Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

The latest book by Emily Giffin, Heart of the Matter, delves into the dynamics of what can happen with a chance encounter and how seemingly small things can completely change lives.

Stay at home mom Tessa Russo’s days are spent with her two young children while her husband, Nick, a world renowned pediatric plastic surgeon, works long hours which keeps him away from his family much of the time.  While celebrating their anniversary at a five-star restaurant, Nick receives a call that will completely alter their future as a couple.  A five year old boy, Charlie Anderson, has been burned on his hands and face at a birthday party and Nick has been called to the hospital to treat him.

In the days and weeks to follow, Nick develops a strong bond with Charlie’s single mother, Valerie, and with the boy.  With the days, nights and weekends in which they spend together watching over him through surgeries and rehabilitation, their relationship slowly turns romantic.  Nick’s wife Tessa eventually learns of the affair after his admission that he has just ended his relationship with Valerie.  Tessa’s decision about her future is not easy or simple, and Giffin’s characters have true depth and thoughfulness in the decisions which they make.

Each chapter of Heart of the Matter alternates between Tessa’s and Valerie’s voices and this technique makes each of the two women multi-layered, complex and real. Giffin has a talent for creating empathetic female characters which the reader truly cares about.  Heart of the Matter is Giffin’s fifth book and each of her previous novels conquer similar themes – women at a juxtaposition in their lives as well as the complex choices which go with them.

The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine

After 48 years of marriage, Joseph has asked Betty for a divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences”. This confuses Betty because of course they have “irreconcilable differences” – what did that have to do with divorce? And thus begins a tale of manners and family ties, heartbreak and second chances.

To save money Betty and her two adult daughters – each facing life changing situations of their own – move into a dilapidated cottage on Long Island, loaned to them by an benevolent cousin. It is here that each woman faces her new future, making connections to their neighbors, town and each other that are both unexpected and comforting.

The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine is a decidedly modern look at society, inspired by the novels of Jane Austen (you’ll recognize a lot of Sense and Sensibility and a bit of Pride and Prejudice here) Witty, thoughtful, sharply observant, this is a novel of picking up the pieces and starting anew.

Five Love Langauges

5 love languagesThis book by Gary Chapman was recommended to me by my niece, who found it a helpful reference for her young family.  It’s a quick read, plus Chapman has multiple versions out on the same topic.  Similar to Jack Canfield’s Chicken Soup for the Soul series, he has editions especially designed for men, singles, teens, children, etc. — you get the picture.   The one I actually read was God Speaks Your Love Language.

The premise is simple enough.  According to Chapman, who has more than 30 years of counseling experience, “each person has a primary love language.”   We tend to be drawn to people who speak our primary language because we feel they are meeting our basic need to be loved.  Conversely, if a person does not speak our primary language, we may question whether they really do love us or not.

The five love languages are:

1) Words of Affirmation.  Most people love to hear the words, “Good job!” Some individuals, however, crave that affirmation and are also easily hurt by critical comments.

2) Quality Time.  This is about spending time one-on-one, giving undivided attention.

3) Gifts.  These tend to be tangible expressions, such as birthday presents or even money.

4) Acts of Service.  The list is endless– mowing the lawn, washing the dishes, cooking a meal.

5) Physical Touch.  Hugging , high fives and back rubs would all fit here.

Okay, so now that you know the basics — What’s your primary love language?

The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook

Wildwater Walking ClubThis is the perfect vacation/summer/beach book – light and fun but not too trashy (so you don’t have to be embarrassed to be seen with it) with a fun story line and a simple message – invest in yourself, it’s your most valuable asset.

The Wildwater Walking Club opens with Noreen Kelly taking an early buyout from her company and then discovering that she’s been dumped by her boyfriend the same day. Suddenly, she has time on her hands and has no idea what to do with it. Noreen has always defined herself by her job and her relationships, hardly taking the time to look at the world around her. Sad and lonely, she goes for a walk. Which eventually leads to longer walks, meeting new friends, starting adventures she never would have tried before, finding herself.

This charming story of women’s friendships, loyalty and getting involved will make you happy and hopeful – and it might just inspire you to put on a pair of walking shoes and start walking!