A special thank you to Random House and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Talented Emily Giffin
returns following (2014) The One and Only
with another gripping tale FIRST COMES LOVE
--the powerful bonds of family, and at the heart, being true to yourself. When you live for others, one day the bitterness will surface, and rear its ugly head. An avid fan of Giffin
(having read all her books, starting with her first to the latest), of sisters, marriage, motherhood, family, sibling struggles and challenges. From love, loss, forgiveness, and finding the courage to move on.People leave, disappoint, and die; however, love stands strong.The day after Daniel’s
twenty-fifth birthday and three days before Christmas. He was halfway through his third year of medical school at Yale and had just returned home to Atlanta, for the holidays bringing with him his girlfriend, Sophie, a beautiful upper crust Brit whom Daniel once called the most charming woman he had ever met. The two had been dating for more than a year; however, this was her first visit to Atlanta, as well as meeting his parents and sisters.Daniel was the golden child.
The firstborn. The older brother. A perfectionist. Sensitive and sentimental, quirky and kind. A tragic accident. A sliding on a patch of ice at the intersection of Moores Mill and Northside Drive, (Atlanta) less than two miles from their home. A truck hit his car at the corner. Where was he going the night
of the accident which took his life? Out for a burger, or more? Everyone has guilt. An accident which rocked their family, and indirectly caused their parents to divorce. The devastating aftermath.
They discovered years later there was more to the story the night Daniel died. More than one memory from Five Paces Buckhead (been there many times).
That night changed all their lives in ways they had never imagined. Now fifteen years later
the guilt and regrets begin to surface for the entire family. The what ifs. Choices made, their pain never ceased. Still reeling, regretting, wondering, what if. A family torn apart.
If Daniel had lived, he would have been saving lives, practicing medicine, happily married to Sophie, father of two or three children, turning forty. He understood nothing was as important as family. Love comes first. Everyone had pictured perfection in his future, now shattered. Elaine and Rob
(attorney) parents, residing in Atlanta. A broken marriage since the death of their son. A dad who started drinking. Two broken remaining sisters – total opposites. They never got along before their brother’s death, and now it seems the tension is exacerbated.
The mother is planning a 15 year anniversary in memory of Daniel. Something which occurred in the past. Good or bad, a date to remember. Tensions are high. Stirring up old emotions. Will they invite their father, who has a new girlfriend, Marcia. She wants to include Sophie. The woman they have not seen since Daniel’s death. Closure. What is her life now? Did she move on? Alternating voices,
readers hear from both sisters. They both despise one another. Keeping Secrets. Meredith,
a lawyer, in Atlanta married to Daniel’s childhood best friend, Nolan for almost seven years. Mother to daughter, Harper. She was hardworking and diligent, and more of a loner. She is very unhappy. An introvert. She loved arts. She wanted to stay in New York. She is judgmental and miserable.
She thinks her Josie, sister is self-centered and a drama queen. She loves her daughter, Harper; however, she is really not all that maternal. Nolan is a constant source of both comfort and sadness to her dad. What really drew the couple together in the beginning?
“Grief is a mystery to be lived through, not a problem to be solved.”
Meredith feels she is the child who has not screwed up. The strong one. She is even unsure of her marriage and how they were thrown together due to the death of her brother. Nolan was her brother’s best friend. A fixture in the family. Love? Now she is second guessing her entire life. What about her plays, Broadway, the theater? Lost dreams. She is bitter. She put her plans on hold.
She kept thinking Will and Josie would get married and have the grandchildren. She could follow her heart. But it did not happen. She had married Nolan, the family business in Atlanta. Her future turned into what she had imaged for her sister. No New York.
Was she really selfless and noble putting her parents first, or was she spineless? She had been determined to be their parent’s stable- the successful child; the salve, on their still open wounds. She wanted their family to be normal again. Meredith views Josie as the extrovert, party gal, and in some ways she is jealous of her, down deep. She does what she wants. Meredith and Nolan bought the family house from her mother in Atlanta. Everything to make the family seem perfect. Is she the real coward?
Classic Josie, calling shots, making demands, creating drama. Why couldn’t she be happy for her sister wanting to have a baby, even though in an untraditional way?Josephine (Josie)
is a first grade teacher in Atlanta, and grad of University of Georgia--wants more than anything to be a mother. She is more free-spirited. At age 37 she has no prospects for marriage or even dating, so she is seriously thinking of going the donor route. She is now going through profiles to pick the perfect one. She also has a roommate hipster, Gabe (they are best friends) and a big support for her. They click. It is time for a new school year. New children. Excitement. Fourteen years of teaching, she loves it. She is fun, energetic, and creative. She thinks her sister is uptight and judgmental. To make matters more stressful,
her old boyfriend and the man she was to marry, Will’s daughter is in her class at school. He is married to the perfect wife, the perfect daughter and younger son. Edie Carlisle, the firstborn of her most significant ex, Will Carlisle. They broke up eight years ago (long story behind this), and she is still not over him, completely. He shattered her world. He dumped her right before he married Andrea. The woman she has stalked. She hated herself for being mesmerized with her every move and shame at the same time.
Now she has to see the perfect family and the daughter every day; as a reminder of what she could have had. However, she likes the little girl. Now, Mrs. Will Carlisle volunteers to be room mom. Why does she have to be so nice? From Match.com
to a physical therapist named Pete, sperm donor decisions, and a strong desire to be a mom, Josie carefully makes decisions. Shop. Look. Research.
Instead of her being the flighty one there is a role reversal, when Meredith starts second guessing herself, her life, marriage and career.
A drunken night so long ago. Survivor’s guilt. Everything had come back to Daniel. The fairy tale life. Especially in the South. People fake things so much. Put on a happy face and show off your perfect life. (so true).
Josie was definitely a better communicator than her sister Meredith. Giffin once again
gets to the heart of the matter. I love the way my top three chick lit authors, Emily Giffin, Sarah Pekkanen, and Jennifer Weiner
have taken readers from women in their 20s, 30s, and now 40s. From single, dating, to marriage, divorce, motherhood, siblings, and family. And best of all,
LOVE the Atlanta familiar settings! Where I spent my most memorable 30s, 40s, 50s—(happily divorced) with most of my friends in late their twenties and early thirties. Having lived in Vinings, Buckhead and Midtown, over the years and working in the media business, I have been to every restaurant and bar, from Bistro Nikos to Five Paces,
mentioned in the book. On a personal note:
I have to say, Blue Ridge Grill
is my favorite, (near my house) there have been many gals night out, dates, and good times on the sunporch (my favorite spot), solving all our problems over appetizers, cocktails, and great company. Plus plenty of late nights and wee hours of the morning having breakfast atOK Café,
across the street after a night out on the town.
I also love Blackberry Farm
(TN) where I have had the pleasure of many scrumptious weekends. If you have never been there, a rare treat! All these spots bring back my Atlanta memories. I was laughing so hard about Johnny’s Hideaway.
None of us would be caught dead in the place, back in my Atlanta days---I had to pick up a friend there one night and could not wait to get out. Definitely a meat market for the "over the hill" gang—Cheesy; and I do mean old with lots of spandex. Giffin described it perfectly. A great read,
mixed with wit and emotion! Gabe was my favorite character. Sometimes it takes, someone outside the family to see things clearly- the glue.
"When you are being true to yourself, you are completely honest with what you feel, deeply value, and desire. It also means communicating your feelings wholeheartedly both with yourself and others, allowing your truth to flow through you and into the world."