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The Whole Golden World: A Novel

The Whole Golden World: A Novel

4.1 7
by Kristina Riggle

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Kristina Riggle, the acclaimed author of Real Life & Liars, returns with a thought-provoking novel inspired by real-life events

Seventeen-year-old Morgan Monetti shocks her parents and her community with one simple act: She chooses to stand by the man everyone else believes has exploited her—popular high school teacher TJ Hill. Quietly


Kristina Riggle, the acclaimed author of Real Life & Liars, returns with a thought-provoking novel inspired by real-life events

Seventeen-year-old Morgan Monetti shocks her parents and her community with one simple act: She chooses to stand by the man everyone else believes has exploited her—popular high school teacher TJ Hill. Quietly walking across a crowded courtroom to sit behind TJ, and not beside her parents, she announces herself as the adult she believes herself to be.

But her mother, Dinah, wants justice. Dinah is a fighter, and she believes with all her heart and soul that TJ is a man who took advantage of her daughter. He is a criminal who should be brought to justice, no matter what the cost to his family.

Rain, TJ's wife, is shocked that her handsome, loving, respected husband has been accused of a terrible crime. But has her desperation to start a family closed her eyes to the fault lines in her marriage? And can she face the painful truths about herself and her husband?

Told from the perspectives of these three remarkable women, The Whole Golden World navigates the precarious territory between childhood and adulthood, raising questions about love and manipulation, marriage and motherhood, consent and responsibility. It's a novel both shocking and unforgettable in its power.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Riggle’s latest (after last year’s Keepsake) follows high school senior Morgan Monetti’s affair with her married calculus teacher, T.J. Hill, and how it impacts several lives in the small town of Arbor Valley, Mich. Raised by emotionally absent high school principal Joe and his overbearing wife, Dinah (whose control issues stem from living with the fear of losing her now teenage special-needs twins), 17-year-old Morgan has always been treated as though she were older than she actually is. Feeling stifled by the idea of having to spend her college years near her family and hurt by being recently rejected by both her ex-boyfriend and a crush who turns out to be gay, Morgan begins confiding in her young, popular math teacher, whose insecurities have been exacerbated by his inability to conceive with his wife. Riggle shows how the inner turmoil of her characters eventually creates the situation at the heart of this novel. Dinah remains likable, despite frequently making excuses for her kids and always being ready for a fight. Though the author falters with the character of T.J., who comes off as a flat antagonist, the novel remains an entertaining read. (Nov.)
Caroline Leavitt
“Love, loyalty and the murky nature of the truth, are at the fracturing heart of this astonishing novel about culpability, desire, and the ways we choose to see our world. Just breathtakingly good.”
Priscille Sibley
“Kristina Riggle evokes characters so real that they are unforgettable in this compelling and absorbing story about predators, victims, and survival.”
Rebecca Coleman
“THE WHOLE GOLDEN WORLD is an engrossing coming-of-age story— a complex portrayal of the hazy line between youth and adulthood, vulnerability and strength. It is a captivating story from start to finish.”
Meg Donohue
“In The Whole Golden World, Kristina Riggle sets complex characters on a heart-wrenching collision course—the result is an engrossing and unflinching story about the ways our choices affect individuals, families, and entire communities.”
Tiffany Baker
“Kristina Riggle writes women’s fiction with soul.”
Sarah Pekkanen
“A stunning, ripped-from-the-headlines tale of the intersecting lives of three very different women. THE WHOLE GOLDEN WORLD showcases Riggle’s masterful ability to raise important questions about fidelity, deception, and truth - and make us question our own answers to them.”
“Riggle masterfully unfolds the families’ stories with just the right pace, tone, and drama, uncovering plenty of family secrets and emotional struggles without making it a soap opera. Fans of Jodi Picoult and Barbara Delinsky will devour this story.”
Kirkus Reviews
A teacher stands trial for his sexual relationship with a precocious high school senior who resists believing she is the victim since she pursued their affair. On the first day of TJ Hill's trial for sexual misconduct with his 17-year-old student Morgan Monetti, Morgan shocks the courtroom by leaving her parents' sides to sit behind the man she believes she loves. Is she the innocent victim of his abuse of power as her mother, Dinah, vociferously declares? Or is she a Lolita-ish vixen, as TJ's supportive wife, Rain, assumes? From the courtroom opening, Riggle (The Keepsake, 2012, etc.) cuts back to the start of the school year, when Morgan finds herself in TJ's calculus class. Mature for her age, Morgan has always been the dependable one. Dinah has concentrated her aggressive, sometimes-defensive maternal energy on Morgan's troubled younger twin brothers, while Morgan's father has poured his energy into his responsibilities as a vice principal at Morgan's high school. Taken for granted by her parents, bored by most of her peers and recently dumped by her boyfriend, Morgan finds herself confiding in her sympathetic teacher. As seen through Rain's eyes, TJ is going through his own difficulties: insecure about teaching calculus for the first time; ambivalent about Rain's desperate attempts to get pregnant; resentful and envious of his more successful brother. One night, a slightly drunk TJ lets a distraught Morgan hide from her friends in his car. There is the inevitable kiss followed by the inevitable assignations. Meanwhile, Rain, finally pregnant, is touched when TJ tearfully promises to be a better husband. Then, TJ and Morgan are caught together. TJ is arrested. The Monettis face escalating humiliation as Morgan, Rain and TJ hold their ground. At first, the "inspired by real events novel" is refreshingly ambiguous, but then Riggle, who gives everyone but TJ a voice, stacks the moral deck. Riggle writes about female family dynamics with a sure hand but stumbles awkwardly around TJ and the other male characters.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Kristina Riggle is a published short story writer and coeditor for fiction at the e-zine Literary Mama. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband, two kids, and dog.

