NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle

4.0 out of 5 stars Facing painful truths...

We've all read the news stories and tabloid scandals that have become more heartrending as the frequency seems to increase. A person in a position of power abuses that trust and commits a breach -- a sexual tryst, embezzlement, lying under oath -- something sordid. Some of us greedily pounce on the gossip and devour the details with a sense of Schadenfruede and a certainty (and fervent hope?) that this would never happen to us. The truth is -- we don't know what is possible. We can't always imagine under what circumstances the situation got out of control. We aren't able to control the actions of others. This is the story of three women whose lives collide in ways none of them ever anticipated or expected.

At issue are questions about consent and responsibility. Though the legal age of "consent" in most states is variable, the law becomes moot when one of the parties involved is a teacher and the other is one of his(her) adolescent students. In that case it is a crime.

Morgan Monetti - a 17-year-old honors student and talented cello soloist, believes herself to be more mature than others her age and fancies herself in love with her married calculus teacher, TJ Hill. He's clearly enthralled by Morgan's view of him as her hero and allows himself to cross over the line -- meeting secretly with her in empty practice rooms and other places, even once in his own home. Meanwhile, TJ's wife, Rain, has been undergoing fertility treatments as she is single-mindedly focused on having a baby. It's easy for Morgan to believe her own fantasy of a future with TJ, even though their relationship isn't the romantic liaison she had imagined. When the police discover the couple together in his car, Morgan half undressed, everything unravels quickly. TJ is arrested and Morgan, in an unguarded interview, explains that they are in love and that there was no coercion, that she totally consented to everything, and indeed they are having an affair.

The central themes in the novel -- lies, betrayal, adultery, manipulation, maturity, marriage -- are handled deftly and realistically. Both Morgan and Rain "stand by their man" and believe everything will come out all right in their "whole golden world." The characters are interesting and though somewhat stereotypically portrayed, the reader develops empathy for everyone involved while trying to understand all of their reactions and motivations.

I enjoyed this novel and think it would be fabulous for a book club discussion as there are so many different topics that could be addressed.

Amazon Vine ARC

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