Thursday, June 30, 2022

Book Review: Meant to Be by Emily Giffin

Pages: 368
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: May 31, 2022
Publisher: Ballantine
Source: Personal Copy
Other Books By Author:   First Comes Love, 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "The Kingsley family is practically American royalty, beloved for their military heroics, political service, and unmatched elegance. When Joseph S. Kingsley III is born in 1960, he inherits the weight of that legacy. Growing up with all the Kingsley looks and charisma, Joe should have no problem taking up the mantle after his father’s untimely death. But he is also a little bit reckless, and can’t seem to figure out how to channel the expectations of an entire country.  No one ever expected anything of Cate, on the other hand. She, too, grew up in a single-parent household—just her and her mom scraping by in their small apartment. As a teenager, though, Cate is discovered for her looks. Modeling may be her only ticket out of the cycle of disappointment that her mother has always inhabited. Before too long, her face is everywhere, though she is always aware that she’d be a pariah in her social circles if anyone knew her true story.  When Joe and Cate’s paths cross, their connection is instant. What remains to be seen is whether their relationship will survive the glare of the spotlight that follows Joe everywhere. And just as they find themselves in the make-or-break moment, the tragedy that seems to run in Joe’s family right alongside all that privilege will repeat itself.  In a beautifully written novel that recaptures a gilded moment in American history, Emily Giffin tells a story of a love that may or may not have the power to transcend circumstances that seem arrayed against it... and the difficulty of finding your way to the place you belong."


Joe Kingsley III is well known throughout America and part of the beloved Kingsley family. His father, an astronaut, died tragically, leaving him without a father and under the media's scrutiny since three years old.  Fast forward to Joe as an adult, a lawyer (despite failing the New York bar exam twice), and now he is the Manhattan assistant district attorney. He appears to have it all, but his well-to-do mother and his best friend, Berry, want him to settle down, marry well, and hopefully run for office. According to them, he can do so much more with his life! Meanwhile, there's Cate Cooper, whose upbringing is the polar opposite of Joe's. She struggled during her childhood and adolescence, thanks to her push over mother and abusive step-father, and promptly moved out once she turned eighteen.  She was able to to do this due to her successful modeling career, which has taken off. While in the Hamptons on a photo shoot, she encounters Joe Kingsley walking his dog on the beach. She, like most Americans, knows who he is, but tries to play it cool.  Joe, smitten, won't forget Cate, even though he is dating someone else. Will their paths cross in the future? Readers are already connecting the dots to the similarities between John F. Kennedy Jr. and Joe Kingsley, so now we can't help but wonder what will Joe and Cate's fate be? Emily Giffin's latest novel, Meant to Be, is an addictive story loosely inspired by JFK Jr. and fans of the Kennedy family will be appreciate this novel the most.

I was immediately drawn to the story of Joe Kingsley in Meant to Be. The similarities between Joe and JFK Jr. are very strong and I loved all the nods to the Kennedy family that Giffin included in the story. However, there's enough differences between Joe and JFK Jr. that Giffin was able to carve out a story of her own. Joe has grown up in the spotlight and sometimes feels less than. His father was larger than life and filling his shoes can be tough. This means he is under a great deal of pressure not to mention all the paparazzi that stalk him. His sophisticated mother, and worldly grandmother, want him to do some good by perhaps being a public servant. Joe isn't sure and finds himself living a different sort of life than his mother would like by dating unsuitable women. When he gets back with his college girlfriend, Margaret, his mother is pleased as she is safe choice, but the spark between them really isn't there.

That all changes when he meets Cate in Meant to Be. When they first meet, the timing isn't right, as he is with Margaret, but then later on, he is single and searches for her. Cate is no longer a model, but working for a successful fashion house despite her lack of education. What she lacks in education, she makes up for in style, drive, and her good people skills. Once Joe and Cate are reunited, sparks fly despite Cate's hesitancy. She feels she really isn't ready to be in the spotlight, but the more time she spends with Joe, the more she realizes that things are serious between them and their relationship may be worth the risks. However, what will the famous Kingsley family think of Cate and her questionable upbringing?

I loved all the Kennedy family similarities and the different allusions to various aspects of their lives. While Joe doesn't have a sister, he does have an overprotective best friend in Berry. His mother has many similarities to Jackie Kennedy and overall, as a Kennedy fan I was really excited about this. However, we all know what happens to JFK Jr. and his wife at the end. Is Giffin going to go there or will these two get their happy ending? Meant to Be begged me to consider what would life be like if JFK Jr and Carolyn Bessette were still alive? What if?

Giffin's last few novels that I read didn't delight me quite like her earlier novels, but I am happy to report she is back on track with Meant to Be. This is such a fun beach read and especially enjoyable if you are a Kennedy fan. Throw this one in your beach or pool bag this summer! 

So, are you a fan of Emily Giffin? Have you read Meant to Be or is it on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 


  1. As soon as I saw the cover and read the synopsis, I knew it was a take on JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette, and I was so excited! I'm so glad you enjoyed it and I can't wait to read it!

    1. Right?! It was fantastic. I hope you enjoy it. You'll have to let me know your thoughts.


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