Book Review: Emily Giffin’s ‘The One and Only’

I’ve been tempted to read Emily Giffin before, because I’d heard she was a great author. But one thing always held me back: the plot lines. The two books I’m most familiar with, Something Borrowed and Something Blue, are centered around infidelity. I’m really bothered by infidelity, and have no interest in reading about characters who partake of it. Although the book explores the ethics of adultery, I could just never bring myself to pick it up. I was intrigued by this New York Times bestselling author, but the plot lines of those two novels were just too off-putting for me.

I was exploring the library in our new town (which, by the way, is absolutely adorable. There’s a gazebo and everything!) when I came across a new release of Giffin’s titled The One and Only. It was about small town life in Texas, and a protagonist obsessed with football. It sounded quirky and interesting and, best of all, free of adultery.

Our adorable library!

There are two main story lines in mainstream media that really bother me: adultery and, ahem, sluttiness (for both males and females). Adultery bothers me because now it is often the protagonist committing the offense, and because they’re likable, you want to forgive them and justify their actions. After years of watching television, movie and book characters cheat and lie, it becomes less offensive simply because of overexposure. But it deeply bothers me, and its an irreversible path. Once I see a character cheat, I never look at them the same again. Spoiler alert for early seasons of How I Met Your Mother: once Ted cheats, I could never root for him the same way. With the sluttiness case, the loose morals of the whole HIMYM gang can get a little appalling. I know we’re living in the 21st century, but I really don’t know how none of them have an STD. Especially Barney. Just…ew. I love the characters, and they’re so engaging, but Marshall and Lily are my favorite because they love each other so deeply and they’re monogamous (or so I assume. I haven’t seen the last season yet, so no spoilers please!). And that’s my rant against the adulterous and slutty society that’s portrayed on our television screens, and yet another reason why I watch so much Disney.

Back to Giffin’s latest book. I love her writing style. She combines realistic dialogue, lovable and unique characters, descriptions and settings so flawlessly that you can’t help but marvel at how well its written. Her characters are written with such empathy that when she describes that Texas heat, you can’t help but feel the sweat drip down your back, too, even if you’re reading in the nice, cool AC. I enjoy getting to know her characters as though they’re new friends, and when the book ends, I was sad to not get to spend more time with them.

The only thing keeping me from totally loving this book was an important plot point that I can’t discuss because it’s a new book and I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t read it. There’s one plot twist that just seemed weird, and a little far-fetched, and it just plum irritated me. I saw it coming, and I willed it away, but it came anyway. Sigh. If only the characters could hear us. As soon as I saw the first sign, I thought, please don’t go there. Then, when she went there, I thought well, this is how that is going to play out. And it was. I’m either very intuitive, or the plot was slightly predictable. She definitely did her research, as her football-crazy protagonist, Shea, knew her stuff. Giffin also did a great job of handling grief, and its long-term affects. I loved everything about the book, except the one thing I can’t say!

It was still a really enjoyable read, and I’m glad I got over my fear of all of her books seemingly condoning adultery (since I haven’t read the two referenced previously, I can’t say that they do condone adultery. I remember my sister telling me they didn’t, but the impression I’ve gotten from the descriptions was too condoning for me to read it). I’ve already started reading another of her previous books, Baby Proof, and am thoroughly enjoying it so far.

Have you read Emily Giffin? What’s your take on our cheating culture? Do you think media condones it, or does it not bother you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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