Review: The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin

by Heather Caliendo
book review the lies that bind - book club chat

The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin is the author making a return to what works: women’s fiction with a romance focus.

I loved Emily Giffin’s books back in the day. Although, I now realize just how problematic Something Borrowed is—when you really think about it, that story is pretty icky. But I’ve read almost all her books and most of them are entertaining stories you can read in one sitting. They tend to lean more romance and beach reads for the most part, except for All We Ever Wanted, which was a departure from her previous stories and actually pretty serious. 

Anyway, the gist is, I like Emily’s books. But her public persona is something else. From going off on a person giving her a one-star review to her bizarre and mean social media posts about Meghan Markle, I’m not going to sugarcoat this, she’s a mess online. I don’t know if she thinks social media is like a group text but she needs to take a break from it. 

It’s just so disappointing. Earlier, I was so excited she had a new book coming this summer but when all this came out about her behavior online, I actually had not planned to read The Lies That Bind as a result. But then I got several requests to write book club questions for it and I want to provide the content that book clubs are actually reading. So I shelved my personal opinion of her and went ahead and read it. And I liked it—except for a very key plot point, which I’ll get to below. 

The synopsis 

It’s 2 A.M. on a Saturday night in the spring of 2001, and twenty-eight-year-old Cecily Gardner sits alone in a dive bar in New York’s East Village, questioning her life. Feeling lonesome and homesick for the Midwest, she wonders if she’ll ever make it as a reporter in the big city—and whether she made a terrible mistake in breaking up with her longtime boyfriend, Matthew. 

As Cecily reaches for the phone to call him, she hears a guy on the barstool next to her say, “Don’t do it—you’ll regret it.” Something tells her to listen, and over the next several hours—and shots of tequila—the two forge an unlikely connection. That should be it, they both decide the next morning, as Cecily reminds herself of the perils of a rebound relationship. Moreover, their timing couldn’t be worse—Grant is preparing to quit his job and move overseas. Yet despite all their obstacles, they can’t seem to say goodbye, and for the first time in her carefully constructed life, Cecily follows her heart instead of her head. 

Then Grant disappears in the chaos of 9/11. Fearing the worst, Cecily spots his face on a missing-person poster, and realizes she is not the only one searching for him. Her investigative reporting instincts kick into action as she vows to discover the truth. But the questions pile up fast: How well did she really know Grant? Did he ever really love her? And is it possible to love a man who wasn’t who he seemed to be? 

9/11

You see the year 2001 and the main protagonist Cecily is in New York. So of course, The Lies That Bind will take place during 9/11. Can I tell you how much I disliked that story choice? It just felt like it was thrown in there for dramatic purposes and I was not a fan. I think if you’re going to have 9/11 take place in your story, you have to go all in with it. It can’t be this plot device that is barely touched later on (other than a few comments here and there). I just don’t think there’s a huge audience craving 9/11 fiction. I’m cringing right now thinking about all the fiction books that will cover our current pandemic. Authors, especially if it’s next year, that will for sure be TOO SOON. 

So including 9/11 in this story was a major thumbs down from me. I’m curious what you all thought about the story choice!

The romance

So 9/11 happens around halfway through the story and with Grant missing, I was thinking where does this story even go now? But I have to say, I really liked where she took it. Cecily does take on an investigation to find out what happened to Grant and she learns much about him along the way, which makes her question their relationship. She eventually rekindles the romance with her ex Matthew but Grant is always on her mind. 

After 9/11 section, I feel The Lies That Bind really took off. And there are brief appearances with the characters of Something Borrowed, which was kind of a fun touch. All in all, I liked this one and I think there’s plenty to discuss with book clubs. 

Check out my book club questions here.

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