All We Ever Wanted

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 27 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

I loved this topic! I usually attribute the author to light, fluffy reads but loved how this dug deep. Exploring friendship, marriage, motherhood all in a few hundred pages. Definitely recommend- and makes you think what would you do if forced with this?
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Emily Giffin never fails to disappoint, and her newest novel followed suit by captivating my interest right from page 1. Following this upper-class family drama through multiple perspectives woven together added depth to dealing with intense topics like infidelity, divorce, racism, nude photos, and abuse. I was pulled in multiple directions throughout the story and having several narrators added to the drama as new pieces of information were slowly revealed. Ultimately, this story really made me think about how I would handle some of these situations if I was a parent in the story, and honed in on complicated family and power dynamics. All We Ever Wanted is worth the read as you uncover the lessons and thought-provoking questions that ultimately lead to difficult decisions.
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Powerful and extremely relevant book. Emily Giffin delivers a powerhouse novel about a very important topic. This story is told in multiple points of view - and I loved getting each character's perspective. One night everything changes but we don't discover the truth of what happened until the end. Giffin delivers an emotional look at consent and the drastic consequences for the lives involved.
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This book has it all. It is extremely well-written and enjoyable, yet urgent and important. I’ve been recommending this book to every reader I know.
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I thought this book was just ok. It seems rather predictable, and the characters bland. However, I'd definitely suggest it for a good beach read!
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I have been a fan of Emily Giffin for years. This was a departure from her typical novels. I did feel that the story unfolded and kept my interest, though was slightly slower paced. I ended up really liking the story, and would recommend this book.
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This book was a mixed bag. I really enjoyed certain parts, especially Nina's perspective, but I didn't enjoy other parts, because I felt maybe the author shouldn't have written those perspectives. I think this would've been a stronger book if it was all from Nina's perspective, since that was the stronger voice. Tom's perspective seemed shallow and didn't elicit many emotions. Lyla's perspective was a bit more engaging, though not as well-developed as I'd have liked.

The premise and message of this book were engaging, but the characters weren't evenly developed. "All We Ever Wanted" could've been more.
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Lyla and Finch attend a high school party.  Lyla gets intoxicated and passes out and a photo is taken of her with a racist comment.  The photo was shared on socal media and Finch is accused of taking the photo.  Nina, Finch’s mom when she finds out about the photo she is ashamed of her son.  However, her husband believes his son can do no wrong.  Then there is Tom, Lyla’s father who is trying to get justice for his daughter.

This book is told in three perspectives, Lyla, Tom and Nina.   I like this book and how it dealt with very hard topics that are relevant to today’s world, but I felt the book was very one sided.  I would of liked to get more from the story.
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Atlanta author Emily Giffin talks about her new novel “All We Ever Wanted” and the #MeToo movement
When bestselling Atlanta author Emily Giffin checked in with ArtsATL from New York where her latest media tour was in full swing, she was racing to a TV studio between interviews. Although the clock was ticking and she was losing her voice, she had plenty to say about sexism, classism and America’s caste system.

Her latest novel All We Ever Wanted deals with characters whose lives all intersect when a photograph showing a possible sexual assault is snapped during a drunken moment at a party. The firestorm that follows pits friends and family against one another, polarizes a community and triggers more questions than answers.

Who gets to decide what constitutes a harmless prank versus a criminal act? How far should a parent go to protect a child whose momentary lapse in judgement threatens to upend their entire future?

Giffin explores these questions from three perspectives: those of Nina Browning, a stay-at-home mom and socialite whose privileged existence is a far cry from her middle-class upbringing; Tom Volpe, a single dad who works as a carpenter and part-time Über driver to make ends meet; and Lyla Volpe, Tom’s daughter, a scholarship student who’s trying to navigate the terrain at Windsor Academy, an elite private school in Nashville.

The author took some time to speak with us about the new novel and its perspective on the #MeToo moment, even as she raced to beat the clock. 

