On the surface, Emily Giffin’s The One and Only is a bit outside my usual reading comfort zone.
My wife lovingly teased that I was reading “romance” and “chick lit” as I read the book over the course of a couple of days, neglecting several other more “manly” novels like a Michael Connelly mystery and the latest installment from the Dresden Files.*
* It also earned me some strange looks when I picked it up on reserve at the library. Oh, how I wish my local library has self-serve reserves like other library sytems!
As I’ve stated before, I find it frustrating when we (readers, authors, marketers, book stores, libraries, etc) have to create such a niche for reading material. I often find myself wanting to create a section called “Really good stuff that you should take no shame in wanting to read.” I’d unreservedly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good story with interesting characters. I know I certainly enjoyed it a great deal and I don’t necessarily think I have to turn in my “guy card” for doing so.
Part of it could be that our protagonist, Shea Rigsby is a die-hard football fan. For as long as she can remember, Shea has been obsessed with the Walker football program. She can quote stats, recall players and analyze plays with the best of them. This has led to her staying in the small Texas town where she grew up so she can be close to the team, her family and her good friends, including the family of Walker’s legendary head coach.
It’s when the wife of the head coach passes away that the early 30’s Shea is given a moment to take a step back and assess her life and if she’s really happy or if she’s just passing time. That leads Shea to dump her boyfriend and begin pursuing her dream of becoming a sports writer. She also begins dating the superstar QB for the Dallas Cowboys, but it turns out she may have feelings for someone else in the picture.
I’ve read a couple of reviews that really call into question the romantic subplot of Shea developing feelings for the older Walker football coach. But I don’t necessarily understand these objections, other than the superficial ones related to the age gap between the two. Giffin’s development of this story works well and feels authentic, including Shea’s guilt over her feelings in the wake of the coach’s wife’s death and the fact that she’s been best friends with his daughter for years. It’s clear that Shea has always admired the coach and had a bit of a crush on him, but it’s not until well after his wife passes away that she begins to think he might be something more to her. Again, the journey that Giffin puts Shea on with her romantic life rang true to this reader. Certainly, we’ve seen a lot of couples overcome obstacles on the printed page and this one is no different than most.
What kept me from giving the book a full five stars is the fact that it felt like it needed a bit more time to develop a few things in the last quarter. The novel proceeds at a nice pace, with certain things developing in Shea’s life and then suddenly it seems to kick it up into a higher gear with about fifty pages to go and a lot to wrap-up. It feels as if the novel or Giffin started to run out of steam or is preparing for a sequel.
As for the issues of this being “chic lit” and “romance,” yes there are elements of both here. But the romance angle isn’t your standard bodice ripper with phrases like “love muffin” used so I think you’ll be OK if that’s a roadblock to your wanting to read this one. And if this is “chick lit” with a strong female protagonist who undergoes an interesting character arc all while loving football, then sign me up.