The One and Only by Emily Giffin; 2014
I would like nothing more than to never think about or see this book ever again.
Emily Giffin’s books usually infuriate me, but I guess I appreciate her creating characters that deal with real moral dilemmas and mostly true-to-life problems and choices. And it’s an entertaining kind of infuriating – like, I would NEVER try to steal my best friend’s fiance, but it’s sort of fun to read about this girl doing it. Obviously there is something that keeps me reading her books. HOWEVER, The One and Only really pushed the envelope for me.
It’s difficult for me to write an honest review of this book without including some spoilers, so please be warned and GO NO FURTHER if you have an interest in reading this book spoiler-free.
The short of it is: Shea Rigsby is in her early thirties and is at a bit of a standstill. She’s lived in Walker, Texas her entire life, has had the same job in the Walker athletic department since she graduated from college (from Walker University, of course), and lives and dies by Walker football. #Walker. Her parents divorced when she was a kid and she was practically raised by her best friend, Lucy’s, family, the Carr’s; Lucy’s father is the revered coach of the Walker football team. Lucy’s mother, Connie, passes away from cancer on the first page, and her death propels Shea to reassess her life. She dumps her loser boyfriend, starts dating a star NFL quarterback, and gets a new job as a reporter on the Walker beat. All sounds good, right? Girlfriend really knows how to reassess her life.
WELL THEN SHEA DECIDES SHE’S IN LOVE WITH COACH CARR.
I think that Giffin asking her readers to get behind a girl falling for a man who is not only 20 years her senior BUT ALSO her best friend’s father AND ALSO a man who acted as a father figure to her for her entire life AND ALSO who is a recent widower who was madly in love with his past wife is asking WAY TOO MUCH. The age difference didn’t bother me so much as we’re really rubbing shoulders with incest, here. It’s unclear to me as a reader how Coach Carr went from being a father figure to suddenly being a “hot” older man. And, on the flip side, how did Shea go from being a second daughter to Coach Carr to being the woman he loved? CREEPY, to say the least – am I right? The fact that their physical intimacy never went farther from kissing (minus one moment where perhaps more was alluded to) also suggests to me that Giffin knew that the relationship would be too uncomfortable for her readers. So why go there at all? And when Shea accuses Lucy of being selfish when she tells Shea that dating her father would be a deal breaker for their friendship? Don’t get me started. At least she’s being honest, unlike our protagonist. Not to mention – totally reasonable request.
But, worse than all of that, the novel was flippant AT BEST in its handling of the serious problem of violence against women and the NFL. COMPLETELY, COMPLETELY outrageous. 1) That a woman could be a victim of domestic violence and then decide that a past victim of the same perpetrator was probably lying about rape and 2) to suggest that “looking the other way” when it comes to rape for the sake of a football team is okay, is, quite frankly, nauseating. The handling of this issue – and lack thereof – was so disturbing that it made my skin crawl WAY more than the weird fatherly-daughterly love interest.
Other major misfires:
- The One and Only felt WAY too similar to Friday Night Lights for me to really accept this as an original idea;
- I won’t even get into the overkill of the comparison between religion and football;
- coach calls Shea “girl” practically the entire book, which just made everything worse
- the NCAA investigation that drives the middle of the book has absolutely no resolution
So, I’ll rate this as a big fat “no thank you.”