Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
Published by St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan
When Nick has to leave in the middle of their anniversary dinner, Tessa doesn’t really mind. That is, after all, the price of being married to a pediatric surgeon: when other families have emergencies, their family often loses his attention. This time, though, his attention isn’t just lost for an evening. Things have been a little difficult at home where Tessa feels less than fulfilled as a stay-at-home mom and they have two small children, and Nick finds himself drawn to Valerie, the single mother of his newest patient, Charlie.
This is my first experience with Emily Giffin. In the past, I have passed over her books due to the pastel covers. They looked like just the sort of chick lit that I don’t enjoy. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when I actually opened “Heart of the Matter.” I really liked her style, characterizations, and writing in general. I thought that having both Tessa and Valerie narrate the book was a good decision for this story, as was telling Tessa’s story in the first person and Valerie’s in the third, which made it easy to immediately tell who was speaking since both narrators were women in similar places in their lives.
Although I was impressed by Giffin’s writing, I’m still somewhat conflicted about “Heart of the Matter” overall. The premise seems to be that Tessa was at least equally responsible with Nick and Valerie for her husband’s cheating, which is a somewhat reprehensible idea to me. Tessa’s earlier broken engagement for Nick and the fact that her brother cheated on his once-fiancee with the woman who is now his wife, along with her father’s cheating on her mother when she were younger also adds to this interpretation. Valerie knew she was doing wrong the entire time, but never actually bothered to put the brakes on what was going on with her and another woman’s husband. Of course, Nick is the one who actually had a responsibility to Tessa and his family to remain faithful. I really wish that he had been one of our narrators as well, so we could have gotten a better idea of what he was thinking.
If the cheating doesn’t bother you, then I recommend “Heart of the Matter,” but if it is a hot button topic with you, I don’t think you’ll like how Giffin approaches it, so stay away.
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