Ciara's Reviews > Heart of the Matter

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
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's review
Sep 01, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: crummy-chick-lit, read-in-2010
Read in August, 2010

two stars is a very charitable rating. it was tough to get into this book because i hated pretty much all the characters, even the children.

tessa is a mother of three, married to nick, a pediatric plastic surgeon. tessa used to be on course for a professorship somewhere, but decided to become a stay-at-home mom & spend more time with her kids. now she wonders if her minor domestic worries & repetitive stories about the kids are boring her husband, who seems to admire women with bigger aspirations.

nick is paged to the hospital one night to see what he can do for a little boy who fell into a campfire at a birthday party & burnt his face & hand. the little boy is the only child of a single mother, valerie. valerie is a lawyer who sends her son to the same prestigious private school tessa wants to send her kids to, even though valerie isn't wild about the snobbery of some of the other moms there. valerie feels an immediate connection with nick, which seems to be mutual...

...& this is where the book lost me. really? valerie is admiring foxy dr. nick while he's standing there telling her about how many skin graft surgeries her son is going to require? & nick is into her when he has a wife & two kids at home, & a little boy in a hospital bed requiring multiple surgeries? what are these people thinking?

valerie & nick begin an affair. at first it is primarily emotional--like that's any better than going to the physical level. tessa can tell that nick is more emotionally distant, that something is going on with him. one weekend when tessa goes to new york to visit her best friend, nick leaves the kids with a babysitter (what an awesome dad) & goes to valerie's place, where they finally do the deed & even exchange "i love you"s.

i really shouldn't have read any further. i hated all these characters. it seemed obvious that valerie was just looking for a daddy for her little boy, & i thought it was really sickening that she would set her sights on a married man who has a family of his own. i thought it was even more sickening that nick would sleep with her anyway, & even blow off the chance to take his own kids trick or treating in order to spend halloween with valerie's son. supposedly he does it because he feels bad that valerie doesn't have a partner & her son doesn't have a dad, but...fuck you & your pity, nick. couldn't any of these people look beyond their own libidos to see that there were quite a few innocent children in the mix that were going to get hurt no matter how this whole thing panned out?

& i also didn't really like tessa. i wished she would have been a little more straightforrward about her suspicions of nick. i wished her friends weren't so insipid. she does eventually confront nick & ask him if he's having an affair, & he denies it & treats her like she's insane for even asking. which, i will be blunt, is emotional abuse. lying to someone & making them feel like they're crazy & disgraceful for bringing their total valid concerns to you is emotional abuse. it undermines a person's trust in themselves. it really made me hate nick & wish he would get hit by a meteor. so when he confesses a few days later that he did have an affair, but it's over & he begs tessa to forgive him, i was proud of her for kicking him out. but i couldn't see any good ending to the book. if tessa kicks him out & goes on with her life...she has children that are going to suffer. if she looks the other way & lets nick stay for the sake of the kids, she is betraying herself, & the kids will feel that & be affected by it (plus nick won't have to face any consequences for his betrayal). if nick leaves tessa & goes back to valerie, then two characters i hate (valerie & nick) will find happiness together, & i hated them too much for that. if nick severs ties with valerie, her son suffers feelings of abandonment. giffin kind of wrote herself into a corner here.

which may be the point. in real life, cheating happens a lot & it's never all wrapped up neat & tidy with a pretty bow in the end. people get hurt & people make poor decisions that magnify that hurt for their loved ones. so maybe that's what giffin was going for here...but it would have worked a little better with more dynamic, interesting, likable characters.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I love reading your summaries because I love chick lit but don't have time to read it. Your summaries are probably more interesting then the actual book. I really want to know what happens at the end of this book. Does she let him back in the house?

Ciara yeah, i didn't include the ending because i've had some comments from people who are pissed off by spoilers. but here's what happens:

tessa decides to go visit her best friend in new york for a weekend. the first night she's gone, nick goes to valerie's house & they have sex & exchange heartfelt "i love you"s. he says he will call her the next day. but while tessa is in new york, some of her neighborhood friends call her to say they saw nick with valerie at valerie's child's school. tessa starts getting a really bad feeling, like nick is cheating on her. so she cuts her visit short & goes home. nick is surprised that she's home so soon, & even more surprised when she straight up asks him if he's having an affair. he denies it. he gets all crazy-making & tries to blame her, saying that he can't help but be more distant now that she quit her job & is just a boring old stay-at-home mom. what a jerk.

anyway, apparently tessa surprising him by catching on to his emotional & physical distance makes him think twice about what he's doing with valerie. he does not call valerie the day after they sleep together, & we get several chapters from valerie's perspective, all about how sad she is, how much she's worried about how her child will react to nick's sudden disappearance from their lives, etc etc. finally, ten days after they sleep together, nick calls her & asks her to meet him at the boston common, where he says he made a mistake with her & he needs to try to work things out with tessa.

he goes home & admits to tessa that he had an affair, but it's over. tessa kicks him out.

we then get many tedious chapters of tessa wondering how to proceed. she doesn't know where nick is & won't return his calls or agree to see him. this goes on for several weeks. she even makes him have a separate holiday celebration with the kids. finally, she sneaks off to meet valerie face to face, & valerie says something about how nick really loves tessa & not her, & when tessa gets home, she calls nick & invites him back. she decides to try to make the marriage work after all.

a little anti-climactic, but i think the story was kind of written into a corner. there was really no way to scrape a satisfying ending out of this morass.

message 3: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Thanks for filling in the details. That plot seems disappointing!

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