Book Review: Heart of the Matter – Emily Giffin

Title: Heart of the Matter
Author: Emily Giffin
ISBN: 9780312554163
Pages: 384
Release Date: May 11, 2010
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Tessa Russo should have the perfect life.  Her husband Nick is a pediatric plastic surgeon, and she stays at home with their two beautiful children.  However, she’s noticed that Nick has been drifting away from his family and she doesn’t know how to fix the rift that’s developed between them.

Valerie Anderson is a single mother, a corporate attorney who does her best to provide stability and security for her son Charlie.  When a horrible accident occurs and Charlie is injured, Valerie is thrown for a loop and doesn’t know where to turn.  She finds support and solace in Charlie’s doctor, Nick Russo, and they develop a close friendship as Dr. Russo treats Charlie.  But will they observe traditional boundaries or will their friendship turn into something more?

Review:

I’m a big fan of Emily Giffin’s previous books (reviews of Love the One You’re With and Something Blue), so I was really excited to read her new novel, Heart of the Matter.  I was pleased to find that it contained the same realistic storylines and sympathetic characters that I really love.

Heart of the Matter is really unique, in that it contains two sides to the same story.  We hear two different voices, that of Tessa, the wife who is wondering why her husband is pulling away, and Valerie, the woman who relies on Nick more and more as her son is healing.  The remarkable thing is that Giffin makes them both so sympathetic – the reader can understand why Tessa is so worried at the same time they realize Valerie has been through something horrible and needs someone to lean on.  Though I did sympathize with Tessa more, Giffin does an incredible job making both of these women likeable and easy to understand.  Neither is the enemy – there’s not a clingy wife who won’t let her husband go, and there’s not a vamped up slutty woman who’s after a married man.  Giffin stays away from clichés and presents two realistic, three-dimensional women.

The question that permeates the novel is whether there are feelings developing between Valerie and Nick.  Do they care for each other as more than just friends?  Is it mutual?  Is it real, or is Valerie simply projecting her feelings of gratitude?  She also presents the question of an emotional affair – when do things cross a line, if no physical affection is involved?  These are serious issues that Giffin tackles with grace.

I also thought Giffin’s depiction of Tessa was interesting.  She previously was an English teacher, but recently made the decision to quit her job and stay at home with her children.  Her husband was supportive of the decision, but her mother warned her that she wouldn’t be able to keep Nick’s interest if she didn’t have a life of her own.  As the book progresses, Tessa begins to wonder whether that is true.  While Giffin isn’t saying that moms shouldn’t stay at home with their children, she is making the statement that it isn’t necessarily the best route for everyone.  While it definitely works for some families, it doesn’t for others.  I think this was a risky statement to make, and I appreciated it.

The Heart of the Matter was an impressive novel that I really enjoyed.  I like that Giffin is moving toward women’s fiction.  Though I definitely enjoyed her chick lit novels, I appreciate that she is growing in her craft and injecting variety into her novels.  Though most people will stand by first novel, Something Borrowed, as her best (which, incidentally, The Heart of the Matter gives away the ending for, so if you want to read that one, make sure you do it first!), I love that she’s really honing her skills as a writer and taking chances with what she does.

Comments

  1. As you already know, I have this one to read too. I’m so glad to hear it’s really good. I have heard that some think it’s her best!

  2. As you already know, I have this one to read too. I’m so glad to hear it’s really good. I have heard that some think it’s her best!

  3. I didn’t really love this novel, even though I enjoyed Giffin’s previous novels. I questioned whether it was a shift in my taste or Giffin’s writing, but I think it’s a bit of both. I found her characters difficult to relate to for the first time. I enjoyed Tessa, but I immensely disliked Valerie. All in all, I wasn’t impressed, but I think fiction centered around motherhood is less enjoyable to me in general. Regardless, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  4. I didn’t really love this novel, even though I enjoyed Giffin’s previous novels. I questioned whether it was a shift in my taste or Giffin’s writing, but I think it’s a bit of both. I found her characters difficult to relate to for the first time. I enjoyed Tessa, but I immensely disliked Valerie. All in all, I wasn’t impressed, but I think fiction centered around motherhood is less enjoyable to me in general. Regardless, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Thanks for the review. I have this book in my to-read pile. I’ve read Love the One You’re with and really enjoyed the characters as well as how Giffin tells their story. I am looking forward to reading this one.

  6. Thanks for the review. I have this book in my to-read pile. I’ve read Love the One You’re with and really enjoyed the characters as well as how Giffin tells their story. I am looking forward to reading this one.

