Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.
But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets.
Thoughtful, funny, and brilliantly observed, The One & Only is a luminous novel about finding your passion, following your heart, and, most of all, believing in something bigger than yourself . . . the one and only thing that truly makes life worth living.
So this book is, according to the ratings on GR, very divisive. Either 1 star or 5. Honestly, I LOVED IT. I do admit that at the beginning, about 1/4 through, I thought it would be going a certain way and I actually stopped reading for a while, but when I picked it up again and got back into it, I really couldn’t put it down. There were a lot of issues I had, including being surprised by a turn in the book that I should have seen coming, but I really liked the characters and wanted the best for them. I didn’t have to review this book, but I wanted to because it really moved me and I need someone to talk to about this book, can we have a conversation? What I loved about it is that it made me have feelings that I wasn’t sure what to do with or how to proceed. Am I rooting for something that is inherently wrong? How would I feel in this situation and/or what would I do?
Shea and Lucy are best friends and are really more like sisters, having grown up together in the shadow of their mothers’ bestfriend-ship. The book starts out at Lucy’s mother’s funeral, which in itself is heartbreaking, and proceeds throughout the year following her death. Shea works for Walker, a private Texas college, in the football department, which is run by Lucy’s father, Coach Carr, whom Shea has idolized (along with the Walker team & football in general) her whole life. In the wake of Mrs. Carr’s death, Shea begins to question where she is in her life and proceeds to make a few changes, though somewhat reluctantly. One of the things she does is breaks up with her stoner boyfriend, Miller (who I loved, though she was right to break up with him). The rest of the review will be below the spoiler, because I don’t want to give anything away, but I can’t give a real review without discussing some of the plot.
<spoiler>Shea begins to realize that her feelings for Coach Carr are beyond hero worship, she just may be in love with him. This man who practically raised her. She feels weird about it, obviously because of 1)the age thing; 2) he’s her best friend’s FATHER, for Pete’s sake; & 3) his wife just died. So she stuffs down her feelings and begins dating someone else, someone that she never thought she would date. And things are going great until she realizes that Coach Carr might have the same feelings for her that she has for him. This is the part where I was like…um, I don’t know how I feel about his *side eyes*.
What Emily Giffin is good at is making you rethink how you would feel about certain actions. Like she did regarding cheating in Something Borrowed (still not cool, BTW). EG makes me, once again, think about the context of love rather than right or wrong. Not that I’m saying that it’s okay to cheat on someone or to necessarily have feelings for a man old enough to literally be your father (and also your best friend’s real father). (But also, they’re both grown adults, so why CAN’T they have a relationship?!?) But the context of something makes a big difference. There are few absolutes in the world. As much as we would like to think that things are black or white, more often they’re actually gray. I’m not saying we should take what we want without repercussions or without considering it’s effect on our relationships. But life is messy and hard and we can’t choose who we fall in love with.
I felt weird pulling for this unconventional couple, but I could see that they really loved each other. Yes, it was messy and yes, her other relationships are affected by what many readers will think of as selfishness on Shea’s part. EG’s flawed characters never have easy decisions to make, but that’s true in life. This is why I love her books. What I’m trying to say is that it’s easy to sit on the outside, observing something out of context and quite another to be in the situation and doing your best to do what’s right.
I loved this book, but I can see how it might be hard to swallow for other readers. The One & Only has moved to the top of my favorite books for 2014. I am glad, though, that EG’s book only come out every couple of years or so because I did lose sleep. I went to bed at midnight and woke up at 5 am with it on my mind. It drew me in. Like all of her books do.</spoiler>
I thought the ending was a little rushed and I wish EG would have given us a little bit more for going through all that we did with these characters. It was just a bit abrupt and I turned the page and was like…”that’s it?!!!?!” I’m dying to see a glimpse of these two in her next book (hopefully), as she usually does in subsequent books. There just wasn’t enough of a cool down, if you will. It gave me a cramp, to use a sporting analogy.