PUBLICATION DATE: July 24, 2012
mily Giffin’s latest novel, Where We Belong, tells the story of two women: Marian, a thirty-six year old television producer, and Kirby, an eighteen-year old girl who wants to meet her birth mother.
Marian is successful and put-together. She has an impressive career, nice clothes, a beautiful apartment, and an accomplished, older boyfriend, Peter. She has her life under control, and as the book opens, Marian’s only concern seems to be whether Peter wants to get married. One evening, after an unsatisfying discussion with Peter about where their relationship is going, Marian opens her door to find herself face-to-face with her biggest secret: Kirby, the daughter she gave up for adoption eighteen years ago.
Kirby, who has traveled to New York without her parents’ knowledge, is a smart girl struggling with decisions about what to do after high school graduation. She is determined to find out the story behind her conception and birth, but her appearance is a shocking disturbance to Marian, who has never shared this secret with anyone other than her mother. Will Peter decide that Marian cannot be trusted? Can Marian and Kirby develop a relationship with each other? And what part will Kirby’s biological father, Conrad Knight, play?
In this entertaining novel, Marian is forced to come to terms with the decision she made so many years ago, and recognizes that it has impacted many people around her. Kirby, who struggles with typical teenage angst and various situations with friends and boyfriends, begins to wonder if getting to know her birth parents is too much to ask.
Giffin writes with her trademark style and talent. There are no easy answers here and no slick clichés. Instead, there are real characters with thorny problems that aren’t easily solved. Marian, in particular, is flawed; despite her perfect exterior, she has made some bad decisions in her life and has kept those who love her in the dark. We understand what has driven Marian to make the choices she has made, and the author cleverly explores how these choices carry a lasting impact.
Kirby is a well-written character as well, and I especially enjoyed the interactions between Kirby and her adoptive parents, who are likeable and very realistic, and her sister, Charlotte. Kirby’s struggles with her best friend, Belinda, demonstrate how Kirby grows as the story progresses.
The plot easily kept my interest, although some of the backstory involving Marian and her father could have been trimmed a bit.
With this sort of storyline, I would have expected a very emotional book, and yet most of the story is strangely devoid of emotion. This could be purposeful — a way to show that Marian is so shocked by the turn of events that it feels surreal to her and she doesn’t even know what she is feeling. But Kirby seems to be lacking in emotion too. It feels almost like we are detached observers watching events occur in their lives instead of passionately participating right there with them. Because of this lack of emotion, I didn’t enjoy Where We Belong as much as Giffin’s other books. But don’t get me wrong, this is still a highly entertaining story. I was eager to know what would happen next and the ending is powerful, in part because there is more emotion at that point in the book. Overall, this is a fun read with well-written characters and an intriguing plot.