When I was in college, one of my best friends told me she was reading a book about a woman who was cheating with her best friend’s fiancé. The twist was that my friend found herself cheering for the woman who was cheating. Of course, I thought it was crazy!
Fast forward four years or so and I heard they were turning a book called Something Borrowed into a movie. I decided I should pick up a copy to see what all the fuss was about – I can’t resist reading books that are popular enough to make it to the big screen. Little did I know it was the same book my friend had read in college several years before.
Fast forward another year, and I have read every book in Emily Giffin’s bestselling repertoire, including her most recent release, Where We Belong. As usual, Emily Giffin had a well-researched plot that was full of emotion and heart.
This book takes a look at two sides of an adoption story. One side is told from the perspective of Marian, a birth mother who put her daughter up for adoption when she had her at age 18. The second side is told from the perspective of Kirby, a now 18-year-old who, as you can probably guess, turns out to be Marian’s daughter. The book begins when Kirby shows up at Marian’s front door. Marian’s decision to open it unlocks a flood of memories, both lovely and challenging, as well as access to secrets that have been bottled up for an entire lifetime.
As someone who has not had experience with adoption personally, I found this book to be incredibly moving and insightful. I felt as though it was easy for me to put myself in each character’s shoes and imagine how they must have felt as they reconnected for the first time since Kirby’s birth. Read this novel if you enjoy books that take you on a journey of what it means to be a family, as well as what it means to be a young girl forced to make a difficult choice. I’m not only speaking of Marian, who had to choose to give her daughter up, but also of Kirby, who had to choose whether she wanted to make contact with her birth mother after spending 18 years living with her real, adopted family.
The first chapter is told from Marian’s perspective and gives us a glimpse of what she has done with her life as a result of giving Kirby up. She is a successful thirty-six-year-old television producer with a dream job in New York City, a fabulous executive boyfriend and all the nice clothes money can buy. Everything seems as though it’s in perfect order – at least on the outside – until Kirby knocks on her door and changes everything.
Kirby, meanwhile, has grown up in St. Louis with a loving family who may not have all the money in the world, but has still been able to provide for her and her sister Charlotte, a “miracle” child who came one year after Kirby’s parents adopted her. Still, her family life is far from perfect, and Kirby is constantly dealing with the fact that she feels like an outsider because she is not related by blood. It is this feeling of not knowing who she truly is that ultimately makes Kirby decide to find her birth mother, and so she travels to New York to (hopefully) get her questions answered.
Another layer added to this book is the fact that Marian’s life, while carefully crafted, is balancing precariously on top of some big secrets that threaten to be unveiled with Kirby’s arrival. Ultimately, Marian is forced to go down a road that takes her 18 years into the past, explore the relationship that resulted in having Kirby in the first place and deal with the ramifications of choices she made back then here in the present. The thing I love most about Emily Giffin’s writing style is that the plots and characters she develops really make you think about what you would do were you in a similar situation. Of course, it’s hard to know the answer until you have gone through it for yourself, but Emily Giffin really makes you feel as though you are “in it,” living the experience right alongside Marian and being forced to make the same choices she made. Perhaps I might have done a few things differently, but the point is that by reading this book and others she has written, you are invited to learn new things about people in general and in turn, about yourself.
One other aspect of this book that I loved on a personal level was that much of Kirby’s current story and Marian’s past takes place in the Midwest. Marian is from the Chicago area, so I enjoyed reading about the places she lived in, what she did for fun, etc. knowing that I could relate and had heard some of the names before. The same goes for Kirby in St. Louis. Ted Drewes even got a mention! I thought it was great that Emily Giffin wrote a book that took place in a different part of the country than many of her others, which are more centered around the Northeast or the South. All in all, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of her latest read, Where We Belong. As a side note from the author nerd inside of me, I also love that Emily engages with her fans on Facebook and Twitter constantly. I recommend following her pages if you are a fan of hers – they are really fun.
I also recommend checking out this interview, where she talks about her first rejection. So crazy!
Edited to add: The team at Macmillan Audio contacted me after reading my review and were kind enough to share this seven-minute web clip from the audiobook. You can download the full version here if you’re interested. Enjoy!
Are you an Emily Giffin fan? Have you read Where We Belong yet?
I’d love to hear what you think and which books of hers are your favorites!