ArtsATL: First things first, Emily: is Lyla’s name pronounced LEE-la? Or LIE-la? Do you agonize over whether or not readers will get the pronunciations right when naming your characters?

Emily Giffin: It’s LIE-la. There are no hard and fast rules on choosing character names, but it’s probably better to pick a name that everyone pronounces correctly in their own heads. The process is similar to naming a baby. Expectant parents often wonder if people are going to pronounce the name wrong. If the answer is yes, they’ll either rule that name out or say, Well, I love it and I don’t care. She’s just going to spend her life correcting people who mispronounce it.

ArtsATL: After Lyla is photographed in a compromising position at a party and the picture goes viral, pinpointing where the event falls on the spectrum of sexual assault becomes a central question. You do such a thorough job of arguing contradictory perspectives that I wonder if you ever found yourself wavering in the debate? Or is that a byproduct of your training as an attorney?

Giffin: I’m an analytical person. One of the reasons I went to law school is because I’ve always liked nuance, arguing and debate. Law school honed some of those skills, but I don’t think any of my legal training entered into my decision-making with respect to this book. That said, I’m really interested in the gray areas of our relationships, our lives and our decisions. I think there’s more than two sides to every story, and the messiness of relationships and life are fascinating to me. It was much more interesting to write the story this way than making [Nina’s son] Finch a complete sociopath like a Scott Peterson.

Emily Giffin signs a copy of her book Where We Belong during her 2012 book tour.
ArtsATL: The premise of All We Ever Wanted feels ripped-from-the-headlines. Was the plot inspired by a recent story, the #MeToo movement, personal observations or an amalgam of input?

Giffin: I began the novel in the summer of 2015, and turned it in January of 2018. It was a highly charged time. The pendulum began to swing, the #MeToo movement unfolded and societal changes were happening. Anyone paying attention knows that the underlying issues have been there forever — they just didn’t have a hashtag. But I think we really became enlightened as a society. In hindsight, I can see that it’s impossible to remove yourself from what’s happening in the world when you’re writing novels. Sexism, racism and classism seeped into this story because it’s occupying so much of my own thoughts. As for the setting I wound up choosing, my children attend Pace Academy . . . and the conversations [in the novel] reflect the ones I was hearing nationally, within our community, among friends and even dinnertime conversations with my children.

ArtsATL: When Nina believes her son, Finch, has crossed a line with Lyla that borders on criminal, she cannot rationalize the “he’s a good kid” argument favored by her husband and the vast majority of her social circle. And she is offended by their suggestion that Finch’s future (and his recent acceptance to Princeton University) should not be jeopardized because of a single lapse in judgment. What interested you about the dynamic of such irresponsible parenting?

Giffin: How many times do we hear the refrain He’s a good kid from the parents of a child who has victimized someone else? That may be true. And I think most of us are living our lives trying to be decent human beings, though some do it better than others. But when parents can’t consider the impact and the injury of their kid’s actions, it’s tempting to make the problem go away by sweeping it under the rug. But we have to avoid the impulse to rubber-stamp forgiveness and absolution by stating we come from a good family or he’s a good kid as a defense when that child does something that is deeply offensive to another group of people — whether it’s a racist comment, sexist comment. That doesn’t mean there can’t be forgiveness or second chances. But the two don’t have to be exclusive. You have to call it out, particularly within a family or community.

ArtsATL: In one particularly brief-but-potent passage of the book, it dawns on Nina how exacting and unforgiving her friends can be when enumerating other people’s flaws, no matter how petty, even as they demonstrate infinite patience (if not complete oblivion) when it comes to recognizing or acknowledging any imperfections in their family or friends. What inspired that train of thought?

Giffin: If someone is extremely thin-skinned, then I expect them to have even more empathy and sympathy for others. I admire consistency on that front. But I’ve observed situations where people are incredibly sensitive and emotional about their outlook, their child, their family, their life circumstances — then turn a blind eye to others. Love and loyalty enter into a broader theme of finding empathy for others and understanding the complete picture.

