Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2464
Emily Giffin's Something Borrowed begins with protagonist Rachel White celebrating her 30th birthday in a swank New York City restaurant with her childhood friend Darcy and others. As Rachel observes the activity around her, she reflects on an event from fifth grade involving a perpetual calendar. When Rachel and Darcy found the calendar,...
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Emily Giffin's Something Borrowed begins with protagonist Rachel White celebrating her 30th birthday in a swank New York City restaurant with her childhood friend Darcy and others. As Rachel observes the activity around her, she reflects on an event from fifth grade involving a perpetual calendar. When Rachel and Darcy found the calendar, they looked up the days of the week on which their birthdays would fall. Darcy, always the lucky one in Rachel's eyes, would naturally have a weekend birthday while Rachel was stuck with a school-day birthday.
On a whim, the girls check to see when their thirtieth birthdays would be, and Rachel believes she has won a small victory when she finds out that her thirtieth will be on a Sunday. She imagines hiring a sitter for her perfect children and going out to an elegant restaurant with her handsome husband. As Rachel mentally returns to her actual thirtieth birthday party, she realizes how different her life is from her schoolgirl dreams. While she did accomplish leaving behind her "average" life in Indiana to pursue a law degree, she hates her job as an associate at a Manhattan law firm. She is single with no boyfriend, while Darcy flourishes in her role at a glitzy PR firm and gloats over her handsome banker fiance, Dex.
As the party goes on, Rachel becomes more sullen, and Darcy becomes more drunk, to the point that Dex must usher her home. Rachel is surprised to see Dex return a short time later, but he simply came back to collect Darcy's forgotten purse. After a few more drinks, Dex escorts Rachel out and hails her a cab but then asks her if she would like another drink. She agrees, and as she and Dex spend the evening together, their judgment lapses, and they end up at Rachel's apartment where they make love and spend the night together. A shrill telephone ring awakens both characters to reality, and they hear Darcy's panicked voice on Rachel's answering machine; she reports that Dex never came home the night before. Dex hurriedly dresses while devising a plan to tell Darcy that he and his friend Marcus stayed out all night. Rachel agrees to go along with the story but immediately feels the weight of what she has done. Thus, internal conflict between her heart and conscience begins.
As Rachel analyzes her motive for sleeping with her best friend's fiance, she wonders if she did so out of jealousy. She recounts many of the painful events from her childhood when Darcy suddenly became interested in the same boy as Rachel, or how Darcy would steal the show wherever they went together. She even provided Darcy with a place to live when Darcy first moved to New York, broke and without a job. Perhaps most bothersome to Rachel is the fact that she was friends with Dex first. She met him in law school, studied with him, and became friends with him. On a whim, Rachel even introduced Dex to Darcy because she had always claimed to herself and to others that she was not romantically interested in him. However, when she considers the events of her birthday party night, she acknowledges that she was disappointed when Dex asked for Darcy's number a week after meeting her.
To complicate matters, Dex leaves Rachel a message on her work phone asking her to talk to him about the other night. Rachel reluctantly returns his call, and Dex tells her that while what they did was a mistake and cannot happen again, he does not have regrets. Rachel finds it impossible not to think about the conversation and even more impossible to act naturally around Darcy. She fears the upcoming summer because she, Darcy, Dex, and some other friends have once again gone in on a share in the Hamptons and will be spending a lot of time together.
In the meantime, Darcy informs Rachel that Dex's friend Marcus has shown an interest in her and would like her number. Rachel agrees to go out with Marcus because he seems like a decent guy, and she hopes that the date will serve as a distraction from her problems. In Chapter Five, as Rachel prepares for her date with Marcus, she reflects on her past relationships and realizes that she not only does not have a "type" but that she had been passive and always expecting the guy to leave, which they do. When Rachel and Marcus do meet for a date, Rachel finds that she enjoys his company and decides that maybe the Hamptons will not be so bad with him there. However, when everyone arrives at the rented beach house, Rachel cannot resist studying Darcy and Dex without jealousy. She is relieved when her boss at the firm demands that she come in to work on Memorial Day. Her relief is short-lived because Dex offers to drive her to the train station and uses the opportunity to tell her that he is coming over to her place the next night. Rachel could and should refuse, but does not, and so her feelings for Dex become more complicated.
