Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review: Where We Belong

Summary: The author of five blockbuster novels, Emily Giffin, delivers an unforgettable story of two women, the families that make them who they are, and the longing, loyalty and love that binds them together

Marian Caldwell is a thirty-six year old television producer, living her dream in New York City. With a fulfilling career and satisfying relationship, she has convinced everyone, including herself, that her life is just as she wants it to be. But one night, Marian answers a knock on the door . . . only to find Kirby Rose, an eighteen-year-old girl with a key to a past that Marian thought she had sealed off forever. From the moment Kirby appears on her doorstep, Marian’s perfectly constructed world—and her very identity—will be shaken to its core, resurrecting ghosts and memories of a passionate young love affair that threaten everything that has come to define her. 

For the precocious and determined Kirby, the encounter will spur a process of discovery that ushers her across the threshold of adulthood, forcing her to re-evaluate her family and future in a wise and bittersweet light. As the two women embark on a journey to find the one thing missing in their lives, each will come to recognize that where we belong is often where we least expect to find ourselves—a place that we may have willed ourselves to forget, but that the heart remembers forever. -- St. Martin's Press

I spent part of last week at the shore and was fortunate enough to read some very good books. One of those was WHERE WE BELONG by Emily Giffin. I definitely consider myself a big fan of Ms. Giffin's books, and while I haven't loved each and every one, I know I can depend on her for a fun beach read. In the case of WHERE WE BELONG, though, I have to say that it will probably go down as one of my favorites.

WHERE WE BELONG tells the story of Marian Caldwell a 36 year old woman whose life is seemingly perfect. She has a dream job as a television producer and a great boyfriend who just happens to be the head of the network; however, her life turns upside down late one night when a teenage girl shows up on her doorstep. Marian gets the shock of a lifetime when she realizes that the girl is Kirby, the child she gave up for adoption almost eighteen years ago.

Needless to say, Marian's almost too-perfect life is turned upside-down as she tries to deal with the existence of Rosie in her life and the painful reminder of a the young love affair she had with Rosie's dad. Meanwhile, Kirby is also working through things as she comes to terms with her birth mother and birth father as well as her current family situation. As these two women get to know each other, they also begin learning valuable things about themselves and those they love.

WHERE WE BELONG was just an overall terrific story and I think it's an ideal summer read. As is almost always the case with an Emily Giffin book, the characters were wonderful. I loved both Marian and Kirby, and I appreciated how authentic they seemed to me. Both Marian and Kirby were pretty complex women and I liked how they worked through their issues -- sometimes more easily than others. Furthermore, I loved how each one of them brought something special to the other one's life. While it's probably more obvious to refer to this novel as a coming-of-age story for Kirby because of her age, I actually thought both women matured a lot by the end of the book and realized some valuable life lessons about love, loss, and family.

One thing that stood out to me was how Ms. Giffin decided to tell Marian's story. While most of the story took place in the present day and went back and forth between Marian and Kirby's lives, there were also flashbacks to Marian's past -- the time when she fell in love for the first time, discovered that she was pregnant, and decided to give up the baby for adoption. Initially, I didn't love Marian as a character; however, as I learned more about her painful past and her difficult decisions, I became much more compassionate towards her and eventually really, really liked her. Of course, her words and actions towards Kirby's parents went a long way in helping her cause too. She treated them with the respect they deserved and I loved her for that!

WHERE WE BELONG would make for an interesting selection for book clubs who appreciate women's fiction. There is a link to a reading guide on the author's website, but it appears that it's not working at this time. Since I can't actually see the questions, I can only guess about the topics they cover; however, there are so many issues in this story that I'm sure I'll touch upon some of them here. Your group might want to talk about adoption -- both as a mother and a child, the role of adoptive parents, family dynamics, love, relationships, first love, dishonesty, choices, and forgiveness. Believe me... there is a lot of potential discussion points in this novel.

I enjoyed WHERE WE BELONG a great deal. It was an entertaining read with terrific characters, but it also managed to touch me heart. I know Emily Giffin fans won't be disappointed with her latest novel, and I also think fans of women's fiction will appreciate this one.

WHERE WE BELONG is also available as an audio book and I'm certain I would have enjoyed it just as much in this format. Here's a clip from the audio version!

Thanks to SheKnows Book Club and the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

You can read more about WHERE WE BELONG and the SheKnows Book Club here.


Beth F said...

I have this one on my list ... sounds like I'd enjoy it.

Serena said...

This sounds like a Giffin I could enjoy. I read one other that I didn't care for much a while ago. This sounds much better.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds like one I definitely want to read. I can just imagine how having Kirby show up would totally turn the universe upside down!

Marg said...

I am torn on Giffin. I really didn't like the first one of hers that I read, but I quite liked the next. Can't decide if I am willing to give her another go or not.

bermudaonion said...

Unbelievably, I've never tried Giffin's work and I know several people who love it. This sounds really good!

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

i am not always an emily giffin fan, but this sounds interesting.

Meg @ write meg! said...

I definitely enjoyed this one, too, and found myself sniffling uncontrollably on a plane ride! Giffin creates such dimensional, memorable characters. I loved the first love plotline, too.

toothybooks said...

this one sounds great! i'm glad to see that you enjoyed it so much.

Alyce said...

Sounds like a very good read! I haven't read any of her books yet, but I guess I should since I've heard so many good things.

Karlie said...

I can't wait to borrow this one!

Just Mom said...

I think I have read all of Griffin's other books - she is one Ilike, will have to look for this one too!