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The Whole Golden World 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
anovelreview_blogspot_com More than 1 year ago
What a book. We hear stories in the news way to often about teacher/student 'relationships' more often than we should. I went into this novel pretty open minded. I really wasn't sure what to expect, wasn't sure how everything would play out. 17 year old Morgan crushes on her Math teacher, TJ Hill. He is good looking, youngish, and the 'fun' teacher always there to listen and take an interest in his students. Morgan is mature and a good student. She has been a huge help as a 'little mother' to her younger twin brothers. After a break-up with her boyfriend, Morgan begins to feel less connected to her fellow classmates. TJ is teaching a class that is really pressing him, while at home his wife, Rain is pushing him non-stop about having a baby. Morgan and TJ open up to one another, a inappropriate relationship ensues. Once the relationship is found out, Morgan's parents expect Morgan to believe she is a victim. They expect the entire town to believe she is a victim, but they are shocked to by reactions. Even Rain stands by her man, believing TJ is the victim. The story is told from the perspectives of Morgan, Diana (Morgan's mother), and Rain. I read the book from the perspective of former teenage girl, mother of a teenage girl, and as a wife. Riggle nailed all three perspectives. I really tried to relate to each character with the same perspective and I felt overwhelmed with mixed feelings. I mean TJ is guilty...but jail? One side was like oh heck yeah what a pervert, another side was like well...it's not like she is a kid, I mean she is almost a legal adult. For me the best part of the novel that really put the spotlight on the real truth is when Diana talks to the media. I won't give anything away, but she really puts it all in perspective. I found myself relating to each character on some level. With Morgan, I was a dumb teenager--I did find this a little harder now that I've gotten older, lol. Diana is trying to be a good mom, but clearly allowed too much of the caring for her twins on Morgan. Not only is Diana busy, she also tends to coddle her children (been guilty of this myself). She is not doing them any good. She works hard to make it all better. Rain, might be hard for some women to relate to. She is obsessed with her desire to get pregnant and her willingness to stand by TJ. I respected how Rain wanted everything to be ok, get back to normal. For me, the best part of the novel is the growth of each character. It's not immediate, they don't always see things right off the bat. However, over time they all open their eyes and begin seeing what others have told them. Those mixed feelings I had though a large part of the novel, they too changed...evolved. I believe Kristina Riggle didn't just tell a story, she really presses us to examine how we look at our young teens. I am highly recommending THE WHOLE GOLDEN WORLD!
Cuanam More than 1 year ago
*I received this book from Savannah Mae in exchange for an Honest Review* The copy of this book I was given is an ARC, so I will speak of no errors I may have or may not have found. Let me begin by saying that anyone that knows me, knows this is not typically the sort of book I would read. I don't know what made me tell Savannah Mae that I would review it, but whatever force there maybe had whispered in my ear, I'm glad they did. It's rare that a novel that comes along that makes you feel the things this one does. I was speaking with my friend Emilie earlier and telling her "I only have a hundred pages left of this book. I don't know if I have to mail it back to Savannah or not or I'd let you borrow it cause I think you'd love it." And every word was true. This story follows the lives of several people; Morgan, a seventeen year old high school senior; Dinah, her mother. TJ Hill, Morgan's calculus teacher; and Rain, TJ's wife. It's a story of scandal, betrayal, seduction, lies and love. Morgan and TJ begin to have an affair and are caught. The story bounces between the trial and the true events of the sordid affair. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I liked that the reader is able to sympathize which each main character. From Morgan believing she's an adult due to her mother being too busy with her younger twin brothers, to TJ actually believing things he lied about, to Rain's loyalty to her husband through all of it, to Dinah wanting to protect her daughter. The book will definitely grip the reader and not want to let go. I know I wished I had an entire to read it in one sitting and was sad every time I had to close it to get sleep due to my schedule. I know this story will stay with me for a while. I look forward to reading this author's other works and wish her much success. I give this book 5 of 5 paws
