“The One & Only” by Emily Giffin was a strange read. I’ve always enjoyed Emily Giffin’s writing and when I knew there was a new book coming out I was very excited about it. Life got the way it does and I hadn’t had a chance to read “The One & Only” even though I have had it in my possession for several months now. When I finally did pick it up I was a little surprised by how long it took me to get into the story; it was very different from her other novels.
The book opens on a funeral; Shea Rigsby‘s best friend just lost her mom. Shea and Lucy have been best friends since they were kids. Connie was a second mother (and a much more traditional one) to Shea, Lucy was her sister, and Coach was a father figure. It soon becomes clear that everyone loved Connie – her death was a huge blow to the whole town. The grieving widower is a highly acclaimed college football coach and his late wife was always in the games supporting the players, her husband, the college, and the town. In “The One & Only” everyone is trying to put their lives back together after losing such an important woman. The football season is off to a great start, everyone is trying to do better than their best to support Coach and honor his wife.
Shea has it pointed out to her that maybe she should make some changes in her life, push herself to be happy because that is what Connie would have wanted. She realizes that she is in a relationship that is going nowhere and in a job that also doesn’t seem to have a strong future. When Shea goes to break up with her boyfriend I found it interesting how she handled it. “I laughed, realizing that my strategy was backfiring. Miller really did crack me up, even when he wasn’t trying. He was so easy to be around. In over three years we hadn’t had a single fight, although I knew that said as much about my personality as about his. I avoided conflict at pretty much any cost.” (The One & Only, pg 42). This is a great example of how Shea Rigsby‘s mind works. You see this again and again. Shea puts herself in the position to be pushed around and taken advantage of. When she finally starts to stick up for herself those around her struggle to adjust. Everyone is taken aback when Shea decides to stop going with the flow.
SPOILER ALERT: I’M GOING TO BE GIVING AWAY QUITE A BIT OF THE STORY BELOW.
Shea seems to get her shit together the further into the story that you get. She goes after an amazing job that she lands against all odds, she gets away from Miller, and she starts dating a guy that has a future and seems to treat her right. At the same time, there are hints that she is actually yearning for someone else. This was just something that I couldn’t get behind. “I stopped a few yards away from Coach, overcome with a rush of pure joy. We were completely alone on a beautiful night, and I simply couldn’t imagine anything more exhilarating.” (The One & Only, pg 174). The guy that Shea is really in love with is Coach, they guy that helped raise her, whom lost his wife at the beginning of the book, her best friend’s dad. It had an ick factor to it.
It seemed like this book was going to go in a very different direction. Shea seemed to be building up on her strengths and really developing into a strong person. Then she quit the job that she loved with no prospects and ended up with the guy. It just kind of ended. Instead of it being about a woman that discovers her own abilities, as I thought it was headed, she just ends up with the guy that she loves. Nice and all, but not really what I had expected and frankly it was disappointing. Right as Shea seems to really be developing into a strong character, it’s just gone. She chooses her best friend over the man she loves (after an ultimatum) and then when her best friend gives her approval, she gets it all. But not the job, not anything that is just hers, it was almost a backwards progression. Is it really happily ever after for Shea? It seemed kind of empty.
Would I recommend this book? Not really. Not to most. Emily Giffin is a good writer and I enjoy getting lost in her works, but I just couldn’t get past how much Shea seems to give up in “The One & Only”. It went from being about a girl discovering her strengths to just being about a relationship that I found to be on the icky side.