Title: Where We Belong
Author: Emily Giffin
Release Date: July 24, 2012
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Marian Caldwell has always wondered about the child she gave up for adoption at eighteen. She has a great life now – she’s thirty-six, living in New York City, the producer of her own television show, with a boyfriend who also happens to be her boss – but she can’t help but think about that little baby. But when Kirby Rose, a sullen eighteen-year-old, shows up on Marian’s doorstep, she no longer has to wonder. But how will Marian connect with this young girl after so long, and how will she tell Kirby that her biological father has no idea she even exists?
Emily Giffin always writes reliably wonderful summer reads, and Where We Belong is no exception. Giffin manages to write intelligent stories that readers invest themselves in emotionally, yet she respects the reader and doesn’t try to manipulate them. Her latest novel discusses the difficult issues of teen pregnancy and adoption. As the reader gets to know both Marian and Kirby Rose, they see both sides of the tenuous relationship. Kirby feels uncomfortable inside her own skin and just wants to find somewhere to belong, while Marian wants to be there for Kirby, but doesn’t know how to face the past she hasn’t bothered to tell anyone about, in hopes it would stay hidden forever.
Giffin develops her characters incredibly well in Where We Belong. Marian isn’t perfect; it’s clear that she’s had serious trust issues for many years. She tends to internalize her pain rather than sharing it, and while that might seem selfless, it’s harmed the people who care about her. She’s incredibly easy to relate to and sympathize with. Giffin gives the reader glimpses of what Marian was like as a teenager in flashbacks, and though her decisions are understandable at the time, the wisdom of hindsight makes Marian realize that she’s made a lot of mistakes along the way.
The relationship between Kirby and Marian is awkward, to say the least. They have unspoken expectations of one another, yet don’t know how to handle their new relationship. It’s easy to see a lot of Marian in Kirby, and it’s interesting to see their dynamics, as well as how they change one another over the course of the novel.
In the end, Where We Belong is a heartwarming story about coming to know yourself through the people who are most important to you. Though the experience of reading the book is a great one, it’s the ending that really clinches it. Giffin manages to sidestep all clichés about women’s fiction through her intelligent, realistic ending. It makes for an incredibly satisfying read that fans of Giffin’s and new readers alike will appreciate.
Other books by Emily Giffin: