Cover image for All we ever wanted : a novel
Title:
All we ever wanted : a novel
Author:
Giffin, Emily, author.
ISBN:
9780399178924
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Physical Description:
334 pages ; 25 cm
Abstract:
"In the new novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of First Comes Love and Something Borrowed, a woman is forced to choose between her family and her most deeply held values. Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville's elite. Her husband's tech business is booming, and her adored son, Finch, is bound for Princeton. Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs. His adored daughter, Lyla, attends Nashville's most prestigious private school on a scholarship. But amid the wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn't always fit in. Then one devastating photo changes everything. Finch snaps a picture of Lyla passed out at a party, adds a provocative caption, and sends it to a few friends. The photo spreads like wildfire, and before long, an already divided community is buzzing with scandal and assigning blame. In the middle of it all, Nina finds herself relating more to Tom's reaction than her own husband's--and facing an impossible choice"-- Provided by publisher.
Format:
Holds:
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Book F GIFFIN Adult Reading Level Fiction
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Book F GIFFIN Adult Reading Level Fiction
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Book F GIFFIN Adult Reading Level Fiction
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Book F GIFFIN Adult Reading Level Fiction
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Book F GIFFIN Adult Reading Level Fiction
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Book F GIFFIN Adult Reading Level Fiction
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Book F GIFFIN Adult Reading Level Fiction
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Book F GIFFIN Adult Reading Level Fiction
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Book F GIFFIN Adult Reading Level Fiction
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Book F GIFFIN Adult Reading Level Fiction
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Book F GIFFIN Adult Reading Level Fiction
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Summary

Summary

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - In the riveting new novel from the #1 bestselling author of Something Borrowed and First Comes Love, three very different people must choose between their families and their most deeply held values. . . .

"An unpredictable page-turner that unfolds in the voices of three superbly distinct characters."-- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"A gripping, thought-provoking journey."--Jodi Picoult

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville's elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton.

Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she's strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville's most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn't always fit in--and her overprotective father doesn't help--but in most ways, she's a typical teenaged girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together--all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

Praise for All We Ever Wanted

"Page-turning . . . Timely and thought-provoking, it's Giffin's best yet." -- People

"Nina Browning has it all: the handsome husband, the Ivy-League-bound teenage son, and the big house in the Nashville suburbs. But with one unthinkable social media post from her beloved child, could it all fall apart? Dealing with issues of class, money, and race, All We Ever Wanted is the book everyone will be talking about." -- PopSugar

"This complex and layered novel will give you all the feels." -- Brit + Co

"This thought-provoking novel follows two Nashville families as they struggle with the fallout from a horrible incident. . . . It's one of Giffin's most topical, gripping books yet." -- Good Housekeeping


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Giffin's stellar latest (following First Comes Love), set in Nashville, concerns the wealthy Brownings and the scandal that ensues when their Princeton-bound son Finch appears to have taken a racy photo of Lyla Volpe, a high school sophomore on scholarship at the prestigious Windsor Academy. Nina's husband Kirk grew up with money, and they're richer than ever now that he's sold his tech company. Though he's confident and charming, Nina's starting to question his character-especially when Kirk doesn't want high school senior Finch to face the consequences of the photo of Lyla unconscious and exposed at a party. Though it's not revealed until later in the book who took the photo, it gets widely spread around, and the fallout is substantial. Nina wants Finch to be a good person above all, and she bristles when she learns that Kirk tried to bribe Lyla's father, Tom, to drop the issue with the school. Nina tries to right things with Tom, a carpenter who also drives an Uber to make extra cash. Tom has a huge chip on his shoulder that's exacerbated by the stresses of single parenthood, but he finds himself liking Nina despite her wealth. Meanwhile, Finch starts dating Lyla and tells her that he's covering for the person who really took the photo. Things come to a head as Nina attempts to find out whether her son is honorable or as untrustworthy as his father. Giffin's plot touches on social class and misogyny while delivering an excellent page-turning story. This satisfying novel will appeal to readers looking for a nuanced, thoughtful take on family and social dynamics. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

New York Times bestselling author Giffin (First Comes Love, 2016) tackles the topics of race, sexual assault, and class in her latest. Nina Browning is the crème de la crème of Nashville high society beautiful, smart, and married to one of the richest men in the city. Raised in middle-class Bristol, Nina hopes that she has instilled humble values in her teenage son Finch values that her old-money husband appears to lack. But when Finch is accused of taking and sending an explicit photo of an unconscious Latina coed, Nina wonders if she has failed her son and, ultimately, herself. Using the points of view of Nina, Lyla (the girl in the photograph), and Lyla's father, Tom, Giffin weaves a story of what parents will do to protect their children, even if it's from themselves. But the story lacks authenticity and sincerity. The author's attempts to call out white privilege fall a little flat, which may disappoint new readers, though longtime fans will appreciate her beach-read style exploration of serious issues.--Wathen, LynnDee Copyright 2018 Booklist


Library Journal Review

The latest from Giffin (First Comes Love) tells the stories of Nina, a middle-aged, ultra-wealthy philanthropist, and 16-year-old Lyla, a scholarship student at the exclusive private school that Nina's son Finch attends. At a party, Lyla passes out drunk and an explicit, racially charged photo of her circulates. Finch is accused of taking the photo, resulting in his acceptance to Princeton being withdrawn. Sophomore Lyla has a crush on senior Finch and wants the whole thing dropped. Nina loves her son, but the situation brings up a long-buried memory of date rape from her university days, so she sympathizes with Lyla and contacts her and her single father, Tom. As the story unfolds, it is not clear who actually took the photo, who sent it, who is guilty, and who deserves loyalty. Along the lines of William Landay's Defending Jacob, with a parent who is horrified at what their child might have done but still loves them, the story delves further into sexual assault as well as issues of class and how much privilege accrues to the extremely wealthy. VERDICT A compelling family story that brings up plenty of issues ripe for book group discussions. [See Prepub Alert, 12/11/17.]-Jan Marry, Lanexa, VA © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

chapter one NINA It started out as a typical Saturday night. And by typical, I don't mean normal in any mainstream American way. There was no grilling out with the neighbors or going to the movies or doing any of the things I did as a kid. It was simply typical for what we'd become since Kirk sold his software company, and we went from comfortable to wealthy. Very wealthy. Obscene was the description my childhood best friend Julie once used--­not about us, but about Melanie, another friend--­after Melanie bought herself a diamond Rolex for Mother's Day and then offhandedly remarked at one of our dinner parties that homemade pottery from her kids "wasn't going to cut it." "She could feed a Syrian refugee camp for an entire year with that watch," Julie had groused in my kitchen after the other guests had departed. "It's obscene." I'd nodded noncommittally, hiding my own Cartier under the edge of our marble island, as I silently reassured myself with all the ways my watch, and therefore my life, were different from Melanie's. For one, I didn't buy the watch for myself on a whim; Kirk gave it to me for our fifteenth anniversary. For another, I had always loved when our son, Finch, made me presents and cards in his younger years, and was sad that those had become relics of the past. Most important, I don't think I ever flaunted our wealth. If anything, it embarrassed me. As a result, Julie didn't hold our money against me. She didn't know our exact worth but had a general sense of it, especially after she'd gone house hunting with me when Kirk was too busy, helping me find our home on Belle Meade Boulevard, where we now lived. She and her husband and girls were regular guests at our lake house and our home on Nantucket, just as she happily inherited my gently used designer hand-­me-­downs. Occasionally Julie would call Kirk out, though, not for being showy like Melanie but for having elitist tendencies. A fourth-­generation silver-­spoon Nashvillian, my husband grew up ensconced in a private-­school, country-­club world, so he'd had some practice at being a snob, even back when his money was merely old, and not yet obscene. In other words, Kirk came from a "good family"--­that elusive term that nobody ever came out and defined, yet we all knew was code for having old money and a certain well-­bred, refined taste. As in: he's a Browning. My maiden name, Silver, held no such status, not even by the standards of Bristol, the town on the Tennessee-­Virginia border where I grew up and Julie still lived. We were no slouches--­my dad wrote for the Bristol Herald Courier and my mom was a fourth-­grade teacher--­but we were squarely middle class, and our idea of living large was everyone ordering dessert at a nonchain restaurant. Looking back, I wonder if that may have explained my mom's preoccupation with money. It wasn't that she was impressed with it, but she could always tell you who had it and who did not, who was cheap and who was living beyond their means. Then again, my mom could pretty much tell you anything about anyone in Bristol. She wasn't a gossip--­at least not a mean-­spirited one--­she was simply fascinated by other people's business, from their wealth and health to their politics and religion. Incidentally, my dad is Jewish and my mother Methodist. Live and let live is their mantra, an outlook that was passed on to both my brother, Max, and me, the two of us embracing the more attractive elements of each religion, like Santa Claus and Seders, while punting Jewish guilt and Christian judgment. This was a good thing, especially for Max, who came out during college. My parents didn't miss a beat. If anything, they seemed more uncomfortable with Kirk's money than with my brother's sexuality, at least when we first began to date. My mother had insisted that she was just sad I wouldn't be getting back together with Teddy, my high school boyfriend, whom she adored, but I sometimes sensed a slight inferiority complex, and her worry that the Brownings were somehow looking down on me and my family. To be fair, a half-­Jewish girl from Bristol with a gay brother and no trust fund probably wasn't their first choice for their only child. Hell, I probably wasn't Kirk's first choice on paper, either. But what can I say? He picked me anyway. I'd always told myself that he fell in love with my personality--­with me--­the same way I fell in love with him. But in the past couple of years I had begun to wonder about both of us, and what had brought us together in college. I had to admit that when discussing our relationship, Kirk often referenced my looks. He always had. So I'd be naïve to think that my appearance had nothing to do with why we were together--­just as I knew, deep down, that the patina and security of a "good family" had, in part, attracted me to him. I hated everything about that admission, but it was definitely on my mind that Saturday night as Kirk and I took an Uber to the Hermitage Hotel for about our fifth gala of the year. We had become that couple, I remember thinking in the back of that black Lincoln Town Car--­the husband and wife in an Armani tux and a Dior gown who were barely speaking. Something was off in our relationship. Was it the money? Had Kirk become too obsessed with it? Had I somehow lost myself as Finch grew older and I spent less time mothering him and more time in the role of full-­time philanthropist? I thought about one of my dad's recent remarks, asking why my friends and I didn't just skip the galas--­and give all the money to charity. My mom had chimed in that we might be able to accomplish "more meaningful work in blue jeans than black tie." I had gotten defensive, reminding them that I did that sort of hands-­on work, too, such as the hours I spent every month answering calls on Nashville's suicide helpline. Of course I hadn't admitted to my