‘All We Ever Wanted’ – Emily Giffin

There’s no escaping the fact that this is a tough read, particularly when you stop to think about the implications.

Nina has got used to her lavish lifestyle. Through some shrewd business dealings her family are seriously wealthy, and that brings with it a certain amount of respect within their community. Her son, Finch, has just got into Princeton but that doesn’t prevent him doing something unbelievably crass which jeopardises everything he’s worked for.

Our first alert to the issue is mum being told by a ‘concerned’ friend (who you can tell is just loving it) that her son has taken a picture of a young girl from his school. The girl is clearly passed out, exposed and there’s a racist comment posted underneath. Immediately we want to know what comes next.

The novel doesn’t disappoint on that respect. We get a range of viewpoints so we can gauge the situation’s impact. Nina immediately shows concern for the girl, Lyla, and the emotional consequences of her son’s actions. His father, Kirk, believes that throwing money at the situation will resolve things. Lyla is embarrassed and wants to downplay things, believing her crush wouldn’t mean harm. Her father is angry, and wants to protect his daughter.

As we watch things unfold we can see just how devastating certain attitudes can be. As a parent it made me so worried. Just how much do we influence our children? What do we do if they make decisions at odds with our beliefs?

This is not a book that offers easy answers. No-one comes out of these events unscathed: and some are certainly more impacted than others. It made me angry, and desperately hoping that no son of mine ever feels it’s okay to support such attitudes.