Book Title and Author: All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin
Publication Date and Publisher: June 26, 2018 by Ballantine Books
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Pages: 400 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: May 30, 2018 (e-arc)
Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.
Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.
Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenage girl, happy and thriving.
Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.
At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.
As a long time reader and lover of Emily Giffin’s books, her newest book All We Ever Wanted was not at all what I expected because it is a departure from her usual writing style, but I loved it! All We Ever Wanted is not only one of the most enjoyable books that I’ve read this year, it is a compelling look at motherhood, parenting, family, friendship, teenagehood, love, and ultimately the decisions one must make when faced with during difficult times-do you do what is morally and ethically right or do what is socially expected?
Although the topics in All We Ever Wanted are heavier than Giffin’s normal lighthearted romances, she doesn’t disappoint her readers with this powerful and riveting novel. In the book, Griffin tackles important and timely topics such as sexism, racism, assault, social stigma, classism, and gender discrimination, as well as how social media and its lack of privacy can be extremely damaging to a person’s reputation in just a matter of seconds…all it takes is one picture posted online to quickly spread and destroy a reputation.
Unfortunately, this is what happens after a compromising and racially biased picture is taken of unconscious Lyla Volpe and texted during a drunken party. Of course, the pic goes viral, and the elite Nashville community starts to take sides against who is to blame. It is obviously not wealthy, privileged Finch Browning who did anything wrong even if he allegedly did take the pictures! After all, he was drunk and boys will be boys! Plus, he’s from a wealthy family and he’s just been accepted to Princeton…he certainly didn’t mean any harm. Finch certainly seems very contrite and apologetic, and he’ll do anything to make right the wrong.
While Lyla, well, she’s from the poor side of Nashville and not one of the rich and privileged since she’s just a scholarship student at the private, prestigious Windsor Academy; oh, and mustn’t forget that she’s Latina. And her parents are divorced! But really, everyone seems to think the entire situation happened because she’s Mexican..wait Latino…but what is the difference between the two, all the rich wonder as Lyla’s father, Tom, keeps explaining it every time his daughter’s race or ethnicity comes up while he defends her or fights to get justice for her amongst Nashville’s elite and wealthy!
The story is told through the perspectives of Lyla, Tom, and Nina, Finch’s mother, and I have to say that I loved all of their perspectives although I identified with Nina most of all. Yet, I loved hearing from Lyla as the confused teenager devastated by what had happened to her but determined to rise above, persevere, and move on despite all social repercussions. Tom is a great dad attempting to manage alone while trying to figure out how to give Lyla her freedom as she grows into a young woman and still protect his little girl. But Nina, in my opinion, made this book the excellent read that it is.
Nina is just all heart and soul even though she is torn in a million directions by the events of that night and what follows. I have to admit that I immediately felt a connection with her when in the first chapter, Nina tells about being from Bristol, a small town on the Tennessee-Virginia border. I laughed since that’s where I was born and grew up and most of my family still lives there! I’ve never read a book about anyone being from Bristol-I didn’t think anyone knew where that was, so Giffin shocked me a little!
Anyway, I knew immediately that I would love Nina, and I did. Even though she married into the high-class Nashville society, I knew there was no way she could lose herself and the girl who grew up in Bristol, and I was right! Giffin portrays how, as a mother, it is hard for Nina to look at her son and face some hard truths about his behavior, the repercussions his actions have on Lyla, Tom, and her own family, what consequences he needs to face, the tough love she needs to give him, and subsequently how her own life is changed by these events. Giffin deftly navigates the tumultuous waters of tough parenting with empathy and compassion. Being a mother of two teenage boys, what Nina went through tugged at my heart and I have to admit that I spent several parts of this book crying…for Nina, Lyla, and for the reality that these things happen not only in novels.
All We Ever Wanted is a blockbuster, must read this summer, and I truly think this is Giffin’s best book to date. Griffin has more than proven she is multi-talented with the change in direction of this novel and it’s more than timely topics. I hope to see more of these thought-provoking, enthralling novels from her in the future.
**Thank you, NetGalley and Ballentine Books for my review copy in exchange for my fair and honest review.**