Eager fans hold up their copies of Emily Giffin’s Where We Belong during the bestselling Atlanta author’s 2012 book tour.
ArtsATL: Lyla’s multicultural parentage and her dad’s economic status prompts a lot of talk about class, race, who “belongs” in certain spaces, and what it means to be an American among her Windsor peers and their parents. Their language is always coded, and the conversations are unfailingly polite — but the underlying assumptions, ignorance and ugliness driving the discussions are not lost on Nina. As a writer, is it your hope that readers might see ourselves, even when the reflection is not so pretty, and become more self-aware? Or do you just want to tell stories that captivate our imaginations?

Giffin: It’s impossible to write in a complete vacuum. But I can honestly say that I do not write fiction to convey moral messages or to deliver commentary on society. My characters have viewpoints, and I try to make their actions consistent with that viewpoint. But I don’t have any veiled lessons. My stories are character and relationship-driven. I wanted to write about a woman who was forced to choose between her family, everything she holds dear and her own deeply held values . . . Oh my God, Gail, I am so sorry, but I’ve got to run. There’s an angry producer standing outside the car staring at me.

ArtsATL: I love a cliffhanger, so go! And thank you!

Emily Giffin’s All We Ever Wanted publishes today, June 26. The author will be in conversation with Mara Davis at a Book Launch Party at the Marcus Jewish Community Center on Thursday, June 28, at 7:30 p.m. The program is sold out online. However, a limited number of tickets may be available at the MJCCA Box Office on the day of the event. The Box Office will open at 6:30 pm and will begin taking names for a ticket wait list.
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I really enjoyed this book. I found it to be a very important book for teenagers, in this digital era. Even more so, for the parents as well. 
The story was well paced, with not too many lulls and decent character development. 

However, I was a little disappointed with the last quarter of the story. It seemed rushed and due to that aspect, maybe the epilogue could of given us more. I felt like it was lacking any real closure especially between Lyla's dad and Nina.
Overall a enjoyable read. 
**I received this book from netgalley for my honest review **
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In an age where pictures can be shared in seconds via social media and texting, and long-term repercussions are not considered, this story takes a very realistic scenario and plays it out with such fast-pace that it pulls you in and challenges everything you believe.  “White privilege” and minority stereotypes were addressed in this story and it was extremely well written, without being forceful toward a certain agenda.  Thankfully fiction stayed as fiction.

This story really made me feel all kinds of emotions: compassion, sympathy, anger, sadness, happiness, disgust. I loved the writing, as it was so incredibly vivid.  The characters were definitely realistic, even the teenage viewpoints and I felt like they weren’t forced.  The “uppity” status exemplified by Nina’s husband was sadly believable as well, and the conversations had between multiple parties flowed.

I really enjoyed the novel, didn’t mind thinking about the worst case scenario when it comes to consequences and actually think this book might be extremely relevant for mothers, fathers, and teenage children to read together to cause discussion.  I would definitely read another book by the same author anytime, and enjoyed this book, despite the raw scenes. It was refreshing to read something that was mature about a topic as severe as this one.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Random House Publishing Group and NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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All We Ever Wanted is filled with difficult topics, especially for parents. Giffin explores troubled relationships of both parents and their teenage children while also diving into social classes, racism, and social media; she manages to expertly weave so many relevant topics into a novel that felt too short as I wasn't ready for it to end. Overall, this novel will stay with me for a long time.
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This novel was definitely a change for Emily Giffin, jumping from entertaining romantic comedies to tackling relevant issues of today including class, race, privilege, social media, and self-worth. It was refreshing to see her take on these topics. And seeing the story from multiple character perspectives definitely had me empathizing with the characters more and questioning how myself or someone I know would handle this type of situation. The story is so real and unfortunately so easy to imagine playing out in real time. The story and its characters draw you in very quickly and this book stays with you long after you've finished the last page. Highly recommend!
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Not what I expected…
but then again I’m not sure I had great expectations for All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin.  One of our other reviewers was having a hard time reading it, I was never told why, so I was asked to take it.  Usually that doesn’t bode well for the book but I tried to go in with an open mind.  There are a number of cliches that really fit this experience; “life isn’t black and white”, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, “just when you think you have it all figured out” are a few that come to mind.   Emily’s work is and isn’t what you expect, it explores hard topics yet is an entertaining and suspenseful read, and it makes you realize that the truth is always found somewhere in the middle if you are willing to listen to all sides of a situation.

