Thursday, May 27, 2010

Book Review of Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

Two Sides of a Coin
Heart of the matter, written by Emily Giffin, is about infidelity that a man commits and also has two points of views, that of the wife and the mistress, one written in first person and another in third. This book was published by St. Martin’s Press and the ISBN # is 978-0-312-55416-3. This was published recently, in May of 2010. This book should appeal to chick lit fans and die-hard Giffin fans. This is contemporary
 The reason for the title of this review is that ultimately I see as both of them in same circumstances, from the infidelity. That’s how the story is like. There is no discussion on what holds the sides together, just like in the book. Ultimately, its heads or tails, nothing in between.
In the novel the characters strike me as flat and since I have read almost all her previous novels, (exception of Baby Proof,) the female protagonist Tessa sounds indistinguishable from Love the one you’re with or Something Borrowed (at least in Something Borrowed and Something Blue the characters were unique and even today I could name their distinguishing characteristics.) and something that Giffin fans will expect; a woman who is neurotic, very organized, easily prone to suggestions and also doesn’t seem to know what to do with herself or how to settle into her new life. The emotion of the novel is stifling and I don’t recall any quirkiness or unexpected surprises (aside from update on Rachel and Dex from Something Borrowed.) The other woman, Valerie, reminds me too much of Rachel from Something Borrowed. “She [Valerie] thought about his wife a thousand times, of course, wondering about her, their marriage…And more important, why has he fallen out? … [Valerie] ‘I am perfectly aware that there is nothing about this situation that is right…and for the record he [Nick] knows it’s wrong, too. But…’ [Twin brother Jason] ‘But you’re not going to stop seeing him? …are you?’ ‘No,’ she says. ‘I can’t.’” (202-203).
Unfortunately the character of Nick is little explored and I am still confused as to why he cheated on Tessa. What is it about the family life that Nick has disliked? It would greatly help if people can also see into Nick’s thoughts and actions as well as his past. Tessa’s and Valerie’s one knows well, but Nick is a cipher. For a book that’s supposed to be escapism at best, it’s not. It would also help if the reader could see that there is something wrong within the marriage. Usually there are signs prior to cheating aren’t there? But it seems that even at the start of the novel, Nick is always distant and works very hard, possibly to make up for the lack of second income that should have come from Tessa.
It’s very difficult to mention themes without spoiling the ending for those who haven’t read the book yet, but let me try it. Different factors contribute to cheating; it’s very hard to point it out which one was a nail in the coffin so to speak. Don’t ever give up your career and become a housewife because 98 percent of times it’s an unrewarding occupation. (I sympathize that it’s difficult, but there have to upsides to every downside, and Giffin used way too many downsides and no upsides.) Housewives are very stereotypical; that is, gossipy, tennis freaks, with blonde to red hair and are overly chipper and are also very class conscious. (Did anyone else notice that almost all her female characters in this novel have given up their occupations to be housewives?) If a woman becomes a housewife then marriage becomes unrewarding. (For one reason or another, the invention of two incomes becoming mainstream is 1940s or 1960s. Before that, wife working is at best a no-no unless situations were extremely desperate for the man.) Oh, one last theme is that housewives at best have very superficial friendships with one another. (All above were meant to be sarcasms.)
The plot starts with that fateful phone call on Nick’s and Tessa’s anniversary dinner and there we are introduced to Tessa and her family. The next chapter follows Valerie, the other woman and her struggles. (To be honest, I liked Valerie far more than Tessa, and wish that the whole book could have been about her.) The readers learn that her son suffered burns accidentally and that she’s a single mother who is closed off to the rest of the world. There she meets Nick and the two at first are friends. The cheating doesn’t start right away in other words. There we also learn more about Tessa and Valerie. Giffin attempts to portray as the two having chemistry, but despite me liking Valerie, I found it hard to believe that there is something to like about her. For me there is no passion between the two. Then almost halfway through the novel, the climax for me, it happens, the cheating begins. Due to text messages, Tessa begins to suspect there is cheating but doesn’t really confront Nick and tries to convince herself that it’s not happening to her. The ending wasn’t satisfying at all for me and some things are pretty hard to swallow. Just because this is a book review, I will not mention what those things were.
For those who are curious about the author, Emily Giffin writes chick lit novels, her most famous and well known are “Something Borrowed” (Rumored to be made a movie,) “Something Blue”, “Baby Proof” and the novel before this one, “Love the one you’re with.” I read almost all but “Baby Proof”. (Website for those interested:
Here is the summary: “Tessa Russo is the mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon. Despite her own misgivings, Tessa has recently given up her career to focus on her family and the pursuit of domestic happiness. From the outside, she seems destined to live a charmed life.  Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six year old Charlie, a boy who has never known his father. After too many disappointments, she has given up on romance-and even, to some degree, friendships-believing that it is always safer not to expect too much. Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, the two have relatively little in common, aside from a fierce love for their children. But one night, a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined. In alternating, pitch-perfect points of view, Emily Giffin creates a moving, luminous story of good people caught in untenable circumstances. Each being tested in ways they never thought possible. Each questioning everything they once believed. And each ultimately discovering what truly matters most.”  (Taken straight from book flap).
This book is not “Something Borrowed” or “Something Blue.” I didn’t find it appealing and this is not something I enjoyed reading. (I finished, so I must have enjoyed it, not true. I finished it because the writing was addictive. Akin to this; you’re doing something because you’re addicted to it.) 75 percent of the novel was boring, but it only picked up or became exciting for me towards the very end. The characters of Tessa and Valerie were the same and this novel is not something I would recommend unless you’re a diehard chick lit or Giffin fan. If I were to read a novel about infidelity I would want to read all sides and not just the wife and mistress so to speak, and I couldn’t even connect or sympathize with the characters.
In conclusion, if you choose to read this novel, I hope you enjoy it and get something out of it that I couldn’t.
External Links:
Emily Giffin site 
Amazon Link
2 out of 5 stars

(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep itand never let it go.)


  1. I do agree that the book is not like Something Borrowed or Something Blue. I probably enjoyed it a lot because I am a die hard Giffin fan as well as a chick lit fan.
    I do agree that she should have written from Nick's point of view as well, I would love to know what exactly is going on through his head throughout the book.
    Overall I enjoyed the book because it kept my interest the entire time. I really enjoyed reading your review as well.

    5 out of 5 stars on your review. :)))

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