March 16, 2008

Belong to Me

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos
Contemporary Fiction
2008 HarperCollins Publishers
Finished on 3/13/08
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)
ARC - Due out on April 1, 2008

Book Description

Everyone has secrets. Some we keep to protect ourselves, others we keep to protect those we love.

A devoted city dweller, Cornelia Brown surprised no one more than herself when she was gripped by the sudden, inescapable desire to leave urban life behind and head for an idyllic suburb. Though she knows she and her beloved husband, Teo, have made the right move, she approaches her new life with trepidation and struggles to forge friendships in her new home. Cornelia's mettle is quickly tested by judgmental neighbor Piper Truitt. Perfectly manicured, impeccably dressed, and possessing impossible standards, Piper is the embodiment of everything Cornelia feared she would find in suburbia. A saving grace soon appears in the form of Lake. Over a shared love of literature and old movies, Cornelia develops an instant bond with this warm yet elusive woman who has also recently arrived in town, ostensibly to send her perceptive and brilliant son, Dev, to a school for the gifted.

Marisa de los Santos's literary talents shine in the complex interactions she creates between these three women. She deftly explores the life-altering roller coaster of emotions Piper faces as she cares for two households, her own and that of her cancer-stricken best friend, Elizabeth. Skillfully, de los Santos creates an enigmatic and beguiling character in Lake, who draws Cornelia closer even as she harbors a shocking secret. And from the first page until the exhilarating conclusion, de los Santos engages readers with Cornelia, who, while trying to adapt to her new surroundings, must remain true to herself. As their individual stories unfold, the women become entangled in a web of trust, betrayal, love, and loss that challenges them in ways they never imagined, and that ultimately teaches them what it means for one human being to belong to another.

I loved this book. I loved the vividly depicted characters and how the author slowly allows the reader to get close to them. Even the prickly ones. I love the unique, quirky names de los Santos has chosen: Cornelia, Teo (Mateo), Deveroux, Aidan, Piper, Lake, Rafferty, and Kyle. Each name fits its respective character perfectly, and as I think back on the story, I can quickly envision each and every one.

And to think I almost gave up, sure that it was going to be nothing more than another book about women's friendships. Not that there's anything wrong with that sort of book, but I just finished Elizabeth Noble's Things I Want My Daughters to Know and felt I needed something a bit more substantial. Well, I wound up getting it. Sure, Belong to Me borders on fluffy chick-lit, but the writing is oh, so beautiful. Not lyrical in the sense of Pat Conroy or Rick Bragg, but beautiful, descriptive phrases that force you to pause and go back for a second reading. And no wonder: It turns out that Marisa is also an award-winning poet.

This is a book about love & friendship, trust & loyalty, and ultimately the strength of family ties. The subplot dealing with Elizabeth's cancer is realistic and tender, yet doesn't dominate the entire story. The blossoming friendship between Piper and Cornelia reminded me just ever-so-slightly of Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts' characters in the movie Step Mom. I found myself getting teary-eyed on several occasions, yet this isn't a depressing read. More than a guilty pleasure, this intimate and engaging read is the perfect book to curl up with on a rainy, spring afternoon and one you'll want to share with all your girlfriends. I'd love to read a sequel, as I'm already missing Cornelia, Piper, Dev and Clare, but it may be another year or two before the author publishes another book. (And who knows if she plans to continue with Cornelia's story.) But as luck would have it, I missed her debut title (Love Walked In), which just happens to be the prequel to Belong to Me. I know what I'm buying tomorrow at work!


  1. Thanks for the heads-up! I'll be sure to check out Love Walked In first. :)

  2. Anonymous8:38 PM

    I ordered this one the other day. Didn't know that LOVE WALKED IN was a prequel. Will keep that in mind. Thanks for the review!

  3. Les,

    When I started to read your review, the names sounded so familiar. I didn't know that Love Walked In (which I loved) was a prequel to this book! Now I really cannot wait for it to come out. I'll probably reread Love Walked In first though!

    Linda in VA

  4. This sounds good. It's been awhile since I've read a good women's friendship type story.

  5. What a great review! I have Love Walked In and just haven't gotten to it. I need to fix that fast! :)

  6. When you miss the characters, you know you've just had a good read. It's been awhile for me, so I'll need to pick this up.

  7. Joy - You're welcome. I'm excited that I still have something else to read by de los Santos!

    Kay - I have a feeling you'll really like this one. And isn't the cover wonderful?!

    Linda - I remember how much you loved Love Walked In. You're in for a treat with this one, as it's quite a bit longer the LWI.

    Nat - This is one of the better "women's friendship" books I've read in a long time. Probably not the sort of thing you'd want to read too much of back-to-back. ;)

    Iliana - Thank you. It's always easier to write a review for something I enjoyed.

  8. Bellezza - I'm still thinking about them. They kind of remind me of the cast from thirtysomething. Just a smidge.

  9. I've just added both her books to my list. The cover has such luscious colors. Love that sweet row of boots.

  10. Booklogged - I love the cover art, too. Nice to finally read a book that turned out to be such a winner AND have a pretty cover.

  11. Thanks for a great review, Les! I didn't know the author was a poet - which makes me want to read this even more. Lately I've read Resistance, by Owen Sheers and his gift for beautiful language (he is also a poet) really makes the book special. I'm looking forward to reading this one SOON!

  12. Anonymous8:13 PM

    This sounds like a book I need to wishlist. Sounds wonderful as you did a great job of selling it, Lesley.


  13. Wendy - Resistance sounds like a great read. I've added it to my TBR list. It's been a while since I've read a lyrical book and this sounds one sounds right up my alley. Thanks.

    Gayla - I think I know your reading tastes pretty well and think you'll love this book!

  14. Les,

    Just dropping by to wish you a Happy and blessed Easter!

  15. Don't laugh. I LOVED thirtysomething. I'd still watch it if it was on. Even if I'm closer to fiftysomething now.

    A Happy Easter to you, Les, come Sunday.

  16. Anonymous6:38 AM

    Great review - will add this to my wish list - and check out love walked in too

  17. Nancy - Thanks! I hope you had a good day, too.

    Bellezza - You won't see me laughing. I loved thirtysomething and have even considered checking to see if it's available for purchase on dvd. Didn't you just love Hope and Michael's house?!

    Happy Easter to you, too.

    Mrs. S. - Thanks for stopping by. Hope you enjoy both books.

  18. Both books sound wonderful. My TBR list needs another page added anyway so I guess I'll start with these. Thanks for your review.

  19. Yeah, that house was great! All the beautiful wood, and trim...I even remember the front door. I guess that show just came at the right time in my life for me to appreciate it/relate to it.

  20. Framed - You're welcome! Enjoy!

    Bellezza - I remember that door, too! Yep, it started in 1987 and ran for 4 seasons. I'd love to get it on dvd, but so far, I don't see it available anywhere.

  21. I finished this the other day and haven't reviewed it yet, so I didn't read your review. But I'm trying to catch up with Week 2 of Weekly Geeks and was looking for book reviews to link to - which I will when I write the review!

  22. Jenclair - Looking forward to your review!


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