Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

Something Borrowed is a chick lit released by author Emily Giffin in 2005 about a pair of lifelong friends — polar opposites of each other who find themselves in a bind after the nice one sleeps with the other one’s fiance and begins a rebellious clandestine affair.

I have seen this book on the bookstore shelves countless times before Hilary Swank optioned the rights to the movie. After I’ve seen the trailer, I was hooked. The reason that I didn’t get the book before was that it dealt with betrayal and I didn’t like reading about that, especially involving family and friends. I guess I could consider myself a prude for feeling that way. When I saw the trailer for the movie though, which is showing on cinemas next week (Can’t wait), I decided to give it a chance.

Something Borrowed is a story of Rachel White, a goody two shoes New York lawyer who is best friends with the glamorous Darcy Rhone, a go getter who has breezed through life getting everything she wants. Darcy is marrying major big shot hunk Dexter Thaler, six years after Rachel introduced the two. Rachel was friends with Dexter in law school and was totally into him but she decided that he wouldn’t go for her, thus the introduction to her much more suitable friend. On the night of Rachel’s 30th birthday party though (which Darcy threw), they both get drunk and do the unthinkable. They sleep together, and the self centered Darcy is completely oblivious as the affair develops behind her back.

I could totally relate to the panic Rachel felt when it dawned on her that she hit a major milestone in her life without achieving any of her goals (well, not those that matter anyway). When women hit the big 3-0, they begin to question everything about themselves… where they are, how happy they are career wise and relationship wise. I for one, was not too happy when I turned 30 and had a week long slump as I got my act together. But for Rachel it was different, because she always compared herself to Darcy, and always saw herself as the loser because Darcy was a go getter. She didn’t let anything stand in her way. Perhaps, her sense of entitlement was a tad annoying at some points of the story but one has to understand that she can’t help it. She always had things easy because people were always falling all over themselves to give her everything even before she asked for it.

While I liked Rachel as a heroine, I could understand why people walked all over her. She does not know her own worth, thus settling for crumbs of affection from Dexter, who turned out to like her way before he met Darcy six years prior. Rachel uses the same excuse as everyone when faced with the question of why she stayed with her dead end job at the law firm when she finished at the top of her class — she needed to. When she finally did do something about her feelings for Dexter, she did not assert herself and demand that he choose between her and Darcy but rather turned coward and endured the heartache of seeing them together while her own relationship hung in the balance. During the course of their relationship, I could not help but feel that Rachel felt entitled to Dex as repayment for the years of abuse that she suffered under Darcy’s thumb but is that really an excuse? Even towards the end, when she finally showed enough backbone to accept Dexter’s decision, I felt that her empowerment came a bit too late in the game and she folded way too easily when Dexter begged her to be together again.

People may say that Darcy is a bitch, an evil friend stringing Rachel along the whole time, an insensitive golden girl — generally cast her as the villain of this story, but I can’t really subscribe to that idea. I am much more sold with the idea that since Darcy is so used to the power dynamics in their friendship, she is completely unaware of how her actions are affecting Rachel. Darcy was very competitive with Rachel from the time they were kids, lied bald faced to her easily, and used her to do a lot of her dirty work for her, but that cycle could have easily stopped if Rachel had spoken up, or called her bluff. Rachel had a lot of time to grow up apart from Darcy when she was in law school but she chose to return to the same pattern when they were in New York again because she did not feel entitled to an equal status in their relationship.

Perhaps, we can all relate to this because at one point, we may all have had a Darcy in our lives, and while we may not like them and sometimes wish to strangle them for being too much of everything, I guess when people are born that way, they feel that they are entitled to have people fall under their feet to cater to their every whim. Whether or not they could find patsies to fall for their tricks is simply a given. Darcy was irresponsible and reckless because she knew that she could count on Rachel to clean up her mess. She wanted to outshine Rachel at every turn because she knew that only Rachel had the potential to be more admired than her. But Darcy did have her moments. I felt that in her heart of hearts, she did love Rachel as a sister, but the revelation of her relationship with Dexter totally caught her off guard. If Rachel had said something to her about them not being right for each other, I suspect she might have blown Dexter off, because that’s how great Rachel’s influence on her is. She trusted her completely.  But that’s not how it happened. The manner in which Darcy dealt with the aftermath seemed cold and calculated but from my point of view, completely justified. There are just some lines you can’t cross, even if you have your skeletons to deal with… and having an affair with a best friend’s betrothed counts as an ultimate sin.

The characters I most liked in this book were Ethan and Hillary. They were the voices of reason that brought Rachel back to reality each time she confided in them about her relationship (?) with Dex. They were the type of grown up friends who would give you grown up advice and will surely stand by you even if the shit hits the fan. I liked Ethan best because he’s smart, unaffected and totally non judgmental of Rachel throughout the course of the story. He genuinely cares about Rachel and her well being and always had her back, even when she was too dense to see him. I wish Rachel would have fallen for him instead of Dex, who coasted along until the very end before making his decision. But the moment has lapsed (besides, he has his own book with Darcy). I wish Rachel would have taken up his offer to live in London and start afresh rather than go back to Manhattan to live out her distorted fairy tale with Dex.

Dex was my least favorite character throughout the book (I hope his movie counterpart is better). He may have loved Rachel but he treated her in much as the same way as Darcy did — a convenience. He was too chicken shit to make a decision sooner, stringing Rachel along because the poor girl was just apeshit in love with him, and hurt her in the process, countless times. I sometimes wish that he didn’t end up with anybody until much later, but that would have destroyed the premise that they were destined to be together even before Darcy came into the picture.

Something Borrowed trains the magnifying glass on the imperfections of even the longest and strongest of friendships, its shifting dynamics, and how people bounce back from the most crushing betrayals. It tells of the virtue of loving and liking yourself, and growing up which is just as important. While it was a love story, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that Dex was just a sidebar in this novel. It was a good read as it was presented from Rachel’s point of view, thus giving readers a look into the inner workings of the mind of a goody two shoes, but there were just some parts that I find myself unsatisfied with.

I hope the movie is more a straighforward RomCom that the trailer promises. Plus, based on the promos, Ethan (played by John Krasinski) is a main supporting character so that should prove to be interesting. (