Heart of the Matter

Overview

A powerful, provocative novel about marriage and motherhood, love and forgiveness.

Tessa Russo is a stay-at-home mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon. Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six-year-old Charlie—a boy who has never known his father. Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, they are strangers to one another and have little in common, aside from a fierce love for their children. But one night, a tragic ...

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Heart of the Matter

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Overview

A powerful, provocative novel about marriage and motherhood, love and forgiveness.

Tessa Russo is a stay-at-home mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon. Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six-year-old Charlie—a boy who has never known his father. Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, they are strangers to one another and have little in common, aside from a fierce love for their children. But one night, a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined.

This is the moving, luminous story of good people caught in untenable circumstances. Each being tested in ways they never thought possible. Each questioning everything they once believed. And each ultimately discovering what truly matters most.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Nick Russo is a pediatric plastic surgeon whose work often takes him away from his home and his own two children, but he becomes so absorbed in a new case that threatens to destroy his marriage. The doctor's devotion to six-year-old burn victim Charlie Anderson develops into an extramarital affair with his single mom, Valerie, an attorney. Meanwhile, Russo's stay-at-home wife, Tessa, is leading what appears to be a charmed suburban life. And then, an accident jolts these two women together in an unforeseeable way. An enthralling character study by the author of Love the One You're With and Something Blue. (Hand-selling tip: Heart of the Matter is rendered artfully through the alternating voices of the two main female characters.)

Kristi Lanier
Amid all the angst, Giffin displays her trademark ability to capture the complexities of human emotions while telling a rip-roaring tale. She maintains a will-they/won't-they tension and supplies enough clucking friends and relatives to keep it spicy.
—The Washington Post
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Giffin excels at creating complex characters and stories that ask us to explore what we really want from our lives.
From the Publisher
"[A] modern-day Jane Austen." —Vanity Fair

 

"In HEART OF THE MATTER, [Giffin] again uses her great wit and gift of storytelling to weave a tale that’s nuanced, empathetic and, at times, heartbreaking. Matters of the heart are always complicated, and Giffin deftly shows you why." —Associated Press

"Giffin’s latest opens with one of the more haunting scenes in recent memory [and] towards the end things are so tense that the pages pop with each turn." —People

"With [an] adulterous path outlined, Giffin could easily take sides. But she doesn't. Instead, she alternates between Tessa's and Valerie's points of view, dissecting the feelings and insecurities that can dismantle even the most intelligent people… Amid all the angst, Giffin displays her trademark ability to capture the complexities of human emotions while telling a rip-roaring tale." —Washington Post

"Giffin’s calling card has always been her ability to delve into the workings of relationships. But in her latest book the best-selling novelist probes deeper than ever… With intelligence, humor and piercing insight, Giffin shows that in matters of love, it is possible to be right and yet so wrong." —Family Circle

"With realistic dialogue and a sharp depiction of relationships, Giffin crafts an emotional, effortless read." —More

"Giffin beautifully shows how quickly need becomes love…[and her] chronicle of fluid, almost casual marital disconnect is a powerful cautionary tale." —Boston Globe

"In HEART OF THE MATTER, Giffin delivers her best book yet. Once again she plays with the idea of point of view, but this time she wraps it into a single, tightly written narrative that creates an addictive page-turning sense of tension. [W]hat makes this novel special are the emotional depths to which Giffin takes her readers [and] the question of what the aftermath can possibly look like for these two likable characters is what keeps readers glued to Giffin's engaging tale." —Dallas Morning News

"There are no easy answers here, in a novel that is consistently engrossing right to the surprising finish." —Seattle Times

"Giffin’s latest novel delves deep into the all-too-tricky matters of the heart…this juicy read will make you feel like you’re sneaking a peek into your best friend’s diary." —Redbook

"Giffin's books are fast-moving, emotionally absorbing stories about female friendships, marriage and childbirth." —Chicago Tribune

"Even as you steel yourself for [the book’s pivotal moment], it's hard to read when it happens, which is what sets this book a step above so many others...[Giffin] creates characters in Tessa, Valerie and Nick who are believable and mostly well-intentioned even as they make obviously bad choices." —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"As HEART OF THE MATTER takes its time documenting the inexorable slide toward an affair, the slow-moving sequence of events rings true." —Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Emily Giffin’s newest novel is a little painful to read. OK, a lot painful to read. As a reader, you find yourself in the oddly painful position of rooting for two women who can't both get what they want. Your heart breaks for both of them [but] you'll know that feeling this kind of emotional torture with and about characters is a good thing. It's simply cathartic." —Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

