Although Morgan Monetti is only 17, she feels that she is mature and should be treated as an adult. Unfortunately, she doesn't feel that she gets the respect she deserves from her parents. Yes, they give her responsibility — perhaps too much responsibility for her twin brothers, if Morgan is being honest — but at the same time they don't seem to entirely trust her decision-making skills. It's at school that Morgan finally finds someone who takes her seriously: her calculus teacher TJ Hill.
TJ and his wife Rain have been having problems as Rain struggles to conceive and TJ struggles to know how to be supportive. The two are growing ever farther apart, and TJ feels unappreciated at home. He revels in his popularity among his students as a way to feed his ego, and in particular in the attention he receives from Morgan Monetti. Before long, the two have begun an illicit affair, with TJ telling Morgan about just how little love he receives from Rain these days, making Morgan feel that she's the most important thing in her life.
Inevitably, the relationship between TJ and Morgan is discovered and all hell breaks loose in both of their lives, with Morgan and her family the subject of hate, threats and vandalism and TJ under arrest for criminal sexual conduct.
In order to give readers a full picture of the impact of this illicit relationship on the various people affected by it, Riggle writes The Whole Golden World from the perspective of three separate women. Morgan and Rain both tell the story from their own point of view, which allows TJ’s character to become fully fleshed out. Morgan's mother Diana is the third narrator, so that the reader can fully appreciate just how much Morgan and TJ's actions disturb the lives of all of those around them. Diana's business is vandalized, her children — including Morgan's younger brothers — persecuted, and her marriage brought into disarray by this unexpected turn of events.
The Whole Golden World explores a very complex and difficult topic, but it does so with such heart and realism that it is almost impossible to put down until the very last word.
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