Book Reviews

Book Review: All We Ever Wanted: A Novel

All We Ever Wanted: A Novel,

by Emily Giffin

Publication: Ballantine Books (June 26, 2018)


all we ever wantedAbout the book: 

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton.

Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenaged girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

**My Review**

So, I’m a bit late on this one, having downloaded it to my Kindle months ago. I’m not sure why I let it sit for so long because once I started this one, I was completely hooked. All We Ever Wanted tells the story of the wealthy, upstanding Nashville family, The Brownings. Kirk and his wife Nina are extremely proud when they learn that their son Finch has been accepted into Princeton. However, while at a charity gala one evening, they learn from one of the gossipy women in their circle that Finch has taken an inappropriate picture of a fellow student at his high-profile private school, and that it is spreading among the community like wildfire. Tom Volpe is a single Dad working extra jobs and doing his best to raise his teenage daughter, Lyla. She attends Windsor Academy with Finch thanks to financial aid and doesn’t exactly fit in with the rich and privileged students at the school, but when Finch’s photograph of Lyla has circulated around, Tom aggressively defends his daughter, demands repercussions for Finch’s actions, and finds a surprising ally in the process. 

I absolutely loved this novel. I mean, LOVED it. Emily Giffin’s characters were completely amazing – whether good or bad – and the main conflict of the novel is something that could happen to any parent. I can’t count how many times I have made comments such as, “my child would never do anything like that,” assuming that I had raised him/her “right” and they just wouldn’t think of doing this or that. In this novel, those assumptions are completely upset and proved to be untrue when the popular, wealthy, intelligent, and charming Finch takes a photo of Lyla and then captions it with a comment even more inappropriate than the photo itself. However, once the photo is shared and each family begins dealing with the aftermath and consequences, lines are blurred, desperate measures are taken to fix everything, and it essentially becomes a battle of morals and what is right and wrong. Add in several lies, omissions, some manipulation and you can guess how things go.

I would say that the major theme of the novel revolves around the fact that assuming things about others – whether loved ones or complete strangers – is a careless way of thinking and unfortunately, can lead to a great deal of disappointment, anger, and heartbreak. Nina not only learns things about her son and his morals that are surprising and disappointing, she also recognizes and/or finally faces things about her husband Kirk that she had not seen. Nina and Tom are the moral heroes in this story, Lyla is repeatedly a victim, Kirk learns nothing, and as far as Finch goes, I honestly don’t know if he learned anything from the experience but I don’t want to go into that because of spoilers. 

Faithful followers of my blog know that overall, I prefer romance or more light-hearted women’s fiction than novels such as this, but I cannot praise All We Ever Wanted enough. I think that parents will especially relate to this novel, but anyone that has ever stopped to wonder if their “perfect” life is truly “perfect” will most likely be fascinated by this novel. It’s a page-turner, there are several twists and surprises, but most importantly this one will get you thinking about things that are important. 

*Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for providing this review copy in exchange for my honest review!

Purchase All We Ever Wanted on Amazon!



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