"Unfolding from Tessa and Valerie’s alternating viewpoints, [HEART OF THE MATTER] will draw you in with beautifully complex characters who come across as nuanced and as flawed as people in real life. Giffin avoids victimizing Tessa while allowing empathy for Valerie, underscoring that all of us are capable of making mistakes that hurt those we love most." —VIV magazine

"[A] brutally honest book in that it never falters in its depiction of hope and heartache. Emily Giffin is a talented writer who re-gifts her talent in the books she creates…With HEART OF THE MATTER she turns up the heat and gives us her best novel yet." —Huffington Post

"Giffin punctures suburban trophy mothers and private school privilege, rising above the often-shallow chick fray with a gimlet-eyed skepticism for the traps modern women fall into." —The Atlantan

"Giffin’s talent lies in making her characters believable and relatable, and readers will be enthralled by this layered, absorbing novel." —Booklist ("Starred Review")

"HEART OF THE MATTER is a messy, complicated, often uncomfortable portrait of a marriage—and two families—in crisis. But it has everything readers love about Emily Giffin’s books: the heart, the empathy, the truth." —Bookpage

"Questions of infidelity fill this book, which follows the life of pediatric surgeon Nick Russo through the eyes of Tessa, his wife, and Valerie, the mother of one of his patients, whom he is tempted to have an affair with. Transforming the women into more and more sympathetic characters with each turn, HEART OF THE MATTER is an emotional tale of temptation, redemption and letting love lead the way." —Woman’s Day

"Emily Giffin continues her streak of penning summer must-reads with HEART OF THE MATTER." —New York Metro

"A touching story about marriage, fidelity and two mothers who find themselves inextricably linked." —New York Family

"Though Emily Giffin has examined relationships in all of her novels, she reaches a new level of intensity with HEART OF THE MATTER. With characters who are older and wiser than those in her past books, she is able to examine the more serious topics that present themselves within long-term relationships and parenthood. Her characteristic flowing style of writing makes this book no different from her others: one you won’t want to put down." —Woodbury magazine

Library Journal
Tessa Russo is a Boston stay-at-home mother of two young children. Her husband, Nick, is a busy pediatric surgeon. Valerie Anderson is a single mom of six-year-old Charlie. Their lives intersect when Charlie is badly burned at a sleepover party, and Nick becomes his doctor. Much to Nick's chagrin, Tessa is on the fast track to joining the inner circle of a clique of uptight and wealthy suburban moms; meanwhile, he increasingly devotes himself to Charlie and Valerie. His relationship with Valerie builds gradually as they fool themselves into believing that they are just friends. That is, until Tessa goes out of town. VERDICT Best-selling author Giffin's fifth novel (after Love the One You're With) is fast paced and well written; readers will be eager to find out how the relationships evolve and how the characters deal with the messy reality of adultery. Sure to be in demand by fans of women's fiction. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/10; 1.3 million-copy first printing.]—Karen Core, Detroit P.L.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250043733
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 6/3/2014
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 391,721
  • Product dimensions: 4.12 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Emily Giffin

Emily Giffin is the author of five New York Times bestselling novels, including Something Borrowed, which has been adapted as a major motion picture. A graduate of Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia School of Law, she lives in Atlanta with her family. To learn more, visit www.emilygiffin.com.

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Read an Excerpt

TESSA:

Whenever I hear of someone else’s tragedy, I do not dwell on the accident or diagnosis, or even the initial shockwaves or aftermath of grief. Instead, I find myself reconstructing those final, ordinary moments. Moments that make up our lives. Moments that were blissfully taken for granted—and that likely would have been forgotten altogether but for what followed. The before snapshots.

I can so clearly envision the thirty-four-year-old woman in the shower one Saturday evening, reaching for her favorite apricot body scrub, contemplating what to wear to the party, hopeful that the cute guy from the coffee shop will make an appearance, when she suddenly happens upon the unmistakable lump in her left breast.

Or the devoted, young father, driving his daughter to buy her first-day-of-school Mary Janes, cranking up Here Comes the Sun on the radio, reminding her for the umpteenth time that the Beatles are “without a doubt the greatest band of all time,” as the teenaged boy, bleary-eyed from too many late-night Budweisers, runs the red light.

Or the brash high-school receiver, full of promise and pride, out on the sweltering practice field the day before the big football game, winking at his girlfriend from her usual post at the chain-link fence, just before leaping into the air to make the catch nobody else could have made—and then twisting, falling headfirst on that sickening, fluke angle.

I think about the thin, fragile line separating all of us from misfortune, almost as a way of putting a few coins in my own gratitude meter, of safeguarding against an after happening to me. To us. Ruby and Frank, Nick and me. Our foursome—the source of both my greatest joys and most consuming worries.