After she begins spending time more regularly with Dex, Rachel considers breaking off communication with him, but then he sends her an e-mail in which he confesses that he likes "literally everything about" her. Rachel needs a confidant so she calls her friend Ethan who lives in England and confesses everything to him. Ethan, who grew up with Rachel and Darcy, laughs when Rachel first tells him about Dex because the thought of a "goody two-shoes" betraying her best friend is too ironic for him. He then tells Rachel that he is rather proud of her because she has always allowed Darcy to run "roughshod" over her. Rachel had never thought of her relationship with Darcy in such a manner, but Ethan reminds her of Darcy's boasts that she scored five points higher than Rachel on her SATs, and of Darcy's getting accepted to Notre Dame when Rachel did not. Rachel's conversation with Ethan provides her with a smidgen of boldness, and Rachel begins to see Dex often. They keep Darcy in the dark by saying that they are working late, and Darcy believes them because she considers them both workaholics.
Eventually, Rachel cannot stand the limbo in which she finds herself, but she is unwilling to give up Dex. They agree that after the Fourth of July, they will discuss the future of their relationship. However, the weekends at the Hamptons are too difficult for Rachel. She cannot stand to watch Dex and Darcy together and has an argument with Dex at a bar in the Hamptons about the situation. Her friend Hillary observes the argument and confronts Rachel later that week at work when she catches Rachel in a lie. Rachel is unable to lie to Hillary again and tells her everything. Like Ethan, Hillary relishes the thought of Rachel trumping Darcy and promises not to tell anyone about her relationship with Dex. But Hillary is more protective than Ethan and warns Rachel that she must make a decision soon and not allow herself to linger in a passive role.
Shortly after her confession to Hillary, Rachel flies home to Indiana with Darcy for their childhood friend Annalise's baby shower. While she is home again among her family and friends, Rachel realizes how often Darcy makes herself the center of attention. Even Rachel's mother is enamored with Darcy and cannot keep from asking questions about the wedding and about Darcy's state of mind. Similarly, at Annalise's shower, Darcy manages to steal the show and takes attention away from Annalise and her baby.
When Rachel arrives back in New York, the Fourth of July weekend looms over her. Dex and she secretly agree to skip out on going to the Hamptons so that they can spend time together, and each tells the group that they have to stay behind and work. As soon as Darcy and the others have left for the Hamptons, Dex and Rachel meet at her place and spend a blissful weekend together. While Rachel knows that she should press Dex about his decision, she cannot bring herself to ruin their perfect weekend. Over the weekend, Dex tells Rachel that he loves her, and Rachel returns the sentiment. At the end of the weekend, as they walk back to Rachel's apartment, the couple buys a pair of dice from a vendor, and Dex asks Rachel what she wants him to roll. She says, "double sixes," and he magically rolls them. She scoops up the dice as a sign that their relationship will be successful and stores them in her apartment.
After the holiday weekend, Rachel becomes more discontent with her situation. Hillary hounds her about forcing Dex's hand, but Rachel cannot bring herself to do so. In the meantime, the date of Darcy's bachelorette party draws nearer, and Rachel finds herself in the awkward position of planning it with Claire. On the day of the party, she meets Dex for lunch, and as they are walking back to her apartment, they run into Claire. She seems puzzled to see them together, but Dex makes the excuse that he met Rachel to give her a surprise for Darcy that evening. After they ward off Claire, Dex and Rachel realize how close they have come to being discovered.
