Righting a Wrongby Deepa Gahlot October 4 2018, 10:51 pm Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins, 39 secs
Sexual harassment of women is coming out of the closet so to say and white male entitlement is getting a much-deserved bashing in the media. Bestselling writer Emily Giffin’s new novel, All We Ever Wanted, is reminiscent of the incident in the Delhi school, where a boy shared a smutty video of a girl with his friends. It blew up into a scandal and brought into focus the evil side of the telecom revolution in India.
In this book, told from the point of view of three characters, at the centre of the storm is Finch Browning, a rich kid, who posts a nasty and racist picture of a classmate; it is shared over social media and the repercussions could wreck his future. The girl is Lyla, the American-Brazilian daughter of a carpenter, Tom Volpe, who has raised her alone after his wife ran off.
Finch’s father, Kirk, is the typical arrogant businessman, who believes every problem can be solved by throwing money at it. But his wife, Nina, who came from humble beginnings, is shattered by her son’s behavior and genuinely concerned about Lyla.
The elite school where Finch and Lyla study (she on financial aid), takes the incident very seriously and the principal summons Finch for an honour council hearing. If found guilty, he would be expelled and lose his admission to Princeton, that his parents are so proud of.
Tom is furious and demands punishment for Finch, but, the strange thing is that Lyla is not all that concerned. She thinks all teens go through some embarrassing incidents like this, and nobody really cares in the long run. She not just tries to stop her father from going ballistic, but also gets extra friendly with Finch, who claims to be attracted to her.
Lyla feels that if her father and Nina had just let things slide, they would not have aggravated things to the point of a crisis. She is tough and resilient, though except for her friendship with one loyal girl called Grace, her place in the school full of rich snobs is not something Giffin goes into. Teens can be exceptionally cruel to one who falls outside their circle, but Lyla is miraculously spared the barbs.
Nina’s life unravels, however, as she discovers that her husband and son are not the kind of men she would have liked them to be. Unlike Lyla who sees things only from her own perspective, Nina is aware of the way a patriarchal and racist society looks at women. Tom is torn between his love for his daughter and his helplessness in trying to understand her mental state.
The most admirable and sympathetic character here is Nina (the bit about her past was not at all necessary to explain her mindset), whose first instinct is not to shield her son, but to see to it that justice is done to Lyla. Such people are seldom found outside of films and fiction. But it is time for women to support each other and take control over the narrative of their own stories.
All We Ever Wanted
By Emily Giffin