because bibliophiles require refreshment

If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins

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“Oh,” I said to myself as I looked at the clock last night, noting it was about 11pm. I had just completed another review and was ready to move onto this new work by Higgins – something I had been greatly anticipating. “I guess I’ll read the first few chapters to get a feel for it and then finish tomorrow morning.”

Yup, and then it was 2am and I was sighing content book noises and muttering to myself that the goddess had done it again.

If You Only Knew is Higgins’ first foray into “women’s fiction”, which for her seems to mean that the core relationship is not a woman and a man but something else. There is still a happily ever after, but the backbone of this story is Rachel and Jenny, sisters on parallel but divergent journeys to newfound senses of self.

Jenny is a wedding dress designer who relocates to her hometown to be closer to family, namely Rachel and her triplet girls who sound like adorable nightmares. Rachel appears to have the perfect marriage, the perfect life, the perfect self, until she accidentally sees something on her husband’s phone which acts like a rock to a windshield when you’re going 75 down the highway – not a major deal at first, but damnit if it doesn’t spread quickly and there’s no going back.

Jenny is a really typical Higgins heroine – spunky, with a cool profession that she is exceptional at, and intimacy issues. By the end of the book she learns to stand up for herself, which is the block to her particular story and golly if I wasn’t cheering literally out loud for her at the end.

Higgins is a “closed door” author when it comes to sex and this book is no exception. Sexuality and expressions of it are important to these characters, but let’s say none of us will be picking up any tips from them. This means I’m always comfortable and anxious to place her books into the hands of high school students. “This is what adult relationships can look like”, I tell them, without being afraid their parents will find anything objectionable. “This is what having respect for yourself looks like, this is what screwing up and getting back up looks like, this is what joy and peace and grace can look like.” I press them into the hands of my university students as well – Higgins writes of a gentle and affirmative feminism that I use frequently in my gender studies lectures. Respect for themselves is at the core of her female characters and at the core of all relationships they have. What a breath of fresh air for some of my students.

And, p.s., for avid Higgins fans – we get a lovable lump of a dog in this one too.

If you haven’t picked up the vibe, I adored this thing. A-FREAKING-DORED. I’m pure gutted her tour for this release comes nowhere near me, because I would love to thank her in person for Jenny and Rachel. I think iced tea with lemon is the best accompaniment to all Higgins books – refreshing but solid and sweet – and so goes for this one too.

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Further Reading:

  • I have a feeling that Jenny would make use of this site for custom wedding dress designers.
  • There’s a few brief mentions in here of charities for clean water – this real one is my favorite. Charity:Water works tirelessly to make sure that everyone has access to truly potable drinking and bathing water.
  • Doctors Without Borders is another organization you should make yourself familiar with if you’re not already.

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I received a copy of this book from Higgins’s publicist via NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. Thanks, Katie!

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