Later that evening, Rachel endures the party, and a relaxed Darcy suggests a sleepover at Rachel’s place “for old time’s sake.” Rachel agrees, and as she and Darcy spend time together, she ponders the comfortable nature of their friendship. In a moment of sincerity and vulnerability, Darcy confesses to Rachel that she has doubts about getting married. She is not sure that she can spend the rest of her life with just one person. Rachel knows that the conversation is an opportunity for her to encourage Darcy to break things off with Dex, but she does not do so. Rather, she desperately wants Dex or Darcy to make the decision for themselves—in essence, she wants Dex to choose her.
Shortly after the sleepover, Darcy calls Rachel in a panic. She has lost her engagement ring and reveals to Rachel that she slept with “a friend from work,” forgot the ring at his apartment, and discovered that his cleaning lady stole the ring. Once again, Rachel is presented with an opportunity to tell Dex and urge him to break up with Darcy, but she reasons that it is not her place to do so.
When Darcy’s wedding invitation arrives at her apartment, Rachel allows reality to engulf her. She ponders whether Dex would allow the invitations to go out if he intended to call off the wedding. Despite her fears, Rachel allows Dex to talk her into joining the summer group for one last weekend in the Hamptons. While there, she is miserable, and Hillary's disdain for Dex is palpable. She almost forces him to physically choose between Rachel and Darcy during a badminton game, and Dex is furious. He confronts Rachel later than night about disclosing their relationship to Hillary, and Rachel can no longer take it. She imposes an ultimatum on Dex and tells him that he is not to contact her again unless it is to tell her that he has called off the wedding.
The next couple of days are torturous for Rachel, but she manages to refrain from calling Dex. Instead, she schedules a long-postponed trip to visit Ethan in England. Just before she leaves for vacation, Dex stops by her apartment and tells her that he cannot bear to hurt Darcy or their families. Rachel then travels to England in a daze. While Ethan tries to console Rachel, she examines her relationship with Darcy and with Dex. Ethan forces her to evaluate her motives; he asks her if she is dating Dex in order to get back at Darcy for the many times she had been manipulated. Rachel considers Ethan’s question and realizes that there might be some truth to it but also admits to herself that she is in love with Dex and that a trip to England is not going to dissipate her complex feelings.
When Rachel returns to the States, she is greeted by Dex in the lobby of her apartment building. He tells her that he has just called off the wedding and broken up with Darcy. Dex did not tell Darcy about his relationship with Rachel, but he did admit to Darcy that he did not feel the way he should about her and gets her to confess that she was struggling with the same emotions. As Rachel processes what Dex has just told her, her doorman rings with the news that Darcy is on her way up to the apartment. Dex hurriedly gathers his things and hides in the closet. Darcy barges into Rachel’s place but does not show signs of grief as Rachel had anticipated. Instead, she proceeds to tell Rachel her version of the breakup and then drops a bombshell on Rachel: the person with whom she was sleeping when she lost her ring is Marcus, and she is pregnant with his child. A flabbergasted Rachel struggles to react calmly to Darcy’s news but can't hide feeling hurt—in essence, her best friend has slept with a person in whom she is supposedly interested. Suddenly, Rachel sees Darcy staring at something in her bedroom—Dex’s watch. Darcy goes ballistic and calls for Dex to come out. He exits the closet, and Darcy dramatically yells at Rachel and Dex about their betrayal of her. Of course, there is no reasoning with her, and she conveniently forgets about her own betrayal of Dex. She storms out of the apartment and begins a slander campaign against Rachel and Dex. Darcy even manages to cause Rachel’s mother to feel sympathy for her and shame toward Rachel.
Dex and Rachel wisely give Darcy her space, and she ultimately calls Dex to set up a time for him to move out of their apartment. She sets her own terms and tells Dex that she is keeping the replacement ring that he purchased for her shortly before the breakup. Dex and Rachel chalk up Darcy’s behavior as typical and begin to develop their relationship further. The novel concludes rather anticlimactically with the new couple enjoying the freedom of being public with their feelings for one another and neither one regretting their actions.
While Something Borrowed does not offer a resolution to the conflict between Rachel and Darcy, Giffin’s next book, Something Blue, is told from Darcy’s perspective and follows her through her pregnancy and journey of self-discovery.