From her attic home office in Brookhaven, Emily Giffin has written a string of bestselling, candy-colored novels about love, marriage, and all the inconvenient drama that often accompanies both. In her four books—Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Baby Proof, and Love the One You’re With—Giffin has explored such dilemmas as what happens when a husband wants a baby and the wife doesn’t, or whether a marriage can survive when a long-lost love resurfaces. In her new novel, Heart of the Matter (St. Martin’s Press, $26.99), a medical crisis changes everything for two Boston families. Tessa is a stay-at-home mother of two and the wife of renowned pediatric plastic surgeon Nick. During an anniversary dinner, Nick is paged to the emergency room to help a six-year-old boy burned in a horrific accident. The handsome doctor meets the frantic single mother of a suffering child, and things take a pretty predictable—albeit excruciatingly slow—turn.
Giffin, thirty-eight, knows her readers well, and for the most part, she gives them what they want. But the characters here are not as fully formed as those in her earlier novels. Nick’s unhappiness at home is never clearly defined, and neither Tessa nor the other woman emerges into a character worthy of liking or disliking. Fiction can be as ambiguous as real life, of course, but it’s more fun when you can root for somebody.
Giffin on . . .
Her fictional characters “I just try to create realistic characters, which usually means flawed characters. I believe that most of us are good people, but we are all fallible and vulnerable and capable of making destruc-tive choices despite our best
Motherhood “Becoming a mother means a complete and permanent loss of emotional freedom. You can never shut off the worry—or guilt—that you could be doing more to shape these human beings. On the flip side, being a mother has taught me perspective. It is in my nature to sweat the small things, but I am more likely now to celebrate the small things, too.”
Success “Success is a funny thing. It is so relative and incremental that your benchmarks are always raised,
your definition constantly evolving. I have the feeling, whether rational or not, that if I ever sat back and basked in the moment, everything would come to a sudden and swift end.”
Working on the film of Something Borrowed, which is being developed by Hilary Swank’s production company “I’ve been very involved with the movie—much more so than I thought I’d be at the outset, with everything from the script to casting. It’s been a roller coaster—mostly thrilling, sometimes frustrating. Whereas writing a book is mostly frustrating, sometimes thrilling!”
Reading “I just finished Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. I love reading books that fill me with envy—that feeling of, ‘God, I wish I could do that.’”
>> ONLINE EXTRA: READ THE FULL Q&A WITH EMILY GIFFIN
Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides
In this beautifully written nonfiction thriller, Hampton Sides takes readers on a white-knuckle ride through the last days of MLK’s life and the manhunt for his killer—a con man and petty thief who was so nondescript, even people who knew him couldn’t remember what he looked like.
The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron by Howard Bryant
As reticent a subject as he was a hero, Aaron is an elusive, complicated figure in this first full-scale biography. Still, sportswriter Howard Bryant makes the most of every minute with Aaron, placing the Brave’s accomplishments on the diamond solidly in the context of the 1954 to 1976 world in which he played.
Till You Hear from Me by Pearl Cleage
(Ballantine/One World, $25)
Atlanta author Pearl Cleage returns to her beloved West End neighborhood for this fictional culture clash between the lions of the civil rights movement and the hungry young tigers of Obamamerica, in which Ida B. Wells Dunbar, daughter of an iconic roof-rattling reverend of the 1960s, tries to stake her own claim in the post-election landscape.
Photograph by Deborah Feingold