All We Ever Wantedby Published 26 Jun 2018
|All We Ever Wanted.pdf|
In the riveting new novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of First Comes Love and Something Borrowed, three very different people must choose between their family and their values.
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 teenaged 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.
"All We Ever Wanted" Reviews
All We Ever Wanted is all we’ve come to expect from bestselling author Emily Giffin: an engaging, effortless, readable story that is deceptively likeable and painfully shallow. Giffin asks nothing from readers but a few moments of their time, and in exchange delivers high-gloss low-payoff novels that showcase entitlement and moral ambivalence disguised as depth. By now, her pattern is set, but this time, the stakes are higher.
--It could happen anywhere--
All We Ever Wanted is a domestic drama about the upheaval that occurs when the 18-year-old son of a wealthy and prominent Nashville couple posts a questionable photo of an underage girl, launching reverberations that upend the family’s smug existence and that of friends and relations as well. The premise is compelling. The execution leaves Giffin’s position unclear.
--Like us, only better--
Giffin’s bread and butter characters are what you might call beautiful people with first world problems. The first world is my address, so I’m game for domestic drama of the white privileged set. Heck, some of my best friends are wealthy Caucasians with country club memberships….
The problem is that Giffin wants to write her characters two ways, and it leads her nowhere. She seeks to explore the pitfalls of privilege, yet she absolves her heroines of mistakes and casts them as well-intended victims who are really good people, honest, if you just look behind the Chanel handbag and Mercedes SUV.
--Meet the mom--
When we meet her, the main character, Nina, has ridden high for two decades on the wealth and cache of her husband’s success. She is a walking fashion plate whose fondest expressions come not for her husband or son, but for the custom-made furnishings and designer clothes that her lifestyle affords her.
And good for her. That’s all fine. Three cheers for Nina, no one is judging. She married a wealthy guy, kept herself thin and pretty, it’s her life to enjoy fabric swatches and poached salmon lunches if she so pleases. But when Nina awakens from her comfortable reverie, she notices that her spoiled son and rich husband have bloomed into arrogant snobs. She spends the rest of the book castigating, criticizing, and rejecting them.
What she does not do is mother her son. She never misses a Starbucks, but in the time it takes her to vilify her boy and drift out of his maternal reach, she never once grabs the scruff of his obnoxious neck to launch the tush-kicking that his behavior demands. Indeed, her son is facing dire consequences, either with severe punishment or life as an asshole. Moms step in; Nina steps out.
--Holding out for a hero--
The unsettling part is that, in Giffin world, Nina is the hero. Nina is the character with the moral authority. This woman whose choices have contributed to, if not created, the family crisis, bails on them and casts herself as an innocent victimized bystander. She benefitted from every lazy parenting moment that led here, but neither she nor the book ever say, “Hey, lady, you know this happened on your watch, right?” Instead, her self-involved shirking is supposed to signal some sort of heroic feministic coming of age.
It does no such thing, and this is Giffin’s authorial failing. She is a powerful storyteller with a weak moral compass for her characters. Her stories build a compelling, if cliched, setup, but she is neither honest nor complete when it comes time to dole out denouement and judgment. Perhaps Giffin loves her characters too much to make them fully flawed people; perhaps she is writing too much of her own personal conflicts between success and the desire to be perceived as good. Whatever drives her pen, it should demand more of stories and her characters. Hold them accountable, don’t make them so innocent. Let them come to it honestly.
--Right neighborhood, wrong book--
Giffin is right on one score: there are stories to tell here. The vulnerability of privileged suburban American life to sudden and shocking fragmentation is fertile ground for writers with the guts to write authentic characters and ambiguous conflicts. Two staggering, must-read novels, This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman, and The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian, delve similarly into the split-second missteps and external forces that can disrupt and forever alter a modern family’s domestic tranquility.
In contrast, All We Ever Wanted is a minor entry in the genre. For Giffin fans, who appreciate the escapism of her breezy, readable style, this is another easy sell and quick read. For readers looking below the glossy surface, seeking the painful yet redemptive truths that quality fiction can offer, this one will leave you wanting.
—I received an advanced review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.—
When the gossip first reaches them, Nina and her husband Kirk are having a typical Saturday night, which for them consists of being honored at yet another gala event. Rumor has it that their son has taken advantage of an unconscious girl at a party by taking and sharing a sexually explicit and racist photo of her.
As Nina tries to find out what really happened at this party, she also begins to find that she never really knew her husband at all. His solution is to throw money at the problem to make it go away.
This domestic drama is quite relevant in today's world and shows that there are some things you just can't buy with all the money in the world.
I received an advance copy for review.
Great read, very well written! I have almost every single book written by Emily Giffin and yet I've never opened one and I'm so sorry I haven't read her work sooner.
I will say the beginning of the book, I was worried the story would be predictable. Privileged, rich family with spoiled rotten kid, Finch, who takes an inappropriate photo with a racist caption of Lyla. Finch's parents are split on how to handle the situation as their son just got accepted to Princeton. Tom, Lyla's single hardworking father, is determined not to let Finch get away with this. On the surface, that story line seems kind "eh", but the story evolved into so much more, really hit current issues, and was thought provoking along the way. The manipulation, drama, and sadness that some of the characters went through all tied together by the end. From the halfway point of this book, I couldn't put it down. I will definitely be reading my other Emily Giffin novels ASAP.
**Special thanks to NetGalley, Emily Giffin, and Ballantine Books for providing an advanced read copy in exchange for an honest opinion.**
This is a truly powerful, wonderful novel. It’s been many years since I’ve read an Emily Giffin novel, but I enjoyed those books and was excited to read this one. My previous experience with her work did not prepare me for the complex, layered, serious manner of this excellent book.
For most of the first chapter, I thought this was going to be a book about a couple that went from well-off to obscenely wealthy having marital woes. Boo hoo. But when I learned what it was really about, it took a dark turn.
It was important that the story was told from multiple points of view of the mother of the boy accused of taking the comprising photograph of a passed-out girl at a party, the father of the girl, and Lyla herself because you can’t quite figure out who is telling the truth about that night. Also, it’s about the way teenagers don’t want to disappoint their parents, and parents want to do their best for their kids.
There were pleasing twists in the story, and I cried my guts out at the end. Highly recommend.
Thanks so much to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for the opportunity to review this book, which RELEASES JUNE 26, 2018.
For more of my reviews, please visit http://www.theresaalan.net/blog
This was a great book! I started to read it and I didn't want to put it down. The story is told by three characters points of view. I usually don't like when books are written this way, one chapter for each character. I really enjoyed it in this story and feel is was so well written.
The three characters are Nina, Tom and Lyla. All three of these characters are endearing. Nina is a strong woman and by far my favorite character. I love that she sticks to her beliefs no matter what. Tom, the single father, is also a great character who is looking out for his daughter. He was a great dad. Lyla is the teenage daughter who goes through so much, but is so strong and amazing.
I wanted to scream at Lyla so much through this book. She frustrated me like my own 16 year old daughter! :) But you rooted for her and she was amazing and strong. I was so happy how it ended up for her. And Nina, I'm not even sure what to say about her. I absolutely loved this character. She was amazing. She took a stand and I was so proud!
The characters were fantastic and the story was enthralling. I was angry and I cried. I really enjoyed it and I told my daughter she should read it next. It's sitting on her bed now. She came downstairs as I was headed up with tears running down my face. LOL!