Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book 28: Heart of the Matter

I devoured and relished Emily Giffin's Heart of the Matter.  There are so many reasons why I love Giffin's books, not the least of which is that she tells compelling stories. But it is more than that.  It's that she creates such believable and relatable characters who face believable and relatable situations.  In Heart of the Matter, the lives of two women intertwine in unexpected ways after a tragic accident. These women are suddenly caught in an imperfect, heartbreaking situation. As they face decisions they never thought they would have to make,  each of them is realizing that "always" and "never" rarely are. And each of them is trying to determine what it is that is truly matters to them.  

As a side note, two characters popped up in this book that I wasn't expecting to see. I have always liked how Emily's characters are tethered to each other in interesting, unsuspecting ways. I love getting this glimpse into what had happened in their lives after Giffin told their story in an earlier book. This is not the first time Giffin has done this, and it makes me feel, as a reader, that I'm getting snippets of an epilogue, or catching up with old friends.

I found myself making a few notes as I read this book.  I didn't necessarily expect that, but after I thought about it a bit, I wondered why I was surprised.  Elements of Giffin's books have always stuck with me. In Heart of the Matter, Tessa talks about her friendship with Cate, and how Cate has an idealized view of Tessa's life. For the first time in a fiction piece, and perhaps due in part to other things going on in my life right now, I found myself making a list about some things in my own life that I am grateful for.  I just hadn't been able to see these things until recently, because I was always thinking the grass had to be greener on the other side. How often is it that a book classified as "chick lit" helps you do something like that, have your own little epiphany?

I know I've already mentioned how well drawn and relatable Giffin's characters are.  One of the best illustrations of this that I can talk about here without giving too much away is when Tessa begins to feel the first fingers of fear in her gut that something is off kilter.  She tries to talk herself out of her fears, find alternate possibilities, even flatly deny her suspicions and try to talk herself into believing her observations are just insecurities and are completely explainable. Every woman I know has been there, for one reason or another, and Giffin is spot on in her description.  Not wanting to believe something is off but knowing beyond a doubt that it is, even if you can't prove it; even if you don't want to believe it.  I felt myself tensing up as I have when I've tried to quell fears I didn't want to be true and I didn't want to face. Giffin captured it perfectly.

Finally, in this story, you want a villain.  There simply isn't one.  There are three good people caught in a situation none of them wanted or sought. And they realize, like we all do at some point, that we never really know what we will do in a situation until we are in that very place.  Sometimes we find ourselves doing that thing we swore we'd never do, being that person we swore we'd never be, because we finally understand what really matters to us. 


  1. Oh, Ash. The book sucked me in, but I had a HARD time reading it. Infidelity is such a painful, painful issue. Like you, I think I WANTED a villain, and it was so hard to read knowing that there wasn't one. I cried for about the last 75 pages nonstop. I really appreciated the ending - have known a family that went through that, and I think they are amazing.

  2. Hi Katherine,

    Thanks for commenting. I think that your reaction is the mark of a well-written book. It is a painful issue, and you care so much about the characters and the story that it is hard to read sometimes, but in a good way.