the blogs was pretty positive. I chose to read this one in one sitting during Dewey’s Readathon, and even though it was the only thing I got finished with for the day, I was truly happy to just sit like a sponge and absorb this charming story, which was a little predictable at times but fun nonetheless.

Marian is living large, but her dreams aren't being fully realized because her handsome beau won’t commit to her at this stage in the game, and it’s been a long game. She’s happy but could be happier, and doesn’t expect to find her long lost daughter knocking at her door on one of the worst nights she’s had in awhile. When Marian realizes who this stranger is, she’s both shocked and a little giddy, but she just can’t let Kirby get past her protective walls, and because of this, the reunion is somewhat painful for both mother and child. Marian does her best to include Kirby in everything, including her job, but she won’t open her heart, and the unanswered questions about Kirby’s father seem to float just above their heads like silent dialogue bubbles.

I loved Kirby so much. She was marching to the beat of her own drummer, literally, and she wasn’t afraid of the next step, be that what it may. Kirby was a girl child alone. Though she had met Marian and was impressed by her, there was more about her that she needed to discover. Her adoptive parents were not happy about Kirby meeting Marian because she was “theirs,” but they never treated her like she was. They never just let Kirby be Kirby, and they pressured her about her plans for the future when all she wanted to do was discover herself and her birth parents. I loved her spunk and her grace, and the more she discovered about how she became who she was, the more her heart opens to accept all of her parents, birth and adoptive.

There’s a lot that I’m not saying about this story because it’s better for readers to find out for themselves, but it’s safe to say that there’s a lot of turmoil in Marian’s life, and a lot of it revolves around Kirby’s birth father. In her typical style, Giffin seamlessly blends emotion and pragmatism in her characters, and though some of it was predictable, it was an engaging and powerfully built tale. Nobody comes out of this tale untouched by the reunion of Kirby and Marian. Simple and clean, while also being messy and complicated, Giffin gives this story her all and tells it beautifully, right down to the final sentence.

I’m now convinced that I need to read all of Giffin’s books, as her take on life and its complexities is not only engrossing, but full of laughter, love and above all, heartfelt emotion. Those who haven’t tried Giffin yet are in for a happy surprise if they pick up this book. Though it’s light reading, it still feels weighty enough to be striking. It was just what I needed at this point in my reading life, and I’m sure there are others out there who would agree that Giffin is a talented author who gently cradles both her readers and her characters. Recommended!

19 comments:

bermudaonion said...

It seems that this author writes with a lot of emotion. I really want to try her work.

Esme said...

I have read all her other books and enjoyed all of them-that said I could not finish this one.

Trisha said...

Kirby sounds like a fun and consistently interesting character.

Wall-to-wall books said...

Ahhh I have read a few of her books! Yes, I liked her too.
Great review. I will have to add this one to the wish list!

Suko said...

This author's work sounds intriguing. Lovely, heart-felt review!

Anita said...

I have read most of her books, and I've been so overwhelmed I haven't read this one. Wonderful review Heather, you put so much thought into your reviews. xoxo

Jenners said...

I've only read one of Giffin's books and liked it enough to try another one. Perhaps this will be the one.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I really liked this one too! Unfortunately I don't think I'm going to make book club this month. :( But I would have loved to discuss it with everyone!

Vasilly said...

I haven't read anything by this author before. I'm glad you found this book just when you needed to read it.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I'm glad you liked this one so much! Personally, I found it a bit unrealistic and fluffy, but certainly entertaining. I really felt like the scenario here would be an adopted child's fantasy...beautiful, rich, successful birth mother, dude-ish rocker birth father, and everyone ultimately ends up happy and accepting. Not really what happens often in real life. But it was sweet, and a nice filler in between the more serious reads.

Athira said...

I haven't read anything by this author, so I'm glad that you featured it on your blog. I have heard a lot of good things about Something Borrowed, so I will someday pick one of her books.

Jenny said...

I tried listening to one on audio (can't remember the name but it had a purple cover) and I just could not get into it but I wonder if its actually that audio just doesn't work well for me. I've thought about trying that audio gain or at least picking up a print version of one of her books!

Steph said...

I have only read one Emily Giffin book, her very first one, and I really enjoyed it a lot. I was so impressed that she managed to go beyond the normal confines of "chick lit" and tackle some difficult storylines and pull them off. It sounds like this is something she has continued to do, and I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this one so much! It really does seem like a perfect book club selection.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I don't think I've read any of Griffin...this could be a possibility though :) Thorough review (as always) :)

Harvee Lau said...


Quite dramatic, to have your daughter given up for adoption show up at your door. Sounds like a good plot.

Marg said...

I have read two Emily Giffin books. I loathed one but liked the other. Not sure about giving her another go though.

Buried In Print said...

Doh. I saw this on the New Books shelf today...if I'd read your review of it first, it'd be sitting here with me now!

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

I am glad I read your review. I loved Something Borrowed and Something Blue, but so far I had read really disappointed reviews of Where we Belong.

nomadreader said...

I'm glad to hear you loved this one so much. I was a huge fan of Giffin, but her last book fell flat for me. I'm quite curious about this one, and I'm looking forward to making time for it soon!

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