Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Review: If You Only Knew

If You Only Knew
By Kristan Higgins
Published: August 25, 2015

The drama, hilarity and tears of sisterhood are at the heart of the thoroughly captivating new novel by New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins—a funny, frank and bittersweet look at marriage, forgiveness and moving on 

Letting go of her ex-husband is harder than wedding-dress designer Jenny Tate expected…especially since his new wife wants to be Jenny's new best friend. Sensing this isn't exactly helping her achieve closure, Jenny trades the Manhattan skyline for her hometown up the Hudson, where she'll start her own business and bask in her sister Rachel's picture-perfect family life…and maybe even find a little romance of her own with Leo, her downstairs neighbor, a guy who's utterly irresistible and annoyingly distant at the same time. 

Rachel's idyllic marriage, however, is imploding after she discovers her husband sexting with a colleague. She always thought she'd walk away in this situation, but her triplet daughters have her reconsidering her stance on adultery, much to Jenny's surprise. Rachel points to their parents' perfect marriage as a shining example of patience and forgiveness; but to protect her sister, Jenny may have to tarnish that memory—and their relationship­—and reveal a family secret she's been keeping since childhood. 

Both Rachel and Jenny will have to come to terms with the past and the present and find a way to get what they want most of all.

My review:

Jenny is amiably divorced from Owen, a plastic surgeon whose patients are people with deformities rather than the wealthy seeking perfection. Owen's new wife Ana-Sophia is a philanthropist who founded a company to provide water to poor villages and she helped dig the wells herself. She is also pregnant with Owen's child (he claimed to not want children when married to Jenny). Poor Jenny is a doormat and Owen and Ana-Sophia are too nice for her to say no to when they continually invite her into their lives. The one good thing in Jenny's life is her career and her new wedding dress design business. Her new neighbor is also driving her hormones wild while at the same time putting the brakes on the possibility of a romance, something Jenny hopes to change. 

I liked Jenny but at times she annoyed me, especially her overactive imagination. When she meets a handsome man, she immediately starts planning their happy future in her mind. There is one funny scene where she meets a good looking guy reading a novel in the park. She stops to chat and is mentally thinking of their wedding when his boyfriend (or was it husband) showed up. Even when her neighbor/landlord Leo initially discourages her from pursuing a relationship with him, she doesn't give up. I wouldn't mind so much if she was just tenacious. It was her rambling imagination that triggered my annoyance. Thankfully that got better as the book went on.

Rachel is a more sympathetic character. She is a stay at home mom with young triplet daughters who are sweet but definitely a handful. Rachel is happy in her life and her marriage. She works hard to be a good wife and mother and she believes she is doing a good job till she stumbles on a disturbing text her husband receives. It is obvious to the reader what is going on immediately but it takes Rachel some time to accept the truth about her husband's infidelity. She also has to decide if she can forgive and trust her husband again and move on or if it is time to let go.  

Rachel and Jenny have differing views on marriage based on how they view their parents' own marriage and their childhood. Rachel sees their marriage as an ideal to live up to. Jenny sees things a little more realistically having been privy to some of her parents' secrets and she has been keeping a big one from Rachel to spare her. Their dad died when they were young and she doesn't want to damage Rachel's memory of what their family was like by exposing the cracks beneath the surface. 

Since their father died, their mother has become a harbinger of doom always in competition with her daughters and eager to outdo them in misery whenever something goes wrong. This makes Jenny keep her distance and though Rachel and her mom were always close she is avoiding her more and more as her marriage is strained. If her mother knew the truth it would only make things worse.

I like how the novel doesn't just focus on the romantic drama. There are sibling issues and family drama with Rachel and Jenny's mother as well as career issues as Jenny deals with a very difficult and demanding client and Rachel considers reentering the workforce. The book looks at what women want out of life and if they can have it all. It is interesting that Jenny has an amazing career but she feels unfulfilled without a husband and children so she initially idealizes Rachel and her family. Rachel on the other hand while loving her husband and children starts to wonder about her own choices in the wake of her marital problems. Their mom has a career but in a way she has made being a widow her profession.

This was pretty different from what I've come to expect from Kristan Higgins. There was still some humor but this was definitely in the realm of what is described as "women's fiction" rather than her usual humorous contemporary romance. There is some romance as well with the relationship between Leo and Jenny that finally takes off. I liked If You Only Knew and I think readers who appreciate the works of Jennifer Weiner would like it too.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley


  1. Great review, Christina! This was my first Higgins novel and like you said, it's a departure from her usual. I definitely want to check out her other novels now. I thought this book was a fun beach read --- so much family drama! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  2. I loved KH's transition into women's fiction. Glad you enjoyed it too, both Rachel and Jenny frustrated me at times for different reasons but I hope we get more from them. Do you think it will become a series?

  3. This definitely sounds different from what she typically writes but it does sound good


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