sneps More than 1 year ago
Excellent Story! We’ve all read the headlines of teacher and student having sex, adult male having sex with a minor…we probably even know a few people in our communities that have December/May relationships. So, what was this book so uncomfortable to read? It was because Kristina Riggle doesn’t give the reader a person to root for, an unsung hero that emerges, or even a happy ending. It’s a story with multiple layers, multiple stories from each character. The reader gets an inside perspective to the three main women in the story: Morgan (student), Rain (TJ’s wife), and Dinah (Morgan’s mother). The reader does get some glimpses into the psychological make-up of TJ, who feels unappreciated by his wife, less than by his brother and sister in law, and is a hero to one student: Morgan. The story is a slow read, sometimes I really resented Morgan’s father (the principal at the school), who was aloof and disconnected from his family and only cared about job promotion. This story really showed how much the family issues, struggles, parenting, keeping up with the home and being a family rests solely on the shoulders of the women. It is no wonder that Dinah looks to Morgan as a co-parent and Morgan sees herself as a peer/adult and doesn’t see the issue having a relationship with a 12 year older man, who also happens to be her teacher. She sees the lack of relationship and love between her parents and wants more. Each woman, including Morgan-who is a teen-but if you treat her as a an adult, then she’s an adult- have self esteem issues, issues of self worth/value, issues of feeling that they are in charge of their own fate and the men are simply accessories in their life. Aside from the bigger issue: teacher has sex with student, there are serious issues that a group could discuss: parenting responsibilities, gender roles, secrets, invalidation, respect, work issues, family/personal responsibilities, and culture/society norms & expectations. It’s a great book to read, certainly brought up a lot of issues that are worth discussing, and leaves the reader with lots of “food for thought” to chew on. Kristina Riggle is a brilliant writer, because she writes with layers and shows the flaws of each person, how they come together, and how they can grow from it. In shining a light to this fictional family, it certainly is a great segway into evaluating your own life. Most importantly, to always remember: nothing is ever as it appears.-BooksintheBurbs
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A book that allows each of the main characters a moment to share their part of the story which is key when approaching such a heavy subject that affects all of the players in two families - a young girl and her teacher enter into an inappropriate relationship and they are found out and must face the repercussions.   The story starts out at the beginning of the trial, but quickly takes the reader back in time to find out how the relationship started and how they ended up in a courtroom.  Like I said before, I loved that each character took part in narrating the story because tragedies like these affect more than the two people involved in the relationship, but also parents, spouses, siblings and friends and the author did a fantastic job of representing how each person felt the affects from this relationship.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LaFilleDuVall More than 1 year ago
Not a day seems to go by without a news story about a teacher, male or female, who makes the very unwise choice to become sexually involved with a student. This story is about such a choice and how it wreaks havoc on the families involved. One of the best parts of the story is the depiction of the male teacher, who has the body and experience of an adult but the emotional maturity of a teenage boy. The 18 year old student is well drawn as a frustratingly stubborn girl who is unwilling to accept that she may have been manipulated. The teacher's wife is a little too naïve to root for as a character; however, the story describes her role as someone who is simultaneously the one to blame for her husband's infidelity and the one forced to stand by her man while also being expected to assist the victim in a way that is very compelling. The way the town heaps scorn on the girl's family is also something that could come straight from today's headlines. "The heart wants what the heart wants" is a well-known quote that sums up the motivation for several characters. As a reader, I would have liked to know even more about what was going on in the teacher's mind, but I enjoyed the book and recommend it, especially to parents of teenaged girls.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Definitely kept you engrossed. Interesting perspectives from all characters. A quick read.