The One and Only
Author: Emily Giffin © 2014
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Literary & Fiction
Subgenre: Women’s Fiction, Domestic Life
Shea Rigsby, a thirty-something Texan, who lives and breathes football. She works for her Alma Mater and favorite team, Walker. Her boyfriend, Miller, is a former Walker quarterback and her best friend from infancy, Lucy, is the daughter of the head coach. Her life is a comfortable, predictable one, until the months after the death of Lucy’s mother. Shea begins stepping outside her comfort zones, pursuing a career in sports journalism and ending the relationship with Miller. The steady nature of her world begins to shift and she’s forced to deal with hopes, fears and secrets she has kept buried for years. In facing these, Shea first must reconsider how she wants to live, where she wants to steer her life, and with whom she wants to spend it.
Busy moms: This review and recommendation was a tough one. It’s not the strongest story I’ve read by Giffin; it’s about characters who may be her least likable and some of whom seem more like caricatures of stereotypes. I’ll try to be fair and honest without revealing spoilers about the story. If you’re going to read it, there is a natural progression to the book and, debatable as character actions may be, there was certainly a great deal of strategy and research that went into the story.
Emily Giffin is a talented, NYT best-selling writer of a half a dozen books with thousands of fans. The One and Only falls flat compared with her previous works. I applaud her ability to write complex, well-developed characters who are flawed (some with pretty significant flaws), but likable, even lovable. That, in fact, is one of the reasons I enjoy her stories so much. The characters are believable, imperfect and are forced to make decisions about situations that make readers consider “what would I do?” I believe the manner in which Giffin creates her characters, and their flaws are large part of her success as an author. Further highlighting her talent: Not many authors can take the antagonist female character from one book and turn her into the protagonist female character in the next one. Giffin did.
In The One and Only, Giffin’s characters are lackluster. Protagonist Shea seems indecisive and flat. She’s been going along with life in the most agreeable, uninspiring manner possible. This is fortunately short lived for the book, but the changes she makes do little to further her development beyond her obsession with football, all things Walker and her admiration for Coach Carr, the Walker head football coach. It’s after his status as revered hero is established that the book begins to lay out the inevitable path the characters will follow.
For a brief moment, Giffin attempts a redirection, making the reader think that no, no, Shea is not going for the controversial and odd love interest after all when she begins dating another former Walker quarterback. Their relationship is short-lived after his true character is revealed and she ends up turning to the man who has been there for her since the beginning. The decision to pursue a relationship with this man causes significant controversy and conflict, for the characters and the reader. It’s not the first time a relationship like theirs has existed, but it’s scandalous to a degree far beyond the conflict Giffin has woven into her other books. It didn’t really work for me.
Did I read the whole book? Yes. Would I recommend it to another busy mom? Hm. Of her seven books, I would recommend this one last. It’s maybe a good book for killing time and don’t want a serious read. Or maybe a football fan who like a book that includes stats and legitimate sport-speak. That said, there’s a certain amount of stereotyping that might get on one’s nerves. I liked the book enough to finish it (hence three stars), but not enough to read it again or give it a glowing endorsement (hence, three stars).
Have you read The One and Only? What did you think? Are you a previous fan of Giffin’s? Will you read more from her?
Thanks for reading! Happy trails and may the good books be plentiful!
Featured image (jacket design & illustration): Jennifer Heuer