Saturday, November 29, 2008

Book Review: Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos

I was up until 2 am and last night and no it wasn't because Bravo had a Real Housewives marathon. The truth is, I was midway through Belong to Me and I just could not put it down. I honestly can't remember the last time that I read a book cover to cover in one day, but this was definitely one of those books. I started it yesterday at 11 am and read the last sentence early this morning at 2 am.

Belong to Me continues the stories of Cornelia and Teo from de los Santos' debut, Love Walked In. We follow them as they navigate the complex dynamics of suburbia and are introduced to new and engaging characters along the way. Love Walked In, is one of my favorite books, so it's no surprise that I found this novel captivating and gorgeously written.

The prose is pure poetry, beautiful, unexpected and carefully written. De los Santos has created a world where instead of boxes shutting with a click they close with a "soft, smoky thunk, like the sound of a moth hitting a window, a toe shoe on a wood floor." Instead of being well-off, her characters rest uneasily on their "green, regularly mown patch of the upper-middle class." Kids don't lie in heaps or even a tangle on the same couch when they watch a movie, rather they're "draped over each other with the gorgeous indifference of children who haven't yet learned that it matters where one body ends and the next begins."

The world that de Los Santos has created is our world, only more beautiful, like a room after you've put a colorful scarf over the lamp or a city covered in snow. The characters are so real, yet somehow more kind, more generous, just more. Even their flaws hold a certain kind of beauty and grace. As I read about Cornelia's struggle to fit into upper-middle class suburban society or Piper's journey to free herself from the strict rules that govern their little corner of the world, I found that I could relate to the characters and their daily losses and triumphs. This book moved me to tears and made me laugh out loud. This is a book about people and how we adapt and how we love. About learning that "if you insist on goodwill, if everyone insists on it together, goodwill comes...Love can be a decision. Forgiveness too."

I can think of a few people on my Christmas list who will be getting both of de los Santos' books this year. Like one of the many classic films referenced in both Love Walked In and Belong to Me, these books will leave you with a smile on your face and the deeply satisfying belief that in spite of the sadness and loss that permeates our world, there is beauty and love all around us.

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