Friday, June 4, 2010

The Heart of the Matter

I have been a fan of Emily Giffin's work since her first book Something Borrowed came out a few years ago. This is one author whose work I read sooner rather than later - her books not lingering on my TBR pile. Part of it is the cover appeal. All of Giffin's books are pretty to look at, and while I could say I never judge a book by its cover, that would be a lie.

Giffin's first book presented a plotline that wasn't so unusual, but with its own twist, providing a unique story about a couple soon to marry. Dexter and his fiancee Darcy are approaching their wedding day when he and Darcy's best friend have an affair. While most readers would find Rachel, the best friend, unlikeable, Giffin is able to create a very likeable other woman and it is hard to find fault with her, even though she is having a relationship with her best friends' fiancee.

Giffin is once again exploring a common story, yet throwing in her own twist. In Heart of the Matter Nick and Tessa are happily married. Nick is a skilled surgeon and Tessa has recently quit her job to stay at home with their two young children. When Nick meets a young patient's mother, Valerie, the two form a near-instant connection. Their relationship develops into something more than friendship and suddenly a couple's perfect marriage doesn't look so perfect anymore. Giffin alternates chapters using Tessa and Valerie as narrators. However, when Tessa narrates her chapters are written in the first person. When Valerie narrates her chapters are written in the third person. I'm only guessing what Giffin had in mind by doing this, but as a reader, it was easier to identify with Tessa because she is the one telling the story. Valerie, as the other woman would generally be less liked, yet her status as a singe mother who is lonely did endear her to me.

While I enjoyed this book and read it quickly, I will warn any future reader that Giffin's work is chick lit. Yes, I enjoy them. Yes, I will read future books. But is this a great work of fiction? No. These are fun, easy reads. From time to time I get a little irritated with the perfect lives her characters lead. They aren't quite as picture perfect or repetitive as Danielle Steele's books, but there was just a moment while I was reading that I had this total deja vu moment of reading something so very similar as Heart of the Matter - the same feeling I get when I am reading a Danielle Steele book. While I have given up on Steele's work, I am still enjoying Giffin's. Somehow she has managed to understand the problems and concerns that people in their thirties are facing in today's world. She is able to truly hit the nail on the head in each of her books and has a true talent for creating likeable characters despite their flaws.

One last interesting touch in Heart of the Matter was the reappearance of Dexter and Rachel, the couple from her first book. Dexter is Tessa's brother and he and his wife and their children show up periodically in this book, while Tessa wonders at how their relationship began and whether Dexter called off his wedding to Darcy before or after he and Rachel began their relationship.

I'm not sure what Giffin's next book will focus on, but chances are I will happily set aside some time to read another of her novels and be pleased with her ability to entertain me.


~Niki~ said...

Just wanted to HOP by and say HI :)

Mari said...

I read Heart of the Matter a few weeks ago and enjoyed it - I didn't like it as much as her other books but it was good.

I love that she pulls characters forward!

We have to wait two more years for a new book from her - she doesn't rush to publish...

Shan said...

I really liked this book.

While it is chick lit, her books go a bit deeper than most chick lit. I liked the ending because whereas most chick lit books would solve the problem happily and right away (which isn't that believable), Giffin played it out a bit longer and showed that these types of resolutions take time.