Friday, July 18, 2008

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos

In Belong to Me, Cornelia moves from the city to the suburbs with her handsome husband, Teo. She desperately wants to find her place and make friends in this new environment. She meets her new neighbours: Piper, the neighbourhood know-it-all who’s best friend, Elizabeth is gravely ill and Lake who is also new to the area. She’s moved here so that her son Dev, a genius, can attend a special school. In this suburb, the secrets are plentiful and the relationships complex. At first, these characters barely know each other and have only brief encounters. However, soon their lives become connected in ways we couldn’t imagine.

Marisa de los Santos presents a beautifully written, thought-provoking and heartbreaking novel in which lives are torn apart, secrets are revealed, friendships are made and tested, and love is defined. I wasn’t surprised the find out that she was a poet. Her writing is lovely, engaging and captured my attention from the very first word. At first it’s hard to imagine how these lives become (or are) connected, but slowly and surely de los Santos reveals the story to us.

I love stories written in the first person. Therefore, I was particularly drawn to the chapters about Cornelia. Rather than having the whole book in the first person, the author presents the other chapters, the ones where Cornelia isn’t the “prime” character, in the third person. A unique and interesting idea. I think this is the first book I’ve read that is written this way. It was a delight to read.

de los Santos’ characters are believable and easy to love. My favourite was Cornelia. She was tough, smart and has a wonderful sense of humour. In addition, I liked Dev’s inquisitive and brilliant side, but not his teenage side so much. Piper was tough to like, but in the end I think I really enjoyed reading about her. Both her and Cornelia grew a lot through the course of the story.

I’ll be looking for more works by this exceptional author.

Even though Belong to Me is the second book featuring some of these characters, you don’t have to read the first one to enjoy this one. It can really stand on it’s own merits. At the time I was reading this story, I didn’t even know the other one, Love Walked In existed. Now that I know it’s out there, I’d love to read it.

Highly recommended.

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