I don’t know if I ever explained where these Book Club Reviews come from. I’m a member of a Jersey City women’s book club. We meet once a month at a different Jersey City spot for wine and dinner and discussions. I love it. I just think book clubs are the greatest thing ever. Granted, we rarely spend much time actually discussing the books, but it’s a great jumping off point when you’re with a new group of people, and it’s always interesting to hear the opinions that are offered.
Another perk of joining a book club is being introduced to books I probably wouldn’t have otherwise picked up. Some past book club picks included The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Room. Before book club, I had seen both of these book before but they had never jumped out at me. I really liked the Tiger Mother. Room was a different story, but I’m glad I read it.
Both of those books were pretty heavy, so we decided to lighten up for the summer with Love the One You’re With by Emily Giffin.
This is another book I probably would never have read on my own. I like light reads; don’t get me wrong. I’ve read The Hunger Games, the Maze Runner series and … Twilight (I know, I know), but chick lit never sticks out to me. I’m more of a post-apocalyptic/dystopian girl myself. Anyway, I had heard good things about Giffin and was excited to give this book a shot.
This month’s meetup is tonight at Fire and Oak, a Jersey City spot I’ve been dying to check out, so I figured I’d share my thoughts with you first.
The drama (it is a girlie read) in the book began right away. The main character, Ellen, has a casual run in with her ex, the one who got away, and it throws her world into a tailspin. Though she is happily married to a kind man (who happens to be her best friend’s brother), seeing Leo causes a flood of emotions to bombard Ellen and leaves her reliving (sometimes happily, often times painfully) the past and the life that could have been.
Ellen decides not to share the episode with her husband, Andy and becomes determined to forget about Leo and focus on her nascent marriage to Andy. She has a difficult time forgetting the past, and it seems she’s not the only one. Leo contacts her and offers her an opportunity to work with him (she’s a photographer, he, a journalist) on a dream assignment with a celebrity. She tries to decline, but he reels her in and the two end up working together across the country from her loving and clueless husband.
Ellen and Leo remain professional on set, but share a tensely romantic plane flight back. She keeps this incident from her husband as well, although her best friend realizes what’s going on once the article is printed. The friend and sister, Margot, agrees that Ellen should keep the shoot a secret, but sever any other ties with Leo. Ellen manages to push Leo out of her mind and vows to become a good wife, even agreeing to move from New York to Atlanta, Andy and Margot’s hometown.
Unsurprisingly, Ellen finds herself unhappy and restless in Atlanta, and her thoughts return to Leo. Desperate to discover what may have been (or could still be) she arranges another session with Leo in New York and reluctantly comes clean to her husband. Andy is furious. Ellen is self-righteous. She flies to New York, cavorts with Leo and kisses him. Before things completely cross the line, her own sister calls to tell her that she should stop and return to her husband. She heeds her sister’s warning and ends things with Leo.
After making up her mind and calling her husband, she finds that he’s flown to New York to be with her and apologize. The two reconcile and agree to split their living arrangements between New York and Atlanta. Ellen concludes that marriage is a commitment that is not blindly followed but reaffirmed daily.
What I Liked:
At first, I really liked the book and main character, Ellen. It’s exciting but also difficult for me to read books that are set in present day New York City. Living so close to the city, I often feel as if authors either over dramatize or over romanticize New York, but this was an exception. Reading her words, I actually felt like I was walking in Ellen’s shoes through a city I know well.
I also liked the way they explored the concept of wondering “what if?”. Whenever Ellen compared Andy and Leo, she concluded that neither was better or worse. They were just different. She seemed to rightfully appreciate the things she got from each man, and it never seemed like she had just settled for Andy. The book explored Ellen’s feelings regarding just how good Andy was and how it was a bit easier to be with someone as flawed as Leo.
What I Didn’t Like:
Much of the attraction to Leo seemed to stem from the fact that he rejected Ellen. The fact that she could not, and did not, have him seemed to doom her to longing for him. It seemed like a “grass is always greener” situation and sort of a juvenile position for a grown woman to be in. I also can’t stand books or movies where nice guys are passed over simply because they are nice. Andy’s niceness seemed to consistently work against him, which just didn’t make much sense.
I couldn’t stand how dopey Andy turned out to be in the end. His anger with Ellen for lying to him was totally warranted, yet he folded like a house of cards when she decided to stay with him. It seemed out of character, and appeared like the author couldn’t find a better way to resolve the conflict and end the book. I would have liked to read about how they worked through this big issue.
The book glosses over the entire topic of whether or not exes can remain friends. I think it’s a fascinating topic that deserved a little more attention.
Mostly I was just bothered that Ellen seemed to get her way at every turn. She was dumped by a flaky ex and married a wonderful man. When she had her doubts about that man, she was able to revisit the failed relationship with her ex. When the ex turned out to still be flaky and kind of a jerk, she was able to return to her loving, caring husband. Not much of a conflict if you ask me.