parents that Kirk sometimes minimized that kind of volunteering, insisting that I was better off "just writing the check." In his mind, a donation of dollars always trumped time; the fact that it came with more splash and credit was beside the point. Kirk was a good man, I told myself now, as I watched him take a swallow of the bourbon roadie that he'd poured into a red Solo cup. I was being too hard on him. On both of us. "You look fabulous," he suddenly said, looking over at me, softening me further. "That dress is incredible." "Thanks, honey," I said in a low voice. "I can't wait to take it off you," he whispered, so the driver wouldn't hear him. He gave me a seductive look, then took another drink. I smiled, thinking that it had been a while, and resisted the urge to tell him that he might want to slow down on the booze. Kirk didn't have a drinking problem, but it was a rare night that he didn't at least catch a red-­wine buzz. Maybe that was it, I thought. We definitely both needed to ease up on our social calendars. Be less distracted. More present. Maybe that would come when Finch went to college in the fall. "So. Who have you told? About Princeton?" he asked, clearly thinking about Finch, too, and the acceptance letter he'd just received the day before. "Other than family, only Julie and Melanie," I said. "What about you?" "Just the guys in my foursome today," he said, rattling off the names of his usual golf buddies. "I didn't want to brag . . . but I couldn't help myself." His expression mirrored the way I felt--­a mix of pride and disbelief. Finch was a good student, and had gotten into Vanderbilt and Virginia earlier that winter. But Princeton had been a long shot, and his admittance felt like a culmination and validation of so many parenting decisions, beginning with applying Finch to Windsor Academy, the most rigorous and prestigious private school in Nashville, when he was only five years old. Since then, we had always prioritized our son's education, hiring private tutors when needed, exposing him to the arts, and taking him to virtually every corner of the globe. Over the past three summers, we had sent him on a service trip to Ecuador, to a cycling camp in France, and on a marine biology course in the Galápagos Islands. I recognized, of course, that we were at a distinct financial advantage over so many other applicants, and something about that (especially the check we'd written to Princeton's endowment) made me feel a little guilty. But I told myself that money alone couldn't gain a kid admission to the Ivy League. Finch had worked hard, and I was so proud of him. Focus on that, I told myself. Focus on the positive. Kirk was looking at his phone again, so I pulled mine out, too, checking Instagram. Finch's girlfriend, Polly, had just posted a photo of the two of them, the caption reading: We're both Tigers, y'all! Clemson and Princeton, here we come! I showed the picture to Kirk, then read aloud some of the congratulatory comments from children of our friends who would be in attendance tonight. "Poor Polly," Kirk said. "They won't last a semester." I wasn't sure if he meant the distance between South Carolina and New Jersey or the mere reality of young love, but I murmured my agreement, trying not to think of the condom wrapper that I'd recently found under Finch's bed. The discovery was far from a surprise, but it still made me sad, thinking of how much he had grown up and changed. He used to be such a little chatterbox, a precocious only child regaling me with every detail of his day. There was nothing I hadn't known about him, nothing he wouldn't have shared. But with puberty came an onset of remoteness that never really cleared, and in recent months, we'd talked very little, no matter how hard I tried to break down his barriers. Kirk insisted it was normal, all part of a boy's preparation to leave the nest. You worry too much, he always told me. I put my phone back in my bag, sighed, and said, "Are you ready for tonight?" "Ready for what?" he asked, draining his bourbon as we turned onto Sixth Avenue. "Our speech?" I said, meaning his speech, though I would be standing beside him, offering him moral support. Kirk gave me a blank stare. "Speech? Remind me? Which gala is this, again?" "I hope you're kidding?" "It's hard to keep them all straight--­" I sighed and said, "The Hope Gala, honey." "And we are hoping for what, exactly?" he asked with a smirk. "Suicide awareness and prevention," I said. "We're being honored, remember?" "For what?" he asked, now starting to annoy me. "The work we did bringing mental health experts to Nashville," I said, even though we both knew it had much more to do with the fifty-­thousand-­dollar donation we'd given after a freshman at Windsor took her life last summer. It was too horrible for me to process, even all these months later. "I'm kidding," Kirk said, as he reached out to pat my leg. "I'm ready." I nodded, thinking that Kirk was always ready. Always on. The most confident, competent man I'd ever known. A moment later, we pulled up to the hotel. A handsome young valet swung open my door, issuing a brisk welcome. "Will you be checking in tonight, madame?" he asked. I told him no, we were here for the gala. He nodded, offering me his hand, as I gathered the folds of my black lace gown and stepped onto the sidewalk. Ahead of me, I saw Melanie chatting amid a cluster of friends and acquaintances. The usual crowd. She rushed toward me, giving me air kisses and compliments. "You look amazing, too. Are those new?" I reached up to her face, my fingertips grazing the most gorgeous chandelier diamond earrings. "Newly acquired but vintage," she said. "Latest apology from you know who." I smiled and glanced around for her husband. "Where is Todd, anyway?" Excerpted from All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.