Release Date: July 24, 2012
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Marian Caldwell is a thirty-six year old television producer, living her dream in New York City. With a fulfilling career and satisfying relationship, she has convinced everyone, including herself, that her life is just as she wants it to be. But one night, Marian answers a knock on the door . . . only to find Kirby Rose, an eighteen-year-old girl with a key to a past that Marian thought she had sealed off forever. From the moment Kirby appears on her doorstep, Marian’s perfectly constructed world—and her very identity—will be shaken to its core, resurrecting ghosts and memories of a passionate young love affair that threaten everything that has come to define her.
For the precocious and determined Kirby, the encounter will spur a process of discovery that ushers her across the threshold of adulthood, forcing her to re-evaluate her family and future in a wise and bittersweet light. As the two women embark on a journey to find the one thing missing in their lives, each will come to recognize that where we belong is often where we least expect to find ourselves—a place that we may have willed ourselves to forget, but that the heart remembers forever.
WHERE WE BELONG by Emily Giffin is a book for the future. I mean literally. It's actually funny but I think both EGiffin and her editor missed one detail and skewed the timestamps. Marian supposedly conceived Kirby in the Summer of 1995 and as this book was released this year, 2012, Kirby should only be 16 and not 18. But by 2014, it should all make sense. I actually find this small error funny when EGiffin addressed it in her Acknowledgements:
With respect to one edit I couldn't fix: Kirby was conceived in 1995 during the famous Chicago heat wave, yet is now eighteed. Just read the book again in two years, and we'll be straight. - Emily Giffin
Going back to the story, WHERE WE BELONG is a little more serious than her Rachel and Darcy books (Something Borrowed, Something Blue) and is similar to Love The One You're With in terms of emotional intensity and subject matter. WHERE WE BELONG is a poignant and heartfelt story about family, mistakes, love and the diverse relationship between mother and daughter. I found myself tearing up on several parts because I connected with the story personally because like Marian Caldwell, I had my son when I was eighteen and though I didn't give him up for adoption, reading her story brought back a lot of memories for me. I remember all too well that feeling of shame for disappointing my parents; fear because I know I'm not ready to be a parent but I have to grow up and take responsibility; feeling so confused when the fight-or-flight reflex kicked in. A little overwhelming for an 18 year-old.
From my perspective I feel like Marian Caldwell was the anti-hero in the story. Sure she had good intentions but when her past caught up with her, her mistake blew up in her face. Not in a supernova kind of way but it sure did change a lot of her relationships especially with those people she's most keen on. Marian might be the epitome of success but it sure took its toll on her personal life. In a way I feel for her too, there's really nothing much she can do about her past except apologize and be comforted in the fact that things did turn out well for her and Kirby.
The catch of your life is not the same thing as the love of your life. Be careful of that subtle but rather crucial distinction. - Jess, Marian's friend
Kirby Rose was a wonderful character. She's was just right and not an exaggeration of a teen feeling angsty and searching for something. She acknowledged that she has a journey that she needs to take and though she was feeling scared and apprehensive, she did it with admirable grace. Her emotions were well fleshed out and she has a feeling of self awareness which were evident on those parts where she was reconciling her relationships with her adoptive parents and Marian. She was angry, happy, worried, rebellious, and hopeful on all the right places, she's glued the story perfectly.
To be honest, what I really wanted to read was Marian and Conrad Knight's, Kirby's biological dad, Summer love story. It was brief and fleeting but it was real and heartfelt. I found myself feeling flushed and giddy over this secret love affair between these two teenagers I wish EGiffin would write a novella about it. Conrad's character was superb and you can really visualize how romantic and artsy he is which made me yearn to read more of his character. I hope I'm not alone is asking EGiffin to give Conrad his own story, he's my new book boyfriend!
I've often let my goals supersede the journey--and the love of what I'm doing. A constant battle to stay in control, get to the next level, ensure that my life stays perfectly, carefully scripted. - Marian
I have several favorite parts in this book aside from Marian's Summer of 1995 flashbacks with Conrad. I almost started weeping when Marian and her father finally had a heart-to-heart conversation and all the hurt and worry of keeping Kirby a secret was finally released giving both of them full closure. Next was Kirby and Conrad singing Pearl Jam's Elederly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town, which, by the way, is the perfect theme song for this book. This is the part where the puzzle was finally complete as far as Kirby's search is concerned. She finally found her people and everything is in place.
I've read several comments about the ending and how it felt incomplete and in need of an epilogue or something. IMHO, it didn't give Conrad closure but it book ended Marian's story. To reiterate I see her an the "anti-hero" who followed her head and not her heart at the expense of Conrad. And though I agree with the choices she made, there's a price to pay and one of those were her relationships, past, present and future, with Conrad. Marian found something in the end she didn't even know she was looking for and though she probably wants to rekindle something with Conrad, I feel like that boat has already sailed, it might not be romantic but it was right. I think some readers wanted them to get back together but I think Conrad was too hurt and felt very betrayed by a lot of things Marian did in the past. Whatever relationship they had was fractured and though they have Kirby between them, it's not enough to restart something. So I think it was a fair and justified ending.
WHERE WE BELONG is a wonderful story and if you're an Emily Giffin or a Sophie Kinsella fan, I suggest you read this one.