All We Ever Wanted explores a number current issues at play in society today.  The plot explores how the choices of immature teens can have quicker and more devastating implications as the result of social media.  Emily also wants the reader to consider the role that societal expectations of wealth and prestige plays on warping the ethical and moral framework of our youth.  She also makes you evaluate then reevaluate how you arrive at conclusions based on the stereotypes or beliefs you have about different types of people.  While the story-line is extremely thought provoking, the main reason most of us like to read books is for the fun of it,  All We Ever Wanted  is highly entertaining.

Emily writes with fluid word pictures and vibrant characters.  Her plot is full of twists and turns and will have you reading “just one more page” so you can find out what happens next.  Your impression of the characters will swing back and forth like a pendulum many times throughout the book.  In the end you will realize that you just experienced one of those hidden gems in literature, a book that is both contemplative and entertaining but that mimics real life.  It will affirm that there are no fairy tale endings just real people trying to make the best choices they can with the hand they have been dealt.

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I've been reading Emily Giffin religiously for years, but her last couple books have been a miss for me. This one, though, was a return to her better years! There's a lot going on in terms of social commentary, when Nina's son posts a photo of a drunken, half-clothed Latina classmate online and captions it with a racist remark to boot. There's manipulation on so many levels from so many people, and it's hard to know who to trust. I felt so much for Lyla, and wanted nothing more than for her to feel loved and accepted.
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Emily Giffin not only writes great stories but she writes about people that you think you know (or are) and she puts them into situations that you both want to be in and want to avoid.  All We Ever Wanted is Giffin getting back to the stories she does best.
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I enjoyed this story because it didn't follow the predictable story lines that some stories and even tv shows do. This one made a statement. It was good. The characters were so well written that I found myself frustrated with characters because they jumped off the page so I could shout at them. 

I loved Tom and Lyla's relationship and how he strives to be the best father he can be for his daughter and without her mom in the picture. I also enjoyed how Nina sticks with her gut and instinct even against everything she's thought she wanted and surrounded herself with. 

As a mother of two sons and two daughters, I can put myself into both Nina and Tom's shoes. It's hard to be a parent and when something like this comes about you just don't know what to think. It's tough. It has been an eye opener for me and has brought up conversations you think you'd never need to have with your precious children. Especially teen children. 

I rated All We Ever Wanted four stars because I felt like the ending was rushed. I would have liked to know more about what happened at the end. The whole story was so good but then it ended and that was that.
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Great book. With the author in mind I picked up the book to read., not sure where it would lead. I was pleasantly surprised. From the start you are brought into the storyline. The pictures painted of the characters are detailed from the start with eloquence and grit. I could not put the book down, I wanted to keep reading. I wanted to see the story unfold around me. The cast of characters is perfect, as are the underlying messages woven expertly into the story.
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One of my new favorite books! This author has such a way with words the pages flew by in no time! I can’t wait to see the next work by this author! This was such a joy to read!
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I really liked this book by Emily Giffin!  It offered many perspectives around issues of privilege and how kids react to having it all.  Following different characters really offered a few of all sides and made it so hard to put down.  
I would have liked a little more at the end of the novel, it ended really quickly, but overall, a really good novel!
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