Emily Giffin’s All We Ever Wanted [Book Review]

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In Emily Giffin’s All We Ever Wanted (release date 26 June 2018) Nina and Kirk Browning are a well-off couple with one son named Finch. Finch, a senior in high school, has just been accepted to Princeton. While at a gala honoring Nina and Kirk for their work with the suicide prevention organization in their community, Nina gets disturbing news from a friend of her friend named Melanie. Melanie’s son, Beau, had a party and at this party, inappropriate pictures were taken of a girl who was unconscious and an exposed breast. Melanie also tells Nina that her son Finch is responsible for the photo. Not only is he responsible for the photo but also sharing the photo with other people. The unconscious person in the photo is Lyla Volpe, who comes from the other side of the tracks.

Both Finch and Lyla attend Winsor Academy, a private school to be afforded by the rich, The Brownings, and barely afforded by people like Thomas Volpe, a blue-collar worker who does all he can to ensure his daughter gets the best education she can.

The school’s headmaster is Walter Quarterman, who is aware of the photo who is now requesting a disciplinary hearing be held to determine if Finch will remain at the school or be expelled. Kirk Browning is more concerned with Princeton possibly revoking his son’s acceptance that the photo of Lyla and does what Kirk does best; pays someone off in hopes of all this going away. But his time, his tactics won’t work.

THE HAVES AND THE HAVE NOTS

It’s always been known that the rich get away with everything in life, from felonies to misdemeanours and school pranks. All We Ever Wanted explores both sides of the road, the well off and the not so well off, and how both are locked in the confines of their lives.

When you’re well off, you run in certain circles and have friends that are more interested in keeping up appearances than doing the right thing. When living on the other side of the road, you’re limited on what you can buy, where you can live, and at times, being looked down upon by those with large bank accounts.

NEW MONEY AND NEW ATTITUDES

Nine didn’t grow up with money, but Kirk did. He comes from old money. His values are different than Nina’s. And though Nina enjoys the perks of having money, she never lost sight of her values. Or at least she thought she didn’t. It’s not until the issue with Finch comes about that Nina realizes who her true friends are and see her husband for who he really is, and what her son is soon to become.

Kirk, having always been around money and knows what money can do for you, doesn’t seem to have values. At least true values. When Kirk needs to resolve an issue, he uses the money to do and he seems to be passing these lessons onto  Finch. Realizing this, Nina is devastated by the blind eye she’s turned at Kirk’s antics through the years. Confronted with this realization and the attitude of her friends, especially Melanie’s, whose son Beau is responsible for throwing the party which leads to the inappropriate photo being shared, Nina wants to do what’s right and not what is expected of her.

NO MONEY NO ATTITUDE

Thomas Volpe, or Tom as he’s known, grew up without money. He’s a hardworking carpenter who believes in making your way through life by hard work and a good education. He has raised his daughter on his own since birth and thought he had instilled good judgments and values in his daughter. To a point he has. But when you’re surrounded by money at Windsor Academy and your best friend has money, sometimes it’s hard to keep those values in check. And being a teenager, when acceptance is a priority at times, judgments go out the window.

MEETINGS OF THE MINDS

Nina and Thomas do meet up to discuss the situation with their kids and Finch’s upcoming hearing. They both find they have more in common than they think despite the amount of money in their bank and the size of the houses they live in.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I like how the chapters were broken down and written through the eyes of Nina, Tom and Tom’s daughter, Lyla. I’m not sure why Kirk and Finch weren’t given chapters, as it would have been nice to see things through their eyes. Though nothing they said could justify either’s actions, but perspectives from all involved should have been included. Just my two cents.

There were two chapters I didn’t bother reading. One was when Nina went back to home to visit her parents and her old boyfriend Teddy. And the other is when Tom went to visit a friend, Lyla didn’t know about. I didn’t see the point of these two chapters. I feel they could have been incorporated in the chapters when it was either Nina talking or Tom talking. Meaning, they could have been a quick paragraph or two in each other’s chapters, and not an entire chapter. Neither visits, to me, added to the story as a whole.

There were other factors and other people who had a hand in everything that went on, before, during and after the photo incident. Giffin shows the readers that having money doesn’t mean life is perfect. If anything, she shows that money comes with more problems and more pressure to be accepted. I personally disagree, but I digress.

The Epilogue brought everything together, as you didn’t know what happened at the end of the book. You didn’t know if Finch was expelled or if he got away with what he did. It also explores the lives of those after everything was said and done.

