Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Book Review: The One & Only by Emily Giffin

Title: The One & Only
Author: Emily Giffin
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: May 20, 2014
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.

But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets.

My Review:

First, I must note that I adore the plot summary for this book, because it doesn't give away ANYTHING.  Lately I feel like the plot summaries I've been reading are far too detailed.  This one gives you a good feel for the book, without giving away the farm.

You may remember that I really, really, really love Emily Giffin.  Usually I know WAY in advance when her latest book is coming out, but because I most recently live in a mommy cave of oblivion, I didn't find out until a whole month AFTER its release that this book was available.  For shame, me!  Luckily my library got it to me lickity-split, because this was a novel worth devouring.

In keeping with the summary, I don't want to give any spoilers.  However, I will say that this book brought me back to my early love for Giffin's work, forged when I read her first two novels (Something Borrowed and Something Blue).  I was drawn to them because, like a lot of women's fiction, they are steeped in relationship issues, but not in a way that is predictable or mollifying.  Giffin has a way of making you build sympathy for characters who aren't always engaging in the most wholesome behaviors, which takes a lot of skill.  You don't naturally want to cheer on a liar or a cheat, amiright?  But Giffin molds her characters in a way that allows you to see them as more than the sum of their poor choices.  In fact, she makes you question if those choices were really poor at all.

Such is the case with The One & Only.  Shea (our protagonist) stumbles into some rather...complicated relationships.  And believe it or not, I found myself rooting for her to go towards the most inappropriate one of all.  I won't tell you if it comes to fruition or not, but I will say that the suspense along the way is fairly addictive.  Prepare to be glued to your book once things get rolling.

I've read a few reviews that decry Shea as a very one-sided character--nothing but football, football, and more football.  I agree that that is true, but it didn't bother me because I think it was meant to make a point.  Shea has led a pretty sheltered life, and is definitely battling some "daddy issues"...she's afraid to move out of her comfort zone.  Football is her comfort, and that was highlighted a bit heavily, but I believe it's in a way that gives you a better sense of her motives.

Overall, this was another Emily Giffin win for me.  I will say that I did not love the conclusion (we're talking the last 3-4 pages), because I feel like she decided to pull a punch at the last second and wrap up the ending a little too sweetly.  However, given that I was unable to put the book down for the previous 400-ish pages, I'd say this one gets a 99% amazing rating from me.

Any other Emily Giffin fans out there?  Will you be picking up her latest anytime soon?


  1. I haven't read any Emily Griffin (yet!). I SO agree about the plot summaries. I don't want to read a summary and feel like I've read the Cliffs Notes and no longer need to read the actual book, you know? ;)

    1. Agreed! I feel like a lot of them these days will clue you in to everything except a book's final twist...but a lot of that other plot action could be surprising too, if you'd give the reader a chance to discover it.

  2. I read a few negative reviews that say that all Shea talks about is football and if you don't like football you won't enjoy this book. I have it on my kindle, but I am torn about whether I want to read it. I am not the world's biggest football fan, and didn't know that the book would be so centered on the game. Thanks for an honest review. I should look for some earlier books by the author also.

    1. I am a football fan, but I'm not very well-versed on the particulars of the game. That said, I didn't think the football talk was too overwhelming, but I could see how a total non-fan would maybe get bogged down in it.

  3. I've been hearing mixed things about this one and decided to add it to my fall reading list (aka when the hubby is parked in front of football). Your review gives me hope.

    1. Haha, this would be a great one for football season!! I hope you do end up liking it. I would love to discuss the ending with someone, that was the only thing that gave me a hangup.

  4. I like this summary too. I think it's enough to let you know what you're getting yourself into, but leaves some of the plot to be a surprise.

    1. Yes, in this case it leaves a lot of surprises, even the small ones along the way...that, I feel, is where plot summaries are giving too much away these days.

  5. I am going to try very hard to write this in a way that does not contain spoilers for anyone who wants to read this book and has not yet, but I am not making any promises.
    Kelly, I agree with you completely about this book. The subject matter held my interest and I did not want to put the book down, but I found myself getting annoyed because everything seemed so easy for Shea. I feel like she only ended her first relationship and advanced her career because someone said it would be good for her to do that. She didn't seem to really struggle with where she was or that she wanted things to change.
    I also ( this may be where people trying to avoid spoilers want to stop reading), don't understand why Lucy had to miscarry. What did it add to the story? At first Shea blamed herself and her situation. Are we supposed to believe that her miscarriage helped Lucy realize that Shea was happy with the way things turned out? I was so happy when Lucy and her husband said they were pregnant after everything they had faced that year. It would have been nice to show how life goes on.
    To be honest, I enjoyed the book and was happy with the way things ended even though the relationship feels awkward. I was just confused as to how and why it got there.

    1. I like your point re: the miscarriage. I hadn't thought of that, but now I'm wondering about the necessity of it as well. The more time I've had to ruminate about this book though, the more I've been unhappy with that ending, and perhaps this ties into it a little bit. The miscarriage takes another complication out of the equation for Shea and Coach (no extra grandchild to deal with as they move forward in their relationship), so it's one less obstacle in their way. Giffin may not have been able to wrap things up for them as easily if Lucy was still dealing with pregnancy AND her father's new relationship. The rest of the book was really stellar for me, but I get grouchy when I see too many conveniences that lead to a happy ending.

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