And so, when my husband’s pager goes off while we are at dinner, I do not allow myself to feel resentment or even disappointment. I tell myself that this is only one meal, one night, even though it is our anniversary and the first proper date Nick and I have had in nearly a month, maybe two. I have nothing to be upset about, not compared to what someone else is enduring at this very instant. This will not be the hour I will have to rewind forever. I am still among the lucky ones.

“Shit. I’m sorry, Tess,” Nick says, silencing his pager with his thumb, then running his hand through his dark hair. “I’ll be right back.”

I nod my understanding and watch my husband stride with sexy, confident purpose toward the front of the restaurant where he will make the necessary call. I can tell, just by the sight of his straight back and broad shoulders navigating deftly around the tables, that he is steeling himself for the bad news, preparing to fix someone, save someone. It is when he is at his best. It is why I fell in love with him in the first place, seven years and two children ago.

Nick disappears around the corner as I draw a deep breath and take in my surroundings, noticing details of the room for the first time. The celadon abstract painting above the fireplace. The soft flicker of candlelight. The enthusiastic laughter at the table next to ours as a silver-haired man holds court with what appears to be his wife and four grown children. The richness of the cabernet I am drinking alone.

Minutes later, Nick returns with a grimace and says he’s sorry for the second, but certainly not the last, time.

“It’s okay,” I say, glancing around for our waiter.

“I found him,” Nick says. “He’s bringing our dinner to-go.”

I reach across the table for his hand and gently squeeze it. He squeezes mine back, and as we wait for our filets to arrive in Styrofoam, I consider asking what happened as I almost always do. Instead, I simply say a quick, simple prayer for the people I don’t know and then one for my own children, tucked safely into their beds.

I picture Ruby, softly snoring, all twisted in her sheets, wild even in her sleep. Ruby, our precocious, fearless firstborn, four going on fourteen, with her bewitching smile, dark curls that she makes even tighter in her self-portraits, too young to know that as a girl she is supposed to want what she does not have, and those pale aquamarine eyes, a genetic feat for her brown-eyed parents. She has ruled our home and hearts since virtually the day she was born—in a way that both exhausts me and fills me with admiration. She is exactly like her father—stubborn, passionate, breathtakingly beautiful. A daddy’s girl to the core.

And then there’s Frank, our satisfying baby boy with a cuteness and sweetness that exceeds the mere garden-variety-baby cute and sweet, so much so that strangers in the grocery store will stop and remark. He is nearly two, but still loves to cuddle, nestling his smooth round cheek against my neck, fiercely devoted to his mama. He’s not my favorite, I swear to Nick in private, when he smiles and accuses me of this parental transgression. I do not have a favorite, unless perhaps it is Nick himself. It is a different kind of love, of course. The love for my children is without condition or end, and I would most certainly save them over Nick, if say, all three were bitten by rattlesnakes on a camping trip and I only had two anti-venom shots in my backpack. And yet, there is nobody I’d rather talk to, be near, look at, than my husband, an unprecedented feeling that overcame me the moment we met.

Our dinner and check arrive moments later, and Nick and I stand and walk out of the restaurant into the star-filled, purple night. It is early October, but feels more like winter than fall—cold even by Boston standards—and I shiver beneath my long cashmere coat as Nick hands the valet our ticket and we get into our car. We leave the city and drive back to Wellesley with little conversation, listening to one of Nick’s many jazz CDs.

Thirty minutes later, we are pulling up our long, tree-lined driveway. “How late do you think you’ll be?”

“Hard to say,” Nick says, putting the car into park and leaning across the front seat to kiss my cheek. I turn my face toward him and our lips softly meet.

“Happy anniversary,” he whispers.

“Happy anniversary,” I say.

He pulls away, and our eyes lock as he says, “To be continued?”

“Always,” I say, forcing a smile and slipping out of the car.

Before I can close the door, Nick cranks up the volume of his music, dramatically punctuating the end of one evening, the start of another. As I let myself in the house, Vince Guaraldi’s Lullaby of the Leaves echoes in my head where it remains long after I’ve paid the babysitter, checked on the kids, changed out of my backless black dress and eaten cold steak at the kitchen counter.

Much later, having turned down Nick’s side of the bed and crawled into my own, I am alone in the dark, thinking of the call in the restaurant. I close my eyes, wondering whether we are ever truly blindsided by misfortune. Or, somehow, somewhere, in the form of empathy or worry or a premonition deep within ourselves, do we feel it coming?

I fall asleep, not knowing the answer. Not knowing that this will be the night I will return to, after all.

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