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Love the One You're With - Emily Giffin Love the One You're With is Emily Giffin's fourth novel; I've read them all, and this may be my favorite one yet.

It took Ellen Dempsey a couple of years to sort herself out again after the abrupt end of her intense post-college relationship with Leo, the journalist she met during a stint at jury duty. But when she was ready, there was already someone waiting - Andy Graham, her best friend's brother. Their relationship may lack some of that intensity, but it's compatible and comfortable, and Ellen's genuinely happy with it...until she unexpectedly runs into Leo on a New York City street, and the encounter makes her start asking herself a lot of questions. Meanwhile, Andy's asking questions of his own, but his involve leaving their New York life behind and moving back to his hometown, Atlanta. His family is there, along with a position in his father's law practice - but aside from that, what does the upscale suburb of Buckhead hold for Ellen and her photography career?

I liked most of the characters in this novel, which is narrated in the first person by Ellen - and I really liked Ellen. The character has a lot of self-awareness, even as she does things that she realizes are probably not in her best interests and could very well backfire on her. She has a tendency to idealize her husband's family and their background, but I think it's understandable to anyone who's ever felt their own upbringing to be lacking somehow; for her, much of that sense of lack is the result of the early death of her mother, and it colors many of her relationships. The most important women in her life are her best friend/sister-in-law Margot and her older sister Suzanne, but mother loss plays a role in how she relates to men as well; it's part of the intensity and insecurity in her relationship with Leo, and a factor in the comfort of her marriage to Andy - the same comfort that makes her wonder if she's somehow "settling."

Emily Giffin does a fine job of drawing believable, human characters who have to make choices that aren't always black and white, and that rarely turn out to be final or perfect. I related to Ellen a lot, and I think other readers will too - most of us have had reason to wonder about our relationships and who we are in their context, at one time or another, haven't we? Giffin's brand of chick-lit is lower on the fluff and melodrama than some examples of the genre, and I'm sure that's part of its appeal for me. Love the One You're With is a smart, character-driven novel, and its author remains on my must-read list.