Everyone’s flocking to Nashville, and Naperville native and No. 1 New York Times best-selling author Emily Giffin is no exception. Her latest novel, “All We Ever Wanted,” which will be released June 26, is set in Music City.
When Nina Browning’s Ivy-League-bound son Finch takes a photo of classmate Lyla passed out at a party and circulates it among friends, the image spreads like wildfire through their elite Nashville community. Needless to say, everyone feels the consequences as they struggle to come to terms with how one act can change everything.
We talked with Emily — who also authored “Something Borrowed,” the hit book-turned-movie starring Kate Hudson — about her new novel and favorite spots in Nashville. Add her picks to your list for a weekend getaway that’s just an hour-long flight south. (And don’t forget to pack your new favorite summer read.)
Make It Better: What themes or characters in “All We Ever Wanted” do you think readers will identify with most?
Emily Giffin: I knew I wanted to explore the themes of privilege and entitlement, especially how these relate to parenthood. I have twin sons who are now 14 years old, as well as an 11-year-old daughter, and I’ve begun to observe so much about the choices we make — both in my own household and in the wider community — and how sometimes even well-intentioned decisions can impact families in a negative way. I also wanted to explore what happens when our values are in conflict with something — or someone — we hold dear.
Why did you choose Nashville as the backdrop for this book?
Picking a setting is typically one of the first things I do when I begin writing a new book — and I almost always choose a city with which I’m very familiar. Nashville was an exception — I’ve only visited a handful of times before I began writing this novel — but its vibrancy and history of great music, food, and Southern culture has always resonated with me. While writing the book, I spent a lot of time in the various neighborhoods in Nashville and so enjoyed getting to know the charming, diverse residents of one of America’s great cities.
What’s your favorite brunch spot in Nashville?
There are so many wonderful spots for brunch in Nashville! I love the challah French toast at Fort Louise located in a converted house in Riverside Village. Go to Urban Cowboy for Sunday brunch in Lockeland Springs (Tom and Lyla’s neighborhood in the book) and order a Bloody Mary or rosé paloma. Other favorites include Butcher & Bee, The Mockingbird, Henrietta Red, and Husk (where Nina and Kirk enjoy lunch in the book).
How about for dinner or cocktails?
I love Rolf and Daughters, as well as the chef/owner’s new effort Folk, a pizzeria in McFerrin Park. The beer list is excellent at Germantown’s eatery Kuchnia + Keller. Another new Germantown hotspot is Geist, housed in a 118-year old blacksmith shop. As a history buff, I am obsessed with Woolworth on 5th, located in the former F. W. Woolworth department store, the site of some of the seminal lunch counter sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement. For pizza, try Five Points Pizza (Tom’s favorite) or City House (Nina’s go-to). Other favorites include Pinewood Social (where you can also bowl) and The 404 Kitchen (get the bone-in ribeye for two!).
What are a few of your favorite things to do with the family?
This is Music City, so definitely check out the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the GRAMMY Museum Gallery — where you can learn the entire process of making a record. If you enjoy history, don’t miss Andrew Jackson’s home Hermitage, Belle Meade Plantation, Belmont Mansion, and the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. For art-lovers, visit the Frist Art Museum, the street art of the 12 South neighborhood, and the Parthenon in Centennial Park. A full-scale replica of the ancient Greek original, it also serves as Nashville’s art museum, housing nineteenth- and twentieth-century American artists.
Any hidden gems or other favorites that visitors should check out?
I love the Bongo East coffee shop, located right in the heart of East Nashville’s Five Points, near Tom and Lyla’s home and where my characters meet several times in the book. Sharing the space is Game Point Café, featuring a curated library of more than 300 board games including some wonderful nostalgic ’80s games. I also love the Echoes of Nashville Walking Tours. And Nashville’s best skyline view, Love Circle, in a small residential neighborhood near Vanderbilt University. Bring a picnic basket, and some champagne if you’re feeling fancy, and watch the sun set over Music City’s stunning skyline.
What’s next for you? Any exciting projects in the works?
I was just in LA to pitch a television series I’m developing with Black Label Media. The anthology series is based on several of my novels, and the characters’ stories will connect from season to season. I feel very hopeful and excited!
Meet Emily in person when she rolls through Chicago on her summer book tour for “All We Ever Wanted.” She’ll be with Anderson’s Bookshop at Community Christian Church in Naperville Monday, July 2 at 7 p.m. for a talk and Q&A. Emily will be joined by special guest actor Colin Egglesfield, who played Dex in the film version of “Something Borrowed!”
Lindsay Roseman, formerly Make It Better Digital Editor, is a Nashville-based writer, editor, and lifestyle blogger. When she’s not blogging about her current favorites on What Lindsay Loves, she’s looking for the best new thing in fashion, beauty, food, and entertainment — or she’s probably running. Other things Lindsay loves: banana lattes and small dogs (she’s a dog mom to @LylaTheCockapoo). Her work has also been published in CS, NS, and Women’s Health magazines. She is a proud supporter of Court Appointed Special Advocates.