  7. I’m listening to this one on audio now (my very first audio book!) and am enjoying it! Giffin is definitely a masterful writer of women’s fiction, and I like that this one has a lot of depth. I loved Something Borrowed and Something Blue, though, and felt they were really multi-faceted — and went beyond the typical “chick lit” cliches. For the most part. 🙂

  8. I’m listening to this one on audio now (my very first audio book!) and am enjoying it! Giffin is definitely a masterful writer of women’s fiction, and I like that this one has a lot of depth. I loved Something Borrowed and Something Blue, though, and felt they were really multi-faceted — and went beyond the typical “chick lit” cliches. For the most part. 🙂

  9. I have not read anything by this author, but you make this book sound very interesting and morally complex. I think it might be something that I would find interesting, and I like that the author deals with the issue of emotional cheating in such a comprehensive way. I am so glad you liked the book and will have to add it to my wish list. Great review! Thanks for bringing this one to my attention!!

  10. I have not read anything by this author, but you make this book sound very interesting and morally complex. I think it might be something that I would find interesting, and I like that the author deals with the issue of emotional cheating in such a comprehensive way. I am so glad you liked the book and will have to add it to my wish list. Great review! Thanks for bringing this one to my attention!!

  11. I am so jealous that you got a copy from the publisher for this one! I really love Emily Giffin, and I am really looking forward to reading it!

  12. I am so jealous that you got a copy from the publisher for this one! I really love Emily Giffin, and I am really looking forward to reading it!

  13. I have Emily Giffin on my “need to read” author list. Her books sound right up my alley!

  14. I have Emily Giffin on my “need to read” author list. Her books sound right up my alley!

  15. I must admit that I’ve never really felt compelled to read anything by Giffin before. I feel like books on infidelity (or the possibility of infidelity) make me very uncomfortable, for whatever reason. But I think she is someone who is blurring the line between chick lit and women’s fiction, and I think that’s great!

  16. I must admit that I’ve never really felt compelled to read anything by Giffin before. I feel like books on infidelity (or the possibility of infidelity) make me very uncomfortable, for whatever reason. But I think she is someone who is blurring the line between chick lit and women’s fiction, and I think that’s great!

  17. interesting that you see a shift from chick lit to women’s fiction – I will have to see if I detect it as I read this book too!

  18. interesting that you see a shift from chick lit to women’s fiction – I will have to see if I detect it as I read this book too!

  19. Wow, wonderful review. I have yet to read anything by Emily Griffin but I want to. I think I’m going to go pick this one up on my lunch break. I’m most curious to see who’d I would sympathize more with. The wife or the mother of the patient. Interesting.

    Thanks for the heads up, I didn’t even know that EG had a new release out.

  20. Wow, wonderful review. I have yet to read anything by Emily Griffin but I want to. I think I’m going to go pick this one up on my lunch break. I’m most curious to see who’d I would sympathize more with. The wife or the mother of the patient. Interesting.

    Thanks for the heads up, I didn’t even know that EG had a new release out.

  21. I’m glad you liked this! I’ll be reading it in the next couple of weeks and it will be my first Emily Giffin.

  22. I’m glad you liked this! I’ll be reading it in the next couple of weeks and it will be my first Emily Giffin.

  23. Great review, Swapna! One of these days I’ll have to read one of Giffin’s books.

  24. Great review, Swapna! One of these days I’ll have to read one of Giffin’s books.

  25. Great review. I liked this one too. I didn’t want it to end. I hope she writes a follow-up novel. I’m curious to know how the characters are in a year or so.

  26. Great review. I liked this one too. I didn’t want it to end. I hope she writes a follow-up novel. I’m curious to know how the characters are in a year or so.

  27. Great review! This one has been on my to read list for awhile. I absolutely loved Something Blue and really enjoyed Something Borrowed. Her other books didn’t grab me as much so I wasn’t sure how much I would like this one. You made it sound great though!

  28. Great review! This one has been on my to read list for awhile. I absolutely loved Something Blue and really enjoyed Something Borrowed. Her other books didn’t grab me as much so I wasn’t sure how much I would like this one. You made it sound great though!

  29. Great review! I read Something Borrowed and really enjoyed it, and I have Something Blue on my TBR pile. For sure I’ll read this one too!

  30. Great review! I read Something Borrowed and really enjoyed it, and I have Something Blue on my TBR pile. For sure I’ll read this one too!

  31. I just finished this book and loved it! She is one of my favourite authors, even though she only has 5 books, and I am constantly checking her site for new releases. And Something Borrowed / Something Blue is supposed to be coming out as a movie! So I’m pretty excited for that too!

  32. I just finished this book and loved it! She is one of my favourite authors, even though she only has 5 books, and I am constantly checking her site for new releases. And Something Borrowed / Something Blue is supposed to be coming out as a movie! So I’m pretty excited for that too!

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