Emily Giffin’s latest novel is more of a family drama than a romantic comedy. Where We Belong centers around Marian Caldwell a successful TV showrunner (think Ruth in The Next Best Thing but prettier and on the East Coast) who is dating her executive boss, Peter Standish. But Marian is harboring a secret: when she was 18 she had a child and gave it up for adoption. When said daughter shows up on her doorstep one night, Marian’s life begins to fall apart.
Kirby, the daughter, has her own issues. Now 18, she’s feeling displaced in her home and around her family. She doesn’t feel like she fits in with her adoptive family anymore and her lack of ambition for the future drives her to discover her familial heritage. But as she soon learns, Marian told no one except her mother about her pregnancy, and Kirby’s appearance in her life causes her to face the consequences of that decision.
Giffin’s writing is always heartfelt and relatable. She taps into these characters and what their thoughts would be in this special situation. However, that doesn’t prevent the story from becoming cloying and juvenile. Kirby’s high school problems feel especially juvenile (some authors just can’t write convincing teenagers). Marian’s drama with Peter and her show also feel forced—just another way to complicate her already complicated life. Not until the two team up to find the father, Conrad, and reveal all to him, does the story become truly engaging.
Thanks to flashbacks in the beginning of the book, Conrad quickly becomes a more well-rounded character than Peter. Thus, Marian’s stray thoughts of Conrad, increase the reader’s hopes that she’ll take up with him; and, conversely, the reader’s dislike of Peter increases (even as he becomes actually likable halfway through the novel). However, because Conrad doesn’t truly appear until the final 100 pages, his potential as a love interest never fully grows to fruition, making the end of the novel feel slightly unresolved.
Although Where We Belong has some great moments and Kirby’s maturation throughout the novel makes her an eventually likable character, nothing really stands out in this novel as exceptional. After reading Griffin’s addictive novels Something Borrowed and its sequel Something Blue (which I fully endorse), this book was definitely a let down.
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