Book Review: Heart of the Matter

Image credit: Goodreads

I’m heading off to my monthly book club meeting this evening to discuss The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman, a book I finished last week that I will review in the future. I really loved that book but found it quite heavy and emotionally draining, so I was craving an easier read to follow it. That’s where this book comes in; for awhile now, Emily Giffin has been my go-to girl for chick lit.

Note: This review contains some spoilers. I’m not giving away the ending, but I want to discuss one of the events from the middle of the book!

Heart of the Matter is a story following three main characters. Tessa Russo is a stay-at-home mother of two children, married to Nick Russo, a pediatric surgeon. She has only just recently quit her career to care for her kids and it’s not going as smoothly as she’d hoped. Then there’s Valerie Anderson, a single mother of a year old boy named Charlie. When Charlie has an accident at a birthday party, he ends up in hospital with Nick as his doctor, and the lives of all these characters intersect.

This was my least favourite book of Emily Giffin’s that I’ve read thus far. And here’s why: (here comes the spoiler!) This was another Giffin book centred around cheating. Now, I don’t have a problem reading a fictional story about an affair, but it’s starting to feel like Giffin is a one-trick pony. Not only that, but her earlier variations on this theme were better, so it was disappointing to read a diluted version of a similar storyline.

I found it difficult to believe that Nick was a fantastic guy who simply made a mistake. He was painted by Tessa and by Valerie as this amazing catch and I think the intention of Giffin was for the readers to agree with this assessment, but I didn’t. I thought he was a cheating git, and I hate the perpetuation of the idea that men (or women, for that matter) simply can’t help themselves when faced with a hot woman. Even if there are real feelings involved, there are a lot of steps in between meeting an attractive woman and boning her, and the guy’s big brain could have vetoed his little brain at any stage of the game. “It was a mistake, it just happened!” I’m sorry, you didn’t just trip, fall and land with your dick inside another woman!

I felt conflicted most of the way through; whereas in the Something series it was clear that I was on the side of Dex & Rachel, I never felt a true allegiance to either Valerie or Tessa. I don’t think this was due to Giffin building nuanced, conflicted, or flawed but fundamentally good characters here; that would imply that her characters were layered, complex and interesting, which they were decidedly not. Rather, while pleasant and easy to relate to, I found Tessa in particular to be a very one-dimensional character. I liked her and didn’t want to see her marriage break down, but never got a satisfactory answer as to why she loved Nick. I understood Valerie better; from the outside, though I felt it was wrong to engage in an affair with a married man, it was easier to understand how a single woman would allow it to happen than the married man who was supposedly in a happy marriage.

Despite my misgivings, I did feel invested in learning the outcome of the story and got what I wanted out of the book: a fun, mindless read. I didn’t hate it but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it either.

Have you read it and if so, what did you think? What’s your favourite chick lit book?

1 thought on “Book Review: Heart of the Matter

  1. Julia

    I totally agree. Cheating is a deliberate act to hurt someone. Plain and simple. If you wanted to stop, you could. If you wanted to say no, you could. But you didn’t. It’s not one simple mistake, it’s a devastating decision. (and that’s coming from someone who’s been on both sides of the coin.)


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