Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Are you a Josie or a Meredith? Just one of the questions you'll be thinking about after a ticketed evening with Emily Giffin, author of "First Comes Love," Friday, July 15, 7 pm, at Boswell.

Are you a Josie or a Meredith?

That's the obvious question that comes to mind while reading Emily Giffin's new novel, First Comes Love. It's the story of two sisters who've gone in two directions with their life. Josie is a single school teacher, while Meredith is a married lawyer. They made some rash decisions in the wake of a family tragedy, and now, 15 years later, they are rethinking their choices.

Emily Giffin exploded onto the book scene with her first novel Something Borrowed in 2004. Her books, a mix of drama and comedy, have struck a nerve with many readers. I'm not sure, but I think she came to Next Chapter when they were around. But this Friday, July 15, is our first event with Ms. Giffin and I thought it would be a good idea to get a handle on the book by reading about 50 pages, especially after several of our regulars told me what fans they were of Giffin's work.

So I start the book. The next thing I knew, I was on page 260. I'm not a particularly fast reader, but Giffin sure knows how to write a compelling plotline. Josie and Meredith's alternate stories left me alternately connecting with Meredith and perturbed at Josie, followed by a complete reversal. And I've seen my friends go through these kinds of crises - we make decisions at some point in our life, and later, when we see options disappearing, we second guess them. What is it about lawyers that so many of them know how to write compelling novels, whereas I don't recall people talking about briefs as being unputdownable?

Here's another Boswell recommendation, from Sharon K. Nagel: "Emily Giffin's latest is the story of two sisters, Josie and Meredith, who lose their much-loved older brother in a tragic accident when they are young. Their already tenuous relationship becomes even more contentious and strained. The novel is set in alternating chapters: Josie's voice, and then Meredith's. On the 15th anniversary of their brother's death, long-buried secrets and feelings come to the surface. I greatly enjoyed my first reading of this very popular author."

While First Comes Love is only moderately place-y, I definitely drew on my one visit to Atlanta, where I went beyond downtown and the landmarks to visit several neighborhoods and local haunts. I am glad I got to Dante's Down the Hatch (the suburban one, the downtown one was long gone) before it closed, but now I regret not visiting Johnny's Hideaway, another local icon that becomes a plot point--it's a nightclub where they mostly play Neil Diamond. I wonder if Giffin ever set a scene at Your Dekalb Farmers Market. I still dream about that place.

And when Nolan takes Meredith to Blackberry Farm, and they talk about how expensive it is, let us assure you, it's expensive! Sharon looked it up.

So one of the wonderful things about Emily Giffin coming to Wisconsin is that her sister Sarah lives in the town of Merton and will be there at the event. You can read all about that in Jim Higgins's great profile in the Journal Sentinel. Giffin has an homage to Wisconsin (where she vacations annually) in Pete, her last ditch online match. He asks Josie to meet at Brio, a chain Italian restaurant, a little trick to weed out pretension. I thought that was pretty Wisconsin. Go Pete!

The big question of course is that if this is a sister story, and Emily and Sarah are sisters. Which is Meredith and which is Josie. So it turns out her mom says they are both kind of Meredith. But I think I might be a Josie...mostly.

As you know, our ticketed event with Emily Giffin is this Friday, July 15, 7 pm. Tickets are $28, including admission and a copy of First Comes Love, currently the #1 hardcover fiction book on The New York Times Bestseller List. If you've already bought the book, we do offer a Boswell gift card of $20 in lieu of the book. And yes, we'll have extra copies of the book for sale, as well as some backlist titles. And yes, it's okay to bring your other Giffin titles from home to get signed. Ms. Giffin has personalized sticky notes and bookmarks, as well as several First Comes Love tee shirts to give out (pictured above right).

Our event is cosponsored by Milwaukee Magazine, and Giffin will be introduced by editor-in-chief Carole Nicksin. See you there!

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