Ok, so I didn’t exactly love the first Emily Giffin book I read. The main character/narrator drove me bonkers, and I just couldn’t sympathize with her selfishness. In fact, I probably never would have picked up this author again except that Elyse from Pop Culture Nerd and I had a pretty long discussion about Sophie Kinsella’s new book I’ve Got Your Number and we mentioned some of what we love about Kinsella. She makes strong heroines who aren’t necessarily going to give up who they are in order to be with a man. That’s a rarity in these types of books. [See my review of 666 Park Avenue.]
When I was at the library last week, I picked up Love the One You’re With and decided to read a few chapters before I fell asleep. This usually goes one of two ways: My eyes get heavy and within two chapters, I put the book down, not because it’s boring but because I’m not that into it or I’m really tired. Or, I stay up until 3 am, not daring to look at the clock, so intense am I on finishing a book. This book definitely fit in the latter category.
Ellen has been married for 100 days exactly when she passes her ex in a New York City crosswalk. The ex with whom she had an extremely intense relationship that broke off with little warning and no further contact. When he calls her and meets up with her in a diner, her heart drops to her stomach, and her knees go weak. This isn’t a normal reaction when you’re a newlywed, right? Ellen feels guilty immediately, going home to her husband Andy and trying to forget about Leo, but it isn’t easy. Leo was her passion, the kind of boyfriend that almost makes a girl self destruct because she cares so much, but the breakup spurred her to begin her successful photography career and to begin dating Andy, her college roommate and best friend Margot’s brother. For a girl from Pittsburgh who lost her mother at age 13, being a Graham is as close to being a Kennedy as a girl can get. The Grahams love Ellen, and they’re quite wealthy, part of Atlanta’s elite.
So why does Ellen fantasize about Leo? And why is she feeling more and more trapped by the family that loves her?
What did I think of Ellen? Ellen is so real. Very often, with chick lit or women’s lit or whatever you want to call it, the girl is with a real loser, and the other guy is so obviously the right choice that you want to smack her upside the head until she realizes the error of her ways. In Love the One You’re With, both of these guys are great, and one of the things Elyse pointed out stuck with me: “If I were her friend, I’d have a hard time giving her advice.” Because the choice to be with either of these men means a very different life and lifestyle for Ellen – not better of worse – just different. Until the end, I was honestly not sure which way Ellen was leaning, and I was ok with that.
What made this book stand apart from other chick lit books? Ellen loves her career. She’s a photographer, and she’s serious about it. She isn’t giving it up because her husband is a wealthy attorney. Plus, there aren’t 20 shopping trips to Barney’s where she spends 2 years of my salary on clothing. In fact, fashion is rarely, if ever, mentioned in the book except to distinguish how Leo and Andy dress. It was so refreshing to find a woman whose every waking breath wasn’t focused on ways to spend her money.
Why does Ellen even think about ditching Andy? Andy is wealthy, and though in many chick lit books, this is the heroine’s pass to spend tons of money on Chanel and Marchesa, Ellen actually sees it as a drawback instead of a bragging point. The couple moves to Atlanta to be closer to Andy’s family, and Ellen feels claustrophobic. She misses New York. She misses the energy she put into her photography because she just doesn’t feel the same way about Atlanta. Plus, she feels pressured to act a certain way or to have certain luxuries that she isn’t really comfortable with. So the problem is really that Andy doesn’t pick up on all of this, more than that there is something really wrong with their relationship.
So who does Ellen choose? Well, I’m certainly not going to divulge that juicy bit of gossip. You’ll just have to read this one yourself, and I highly recommend it.
If anyone has other books that sound like they break the chick lit mold, send me the titles! [pretty please]