Monday, January 28, 2019

All We Ever Wanted

Title:  All We Ever Wanted
Author:  Emily Giffin
Publication Information:  Ballantine Books. 2018. 352 pages.
ISBN:  0399178929 / 978-0399178924

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "It started out as a typical Saturday night."

Favorite Quote:  "I mean, Dad, some people in Belle Meade do suck. Some people are huge snobs, and look down on us. But a lot of them aren't like that at all. Some of them are just like us, only with more money ... and if money and appearances and stuff like that don't matter, then they shouldn't matter either way."

This is a book based on current headlines. White privilege. Racial discrimination. Economic Disparity. Immigration. The #metoo  movement.

Kirk and Nina are part of the Nashville elite. Their wealth comes from the sale of Kirk's company. However, Kirk is a product of the moneyed Southern society. Nina is not. Their only son Finch is a high schooler, growing up in a world of an elite private school and everything money can buy.

Tom is a single father to his daughter Lyla. He is carpenter and lives on the other side of the "tracks" - the river in this case. Lyla is biracial; her mother is Brazilian.

Finch and Lyla both attend Windsor Academy, a private K-12 school. Finch has been there since kindergarten and is a "golden boy" of the school. His parents have paid tuition and donated generously.  Lyla joined at the start of high school and is a scholarship student; her family would not be able to afford the school otherwise.

The crux of the plot is that an inappropriate, sexual picture of Lyla at a party with a clearly racist caption is sent to a group of Finch's friends. It spreads through social media, finding its way to Finch's parents, to Lyla's father, and to the school. From there, the book proceeds to highlights the issues - criminal and personal - from different perspectives.

Kirk's opinion reflects "boys will be boys" and "you can't ruin a good kid's life over one choice." His attempt is to use his money and influence to make it go away; that is the lesson he imparts to his son. Truth is a casualty of that opinion.

Nina's opinion is that "wrong is wrong." She questions herself as a mother for her son has done this. She also wants her son to learn the lesson now, while his behavior and his life can be put on a more centered track. Her questions trigger memories of her past and lead to bigger questions about her own life.

Tom is a father trying to navigate his daughter's teenage years. He is not wealthy and at times has a chip on his shoulder about his perception - warranted and unwarranted - of those with wealth.

Finch is a young man used to getting his way. He has been indulged in everything money can buy. He sees no reason why that should change.

Lyla is a young woman, struggling between the need to fit in and be liked and the necessity of calling attention to the crime committed against her.

Through these main characters and the surrounding society of minor characters, this book gives voice to an important conversation. Some of this book goes in the expected direction; characters and actions stay true to the stereotypes being drawn. However, what I appreciate the most is that the book does not end in a neat package. That is not how life works, and the ending adds more depth to the point being made by the entire story. It leaves me with a lot to think about.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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