Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review: The Whole Golden World

Summary: Kristina Riggle, the acclaimed author of Real Life & Liars, returns with a thought-provoking novel inspired by real-life events

Seventeen-year-old Morgan Monetti shocks her parents and her community with one simple act: She chooses to stand by the man everyone else believes has exploited her—popular high school teacher TJ Hill. Quietly walking across a crowded courtroom to sit behind TJ, and not beside her parents, she announces herself as the adult she believes herself to be.

But her mother, Dinah, wants justice. Dinah is a fighter, and she believes with all her heart and soul that TJ is a man who took advantage of her daughter. He is a criminal who should be brought to justice, no matter what the cost to his family.

Rain, TJ's wife, is shocked that her handsome, loving, respected husband has been accused of a terrible crime. But has her desperation to start a family closed her eyes to the fault lines in her marriage? And can she face the painful truths about herself and her husband?

Told from the perspectives of these three remarkable women, The Whole Golden World navigates the precarious territory between childhood and adulthood, raising questions about love and manipulation, marriage and motherhood, consent and responsibility. It's a novel both shocking and unforgettable in its power. -- William Morrow

I think I've read every novel that Kristina Riggle has written, and each one has been entertaining in their own special way. I appreciate Ms. Riggle's writing, especially her prose and her character development; and my feelings about her latest novel THE WHOLE GOLDEN WORLD are more of the same. While this book wasn't always easy for me to read because of the subject matter, I enjoyed this one a great deal; and I liked that it brought up a ton of complex issues.

I guess THE WHOLE GOLDEN WORLD is based on some real-life events -- which actually make it even harder for me to process. Let me explain. Morgan, a seventeen year old girl, who is basically a good student has an affair with her high school teacher TJ Hill. When he is charged with a crime, she chooses to act like "an adult" and stand-by "her man" thinking their relationship is based on mutual love and respect.

Her mother Dinah, however, isn't quite as understanding and wants justice for the man she believes took advantage of her daughter. Her strong convictions never waiver even though Hill is married and expecting his first child.

And then there's Hill's wife Rain who is torn apart by the allegations and isn't quite sure what to believe. She is desperate to start a family -- so much so that she might be willing to turn her eyes from the truth!

Needless to say, this novel explores some very complicated ethical and emotional issues; and as a mother of a teenage girl, it was a bit hard for me to read. Having said that, I did "enjoy" this novel and I thought Ms. Riggle did an excellent job of showing the different views of the characters. The book was very readable thanks to her quality writing, yet it also managed to make me think. I always say that's a sign of a good book.

One thing I really appreciated about THE WHOLE GOLDEN WORLD was how the author chose to tell the story. The novel was written in alternating chapters by the three main female characters -- Morgan, Dinah, and Rain. I thought Ms. Riggle did a fantastic job of giving each woman a unique voice and making them believable to the reader. And even though I got frustrated with each character at times, I felt as if they were real and I could sense their pain and desperation.

The affair between Morgan and Hill was absolutely despicable to me; however, the after effects of their actions did resonate with me. By that, I don't mean that I've ever experienced anything along the lines of what happened; however, as a mother, I could totally relate to Dinah's reactions. In addition, my heart also went out to Morgan because she was taken advantage of by an adult and still so innocent and naive. And truly, my heart broke for Rain. I can't imagine trying so hard to get pregnant only to discover that the man you love is sleeping with a teenager! Talk about having your life fall apart.

Since I've touched upon many of the emotional and ethical issues in this review, you probably won't be surprised that THE WHOLE GOLDEN WORLD would make an excellent book club pick. In addition to the obvious discussion topics like adultery, parent/child relationships, and sexual abuse, there are also many other issues like marriage, commitment, forgiveness, and justice. I sincerely doubt that there will be many female readers who sympathize with Hill, but I do think there will be some different interpretations of the actions of the three main female characters.

Despite the icky premise of THE WHOLE GOLDEN WORLD, I did appreciate this novel and believe that the author did a wonderful job with her character development. Highly recommended.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

That is an icky premise but it sounds like something that could really happen. I bet that book is riveting.

Nise' said...

Despite the subject matter of this book, I thought it was a great read. I liked the 3 POVs too and thought it gave a well rounded view of what happened. Kristina gets better with each book. She is a local author and I hope to get to one of her appearances soon. Wonderful review.

Carin Siegfried said...

Sounds interesting. FYI, I think you've got the names of the Hill characters mixed up, calling them both TJ. From the above synopsis it looks like the wife's name is Rain.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

I am pretty sure this one is on the shelf. I need to read it.

Becca said...

I really need to get my hands on this book. I love reading provocative books about complex issues.