Book review: “All We Ever Wanted”

Ever heard that phrase, “If you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all?”

I have said this to myself over and over when considering writing a book review for Emily Giffin’s latest,  “All We Ever Wanted.”  I really don’t think I should write this.

BUT …. I’ve had so many of you ask for a review … and I want my readers happy.

Here’s the thing. I really admire Emily Giffin. Like. A lot admire. She is an attorney by trade, who realized the practice wasn’t for her, so she followed her dream to write. She’s  a self-made woman. I admire the hell out of her for taking the risk and for making herself professionally vulnerable. I’d love to pull an Emily Giffin in my own life.

I’ve loved her other books before, some more than others.  I appreciate that Emily Giffin’s books often highlight the imperfections in relationships and of the human condition that we ALL experience.

This one just didn’t do it for me. Here’s why:

I struggled with ALL of the characters in terms of their decision-making and their personalities generally. While I don’t believe liking the characters and enjoying a book are mutually exclusive, there wasn’t one character I particularly liked or rooted for.

I know I’m horrible! 

Just when I thought I was Team Nina, she would do or say or think something that I thought was inconsistent with her other doings/sayings/thoughts. Obviously, I felt horribly for Lyla, but other than my desire for her to have justice, my engagement with her stopped there.

With that said, I do believe that Nina was the most self-aware character I’ve read recently. I have deep respect for anyone, never mind a literary character, that has self-awareness.

Ultimately, I think my disappointment came with the legal aspects and how the characters reacted and handled such highly legal matters.  There was much to do with justice and the law in this book. Divorce. School boards. False accusations. Legitimate accusations. Custodial considerations. Child neglect.

I couldn’t take off my lawyer hat despite the fact I viewed the story as a light summer read. See, I’m an attorney who has represented a student that was falsely accused of a terrible offense (and we were able to prove the allegation was false!)

While that was NOT the case in this book, my knowledge of school board proceedings and criminal investigations was a bit overwhelming to me as a reader.

So, I can’t shake these things. Instead, I’d posit to you that Giffin has published a highly entertaining read and I am simply not the ideal audience for this one.

But, here are some positives:

Did the tale have me turning the page? Yes! I read the book in one day. I’m a fast rapid reader, but still. I wanted to know what happened next.

Do I think the book discussed real life events? Yes, yes I do. It discussed sad, uncomfortable things that happen on the daily. The actual violation at the center of the drama is a despicable fact of life.

Did the story tap in to some real emotions from the reader? For me, another personal experience was enlivened within me. I attended a school much like the one described and, yes, certain privilege does rule in such places. This is an unfortunate truth that lends credibility to the story.

In short, I’d recommend this book for someone because I believe many would be receptive to the themes presented as they resonate with the news of the day.

If you have a legal background, like myself, be aware that certain realities in terms of potential criminal acts are wholly overlooked and not even mentioned. It’s amazing to me that things were not prosecuted (because love)?

It bothered me that, in real life, people who are confronted with the horrid nature of these type events would have acted differently and certain things would have involved the authorities. That would be in keeping with today’s society as well.

Overall, a good beach read and something to certainly consider purchasing.

Happy reading!

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