Heart of the Matter

I finished Heart of the Matter, by Emily Giffin, while away in Greece last week. Honestly? I didn’t hate it as much as I was expecting to.

In a nutshell, it covers the rapid deterioration of recently-turned housewife Tessa’s commonly-considered “perfect” marriage to her handsome pediatric surgeron Nick, as he strays into the life and bed of Valerie, the single mother of his newest burn patient.

As previously mentioned, I was expecting (and fully prepared) to hate all of the main characters just as much (if not more) as the characters in Something Borrowed. However, I was pleasantly surprised by Ms. Giffin’s ability to actually present a set of believably flawed but not altogether revolting characters, and all existing within a reasonably realistic set of circumstances. There was some sense of genuine emotion, at least on the part of both women, and each seemed to have a grasp of right and wrong, even if they did not necessarily follow through with their gut instincts. There were no $800 random flights to London for the weekend.

My only real gripe was with Nick, who I found even more revolting than I found Dex in Something Borrowed – but even more unforgivable is the fact that the author has the characters forgive him so quickly and so fully. Tessa and Valerie have significant aspects of their lives destroyed, but Nick drops to one knee and cries, and suddenly all that matters is his happiness. Maybe I just happened to choose the only two Giffin books which grant each of the male characters their own personal carte blanches despite (or because?) of their indiscretions, while putting the happiness and well-being of her female characters on the back burner, but I doubt it. I can roll with the punches of an unsavory male character with the best of them, but as a feminist (or perhaps just a thinking, feeling woman – why muddle things with “ists” and “isms” and other potentially problematic labels), I am appalled by the author’s treatment of the situation.

Heart of the Matter left me with a bad taste in my mouth, for sure, and a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach – however, neither of these effects were due to poor writing, aggravating narration style, or an uninteresting plot. I was not happy with the outcome, but it was because I was able to become emotionally vested in the story line and the lives of the characters; in the end, I felt frustrated and betrayed right alongside the main characters, but on the whole, I was not unhappy to have been taken along for the ride.


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