Author Kristan Higgins is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author and two-time winner of the Romance Writers of America RITA Award. Her books have been praised for their “genius level EQ, whippet-fast, funny dialogue and sweet plots with a deliciously tart edge” (USA TODAY). She lives in Connecticut with her heroic firefighter husband and two extremely advanced children, one shy little mutt and an occasionally affectionate cat.
An Excerpt –
Today is one of those days when I realize that staying friends with my ex-husband was a huge mistake.
I’m at the baby shower for Ana-Sofia, Owen’s wife and my replacement. Indeed, I’m sitting next to her, a place of honor in this circle of beaming well-wishers, and I’m probably beaming just as hard as everyone else. Harder, even, my “gosh, isn’t it wonderful, she’s so radiant” smile that I give at work quite often, especially as my brides get bitchier or their mothers get more critical or their maids of honor get more jealous. But this smile, the baby-shower smile…this is superhuman, really.
I know that coming today is incredibly pathetic, don’t worry. It’s just that I didn’t want to seem bitter by not showing up—though I’m pretty sure I am bitter, at least a little. After all, I’m the one who always wanted kids. Every time I brought it up, though, Owen said he wasn’t sure the time was right, and he loved our life the way it was.
Yeah. So. That turned out not to be quite true, but we did stay friends. Coming today, though…pathetic.
However, I woke up this morning utterly starving, and I knew the food would be amazing at the shower. Ana-Sofia inspires people. Plus, I’m moving out of the city, so for the past three weeks, I’ve been trying to eat or give away every morsel of food in my apartment. Let’s also mention that I couldn’t figure out an excuse that people would buy. Better to be an oddity here than Poor Jenny at home, scrounging through a box of Wheat Thins of indeterminate age.
Ana-Sofia opens my gift, which is wrapped in Christmas paper, despite it being April. Liza, my host, glowers; the red-and-green cocoa-swilling Santas are an affront to the party vibe, which Liza noted on the invitations.
In an effort to create a beautiful and harmonious environment for Ana-Sofia, please adhere to the apricot-and-sage color scheme in your clothing and gift-wrapping choices.
Only in Manhattan, folks. I’m wearing a purple dress as a middle finger to Liza, who used to be my friend but now posts daily on Facebook that she’s LOLing with her BFF, Ana-Sofia.
“Oh! This is so lovely! Thank you, Jenny! Everyone, look at this! It’s beautiful!” Ana-Sofia holds up my gift, and there are gasps and murmurs and exclamations and a few glares that I have brought the best present. I cock an eyebrow at the haters. Suck it up, bitches. My gift was actually dashed off last night, as I kind of forgot to buy a present, but they don’t have to know that.
It’s a white satin baby blanket with leaves and trees and birds stitched into it. Hey. It only took me two hours. Nothing was hand-stitched. It wasn’t that big a deal. I sew for a living. A wedding-dress designer. The irony is not lost on me.
“Couldn’t you have just bought a stuffed animal like a normal person?” murmurs the person on my left. Andreas—born Andrew—my assistant, and the only man here. Gay, of course—do straight men work in designer bridal wear? Also, he hates and fears children, which makes him the perfect date for me under the circumstances. I needed an ally.
Have I mentioned that the shower is being held in the apartment I once shared with Owen? Where, so far as I could tell, he and I were extremely happy? Yes. Liza is hosting, but the power went out in her apartment, thanks to the ham-fisted construction crew installing her new glass countertops—granite being so very last decade—and so we’re here instead. Liza is sweaty and loud, rightfully worried about being judged on her prowess as hostess. This is the Upper East Side, after all. We’re all about judgment here.
The gifts—including mine—border on the ridiculous. The shower invitation—engraved from Crane’s—asked, at the behest of the parents, for donations to the clean-well-water charity Ana-Sofia founded—Error! Hyperlink reference not valid., the name of which brings to mind a particularly bad menstrual period, but which raises funds for wells in Africa. Yeah. Therefore, everyone donated fat checks and tried to outdo each other with gifts. There’s a Calder mobile. A 1918 edition of Mother Goose stories. A mohair Steiff teddy bear that costs about as much as the rent on my soon-to-be former apartment in the Village.
My gaze drifts across the now-tastefully furnished apartment. When I lived here, it was cozier and boho—fat, comfortable furniture; dozens of pictures of my three nieces; the occasional wall hanging from Target, that bastion of color and joy for the middle class. Now the decor is incredibly tasteful, with African masks on the wall to remind us what Ana-Sofia does, and original paintings from around the globe. The walls are painted those boring neutral colors with sexy names— October Fog, Birmingham Cream, Icicle.
