By Emily Giffin
Available now from St. Martin's Press
Despite Emily Giffin being one of the most popular authors of contemporary women's fiction, WHERE WE BELONG is the first book I've read by her. It is told through the points of view of two women. Thirty-six-year-old Marian Caldwell is a successful television producer, living in New York and attempting to convince her CEO boyfriend of two years to pop the question. Eighteen-year-old Kirby Rose is about to graduate from high school and deciding whether she wants to go to college, take a gap year, or do something else entirely. Before she makes her decision, she wants to meet her birth parents, which is why she comes knocking on Marian's door.
Giffin has a talent for characterization. Marian and Kirby have very different perspectives due to the divide in their ages, goals, and concerns. I loved Kirby's parents, who want the best for their daughter but are somewhat threatened by her interest in her birth parents. I liked reading about Kirby's struggle with her future, even though it was one I never experienced. I never questioned going to college, but now that I'm older, I know it isn't the right choice for everyone. It's tough to suddenly be in charge of decisions that will affect your entire life.
Marian, meanwhile, is not only having to own up to her pregnancy, but also the fact that she never told the father, Conrad Knight. Now Kirby wants to meet him as well and Marian has to face the decisions she made at eighteen. I liked that Giffin didn't try to simplify teen pregnancy to a moral issue. The characters certainly have opinions about adoption, abortion, et al., but none of the opinions are presented as the absolutely right one. Marian made the choices she thought best for herself and her daughter, but it was still cruel to not tell Conrad. In addition to meeting Kirby and figuring out how best to help her, Marian must make decisions about her own love life and career.
I felt like WHERE WE BELONG was a refreshing, original novel. Kirby's storyline gives it crossover appeal to the young adult audience while Marian's is more typical of women's fiction. And sometimes it's just fun to read a novel entirely about relationships, with no bad guys in sight. If you're looking for a complex tale about family and choice, look no farther than WHERE WE BELONG. I think I'll be reading more of Giffin's books in the future.