Tuesday, August 3, 2010

BOOK: Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin, 368 pages

Four Month Challenge: Chick Lit; Early Reviewer Book from Librarything

Who's fault is it when there is an affair in a marriage? The other woman? The husband? The wife? Heart of the Matter takes a very balanced look at an affair and shows how messy and hurtful it is for everyone involved.

Alternating chapters between the wife, Tessa and the other woman, Valerie give both sides of the story so neither is the wrong one although poor husband Nick doesn't get to give his side of the story. I found this aspect interesting (and somewhat confusing) because Tessa gets to tell her story in first person, but Valerie is relegated to third person, even though both were written with the same level of insight into their thoughts. I thought they should have been either both first person, which it essentially was, or stay a little further from Valerie's viewpoint, a little less omniscient. If I am supposed to know Valerie's thought process, let me hear it from her first person. I really got distracted by this point of view issue, as it kept jarring me as the chapter would change, and I was wondering what the purpose between the different viewpoints was. It kept taking me out of the story, which was too bad, because Giffin writes a great book

I didn't realize until after that two of the characters, Tessa's brother Dex and his wife Rachel are from Giffin's first books, Something Borrowed and Something Blue. It's been a long time since I've read those books, but I remember Giffin writing an affair story that makes the reader again question whose fault is it in an affair. Those books also played with point of view as Something Blue retells Something Borrowed from the other character's point of view. Maybe affairs and point of view are Giffin's trademark storytelling style, and I shouldn't be bothered; I should just go with it and know to expect that from now on.

My other concern in the story was that the characters are all quite perfect in their reactions. They all seem to be straight out of a therapist's chair, with mature dealings, for the most part, and good analysis of their actions. However, I am nitpicking here, because I read this book quickly, quite absorbed in the story. The characters were real, yet flawed, doing the best they can in an awful situation. It's like watching a train-wreck because people are definitely going to get hurt, but since I watch Big Brother, I am a train-wreck kind of girl. It's a chick lit type of book, but I never really like that label - how about 'great read with women as characters dealing with real life since books about emotions and women (who read a lot of books) are just as important as war might be'?