I give the book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads and recommend it to all avid and non-avid readers.

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin | Release Date: 26 June 2018 | Publish: Random House Publishing Group: Ballantine Books | 352 pages Emily’s other books: Something Borrowed, and First Comes Love

You can pre-order the book by clicking on the following link:

All We Ever Wanted: A Novel

This Could Hurt by Jillian Medoff – Book Review

ELLERY CONSUMER RESEARCH

The book is set in 2016 but speaks of 2008, during the recession that affected a lot of businesses. Not just those in the real estate industry, but businesses all over. But it’s more than just that. It’s about the goings-on in the prestige research firm Ellery Consumer Research in New York. This is one of those companies everyone strives to get a job in after college. But the office politics and layoffs can become too much for some, as with any job as well as not feeling appreciated for the work one puts in.

THE CENTER PLOT

As with The Best of EverythingThis Could Hurt centers on a group of employees at Ellery, starting with Rosa, the Chief of HR (human resource). We witness the ups and downs of working at a prestige company, which includes layoff, family life, lack of family life or a family and the need to find something better when you feel you’ve reached your end at your current company.

Given insight into each of their lives, we learn that working at a prestige company is not at all what we’ve heard.

We are also privy to the shrewdness of layoffs. Most of us think it’s our managers that determines who leaves and who stays in a time of downsizing, but, from my reading of this book, it’s HR who determines that. Now, this may not be the case in all businesses, but it was the case at Ellery. However, HR (i.e Rosa) was not the only one playing a hand on who still has a job at the end of the week and who doesn’t.

OUT OF OFFICE

But the book doesn’t just spend time in the office. It also spends times at people’s homes and shows how a job can affect a family and what type of job can affect a family. For example, Kenny’s (Manager oF Compensation and Operations the, wife came from money and has acquired a high paying job herself. Kenny has always tried to live up to her standards. He wants to quit Ellery but can’t tell his wife. Instead, he begins looking for work at another prestige company. But will it be enough personally and professionally for Kenny.

It’s stories like Kenny’s we can all relate to. There’s also Lucy, a go-getter herself who can’t wait to take Rosa’s place as Chief of HR once Rosa retires. She’ll do anything Rosa asks her to while mentally picturing herself behind Rosa’s desk. We have Leo who is happy with his job but is lacking in the love field. 

But the most pivotal part of the book is when tragedy strikes one of the employees and how in a time of need everyone came together. It’s also during this tragedy that we see who comes out on top and show accepts their fate.

WHY I LOVED THIS BOOK

There are two reasons, actually a ton of reasons why I absolutely loved this book, but I’m only going to touch on a few.

This book is well written as well as easy to read. It doesn’t bore you down with fantasy words or go into too much detail about people’s past. It gives you the information you need while tying it in to their current situation. Medoff does a great job of keeping the flow of the book going to where it is a page-turner. She sets up the players perfectly, as with Kenny looking for another job, and follows through with jaw-droppers. She gives a human side to those who seem to have it all and shows that a high paying job has its price. 

NO ONE CAN MAKE THIS UP

This book felt too real to from the mind of a writer. As with Over My Shoulder (read my review) by Patricia Dixon (a book about domestic violence from the point of view of the victim), This Could Hurt could only be written from someone who either witnessed everything she’s written or experienced it first hand. Here’s a snippet of Medoff’s biography (career-wise):

Along with writing novels, Jillian has had a long career in management consulting. She’s worked for a wide range of employers, including Deloitte, Aon, Marsh & McLennan, Revlon, Max Factor and Medco, and is currently a Senior Consultant with a professional services firm, where she advises clients on how to communicate with employees during periods of organizational change. (source: Amazon)

No wonder the story and events in the book seemed so real. Only someone who has been through it could write something so hard-hitting as this book. And it will definitely resonate with anyone who has been through a downsize, felt unappreciated at work or just wanted do and be more than they are at their current job. And let’s not forget the pressure of the spouses who expect more and forget being in a relationship is about supporting each other and not tearing each other down. 

I highly recommend you get The Could Hurt when it comes out on 9 January 2018. And if you can, watch The Best of Everything. For those of you that watched Mad Men or are watching Mad Men via a streaming service, you’ll enjoy this book.

Other recommended reading:

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THIS COULD HURT
AUTHOR: Jillian Medoff
PAGES: 366
RELEASE DATE: 9 January 2018
PUBLISHER: Harper Collins
WHERE TO BUY:  AmazonBarnes and Noble and iBooks