All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin
It started out as a typical Saturday night. And by typical, I don't mean normal in any mainstream American way. There was no grilling out with the neighbors or going to the movies or doing any of the things I did as a kid. It was simply typical for what we'd become since Kirk sold his software company, and we went from comfortable to wealthy. Very wealthy.
Obscene was the description my childhood best friend Julie once used--not about us, but about Melanie, another friend--after Melanie bought herself a diamond Rolex for Mother's Day and then offhandedly remarked at one of our dinner parties that homemade pottery from her kids 'wasn't going to cut it.'
'She could feed a Syrian refugee camp for an entire year with that watch,' Julie had groused in my kitchen after the other guests had departed. 'It's obscene.'
All We Ever Wanted is the first book I've read by Emily Giffin. It seems like a bit of change-up for her - a story that contains perhaps deeper themes and elements for the reader to ponder. It's certainly a tale that is relevant today (and always has been) and one that many women can probably relate to in some ways. Told from the viewpoints of three of the characters - Nina, the teenage boy's mother, Tom, the teenage girl's father, and Lyla, the teenage girl, we see each of them deal with a very emotional time. Who's to blame and what actually happened - yes, these things are important, but more important are the underlying attitudes and assumptions made by many of the characters, both young and old.
I liked this book, though it was difficult to know who to trust and who to believe. Nina's husband was pretty much a caricature of a privileged, racist jerk. And her son is quite the manipulator. Did Lyla, the teen girl, always make good decisions? No, of course not. What teen does? However, as more of the story is revealed, the reader does understand that Nina and Tom both earnestly want to be good parents and set good examples for their kids. And Lyla has a chance to definitely shine. I was pleased that all the characters changed and grew by the end. The climax was a little quick and things tied up maybe a bit too neatly. However, I would try this author again. A solid 'better than good' from me.
Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton.
Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.
Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.
Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenaged girl, happy and thriving.
Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.
At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.