October 6, 2014

No Recovery From This Fumble

The One & Only by Emily Giffin

Release Date: May 20, 2014
Publisher: Random House | Ballantine
Pages: 432 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover
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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.

The One & Only is a luminous novel about finding your passion, following your heart, and, most of all, believing in something bigger than yourself... the one and only thing that truly makes life worth living.

Thoughts on The One & Only
I picked up my first Emily Giffin book in college. I think a friend loaned me a copy of Something Borrowed, but the memory is hazy now. Either way, I’ve since read all of Giffin’s books and even attended her signing in Atlanta for her last release, Where We Belong. I have mixed feelings on her books, to be honest, because I enjoy reading them but also typically have major issues with the choices or character traits depicted in them.

Characters don't have to be likeable in order for me to enjoy a book, but I do need to find them interesting or compelling. Giffin has a habit of writing about women who are, to me, rather unlikeable and are often very selfish. They aren’t necessarily characters that I’d want as my friend, and yet they still seem realistic. And I almost always find them fascinating heroines because Giffin's books are just so readable! However, I’ve also noticed that her books often involve cheating – whether it’s a woman who is cheating (or considering it) or one who has been cheated on. This is usually what I struggle with most when I read her books. I mention this because I’ve read every book from Giffin – some I’ve certainly liked more than others – and they always make me think, even when I dislike things in them.

So, in some ways, The One and Only is a typical Giffin novel. The main character, Shea Rigsby, reminded me of other Giffin heroines (though personally she was my least favorite to read about). There's a lot of football in The One and Only. While I'm from the South and love cheering on the Dawgs, I do not care about football in general. Instead of weaving football into the book seamlessly, it felt clunky, dull and (at times) unnecessary. This may have just been an issue for me because of my lack of interest in the topic. Either way, I found a lot of the football stuff really boring.

Sadly, when I wasn't bored, I was infuriated or disgusted. Despite the fact that Giffin regularly tackles topics like cheating, I still think The One and Only is her most divisive book yet. I HATED IT. I don't want to spoil anything in the book, so I don't feel like I can really share all the reasons why. But I will say that I pre-ordered this book (as I've done with Giffin's last few releases) and absolutely will not be doing so for her books in the future. I was uncomfortable with the romance and found the ending absolutely ridiculous. The dynamics between the couple made me feel so gross - NOT A FAN AT ALL. Y'all, I was basically hate reading this and just hoping it would get better. It didn't. It had nothing to do with (highlight to read) the age difference, and everything to do with the fact that it read like incest and had the most disturbing relationship dynamic.

And there are so many relevant and difficult issues raised in The One and Only - domestic violence, sexual assault, integrity in athletics and turning a blind eye to misconduct. There were a lot of things brought up in The One and Only that provided Giffin the opportunity to explore some really serious subjects. Instead, I found the depiction problematic, largely unresolved and inserted for more for the sake of drama than anything else. If you want to go there, I think there needs to be an extra level of awareness and caution in the way it's handled or discussed. But to essentially bring up these issues and then ignore them or treat them flippantly to focus on the love story? UGH.

I don't think I've ever been this disappointed in a book. If it had been written by anyone else, I wouldn't even have finished. As I've said, Giffin frequently writes about flawed characters and complicated relationships, and I assume that's what she was trying to do with The One and Only. This should have been nothing new, and yet I still spent the whole book legitimately irritated by what I was reading. Unfortunately, I don't personally recommend it - but it does seem like a book you either love or hate. Sadly, I fall into the "hate" category.

2 comments:

  1. I haven't read all of Emily Giffin's novels, but I did really enjoy Something Borrowed and Something Blue. (It surprised me considering the stories in both!) But I usually make a mental note to check out her books whenever I see them, and I did the same for The One and Only

    I'm not going to lie - I'm mostly wanting to read it now because I want to see what side of the spectrum I would fall on. I've had friends who loved it, and friends who didn't, and there are strong feelings on both sides! It'll be, if nothing else, an interesting reading experience for me.

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  2. I've always loved Emily Giffins' book, but I absolutely hated this one. I actually did enjoy the football aspects of the book, and actually that was one of the only parts I liked. But after loosing my own mom almost 3 years ago, and going through a period where I thought my dad and one of my friends might be developing a thing (which thankfully didn't happen) this one just felt a little too close to home for me.

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