There’s their wedding photo. They eloped, so thank God I didn’t have to go to that—or, heaven forbid, make her gown, which I would’ve done if asked, because I’m still pretty pitiful where Owen is concerned and can’t figure out how to divorce him out of my heart. Though the photo was taken by the justice of the peace in Maine, it’s perfect. Both bride and groom are laughing, slightly turned away from the camera, Ana’s hair blowing in the sea breeze. The New York Times featured the photo in the Sunday Vows section.
They really are the perfect couple. Once, it was Owen and me, and while I didn’t expect perfection, I thought we were pretty great. We never fought. My mom felt that since Owen is half-Japanese, he was a better bet than “those simpletons” I dated—all of whom I hoped to marry at one point or another, starting with Nico Stephanopolous in eighth grade. “The Japanese don’t believe in divorce,” Mom said the first time I introduced her. “Right, Owen?”
He agreed, and I can still see his omnipresent, sweet smile, the Dr. Perfect Smile, as I called it. It’s his resting expression. Very reassuring to his patients, I’m sure. Owen is a plastic surgeon, the kind who fixes cleft palates and birthmarks and changes the lives of his patients. Ana-Sofia, who is from Peru and speaks five languages, met Owen eleven weeks after our divorce when he was doing his annual stint with Doctors Without Borders in the Sudan and she was digging wells.
And I make wedding dresses, as I believe I’ve already said. Listen, it’s not as shallow as it sounds. I make women look the way they dreamed they would on one of the happiest days of their lives. I make them cry at their own reflections. I give them the dress they’ve spent years thinking about, the dress they’ll be wearing when they pledge their hearts, the dress they’ll pass on to their own daughters someday, the dress that signifies all their hopes and dreams for a happy, sparkling future.
But compared with what Owen and his second wife do, yeah, it’s incredibly shallow.
In theory, I should hate them both. No, he didn’t cheat with her. He’s far too decent for that.
He loves her, though. Ostensibly, I could hate him for loving her and not me. Make no mistake. I was heartbroken. But I can’t hate Owen, or Ana-Sofia. They’re too damn nice, which is incredibly inconsiderate of them.
And being Owen’s friend is better than being without Owen entirely.
My Assessment –
The first thing that drew me to the book was the cover. It is really a beautiful cover, and then the blurb. I knew that the book, being written by Kristan Higgins, had to be good but it surpassed even my expectations.
I loved the family dynamics in the If You Only Knew. The sisters had a close relationship that sometimes got in the way of their lives, but they were fiercely loyal to one another.
I cannot for one moment imagine being in a relationship with my ex-husband and his wife as Jenny was, but it made way for interesting story. Jenny would love to be married with a family of her own, and we follow her along as life may have other plans in store for her. And, as her sister’s marriage hits a rocky spot and Jenny is drawn into the fray by her sister. That was a little like watching a freight train barreling down on you.
There is sibling love and loyalty, strife and unrest as well as love in the air. The book had an enjoyable plot that yielded more than its share of surprises, which I loved. The ending is not easily guessed and I was pleasantly surprised.
This book hit the mark on every level – storyline, characters, story plot, grammar, humor, love, and writing. I’m giving If You Only Knew five stars.
Ana-Sofia opens my gift, which is wrapped in Christmas paper, despite it being April. Liza, my host, glowers; the red-and-green cocoa-swilling Santas are an affront to the party vibe, which Liza noted on the invitations. ‘In an effort to creat a beautiful and harmonious environment for Ana-Sofia, please adhere to the apricot-and-sage color scheme in your clothing and gift-wrapping choices.’
I’d like to say that Mom means well, but that wouldn’t really be true. When things are good, she looks not for the silver lining, but for the mercury toxicity. When things are bad, her eyes light up, she stands straighter and her life is filled with purpose. She views my move to COH as both my inevitable failure at marriage – she always hinted Owen was too good for me – and also a gauntlet I’ve thrown at her feet. If I do better after my divorce – personally and professionally – it might imply that she should, too.
‘You’re not sick, are you?’ I better not be. ‘Oh, just a checkup. How about you?’ ‘I have the worst itching!’ she crows. ‘And discharge! In the strangest place too!’ Oh, God. Maybe she has an STD too. I try to keep my face from morphing into a silent scream of horror, but I have no idea if it’s working. ‘Look,’ she says, pulling up her World’s Best Grandma T-shirt. ‘Look at my belly button. See that oozing?’ I try not to gag. First of all, it’s a wrinkly, elephantine stomach, and it’s about an inch from my face. Secondly, she’s got such an outie that it looks like a snout, like some sort of alien pig baby is trying to push its way out of her. And yes, there’s discharge.