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"On a recent rainy Monday, I'd tried imagining the last month and a half of my life as a feature film, a game I play, secretly, fairly often, and that I'm convinced other people play, secretly too," confesses Cornelia Brown, whose witty observations and small epiphanies in the pages of Marisa de los Santos' Belong to Me surround readers like the warm embrace of an old friend. Cornelia and her impossibly handsome husband, Teo Sandoval, made their debut in the author's Love Walked In.
As this book begins, the couple is settling into their first house on an idyllic street in a picturesque Philadelphia suburb. Cornelia is inexplicably drawn to "this unsurprising place" that she yearns to call home, but her neighbors are less sure of how these transplanted, apparently childless urbanites will fare in their midst. Especially Piper Truitt. The epitome of blonde cool, this demanding mother of two has created her own version of perfection within the walls of a home that sits across the street from Cornelia's. From their early encounter at a dinner party, the two are at odds, a situation that Cornelia, adrift from her familiar surroundings, cannot conceive how to navigate.
As the novel progresses, new characters emerge. We meet Elizabeth, Piper's best friend, who's battling cancer, as well as Toby, Cornelia's brother, and Clare, the bright and compassionate teen familiar to readers of Love Walked In. Then there's Lake, a single mother working at a local Italian restaurant, who throws Cornelia a timely lifeline in the form of a dish of spaghetti alla puttanesca. Lake's son Dev, a preternaturally gifted 13-year-old, becomes Cornelia's unexpected kindred spirit. Deftly blending several tales at once, de los Santos' narrative is richly embroidered with intertwined lives and loves. As present circumstances are threatened by the revelation of past secrets, the friends forge a circle of strength and forgiveness that the reader, too, belongs to -- and will hate to leave when the last page is turned. A triumphant testimony to the power of love, Belong to Me hums with the hope that pulls friends through the ups and downs that the years hold in store for everyone.
About the Author
Belong to Me is Marisa de los Santos' second novel. Her bestselling debut, Love Walked In, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, has been optioned for film by Sarah Jessica Parker. De los Santos' fiction is peopled with fully realized personalities. She explains, "When it comes to creating characters, I'm a cunning and unrepentant thief. I steal all kinds of qualities, quirks, and language from people I know and from total strangers, but there's no character in my novel who matches up with one person walking around the real world." The protagonist of Love Walked In, Cornelia Brown, makes her second appearance in the pages of Belong to Me, and de los Santos admits that readers may not have seen the last of her. "She's a very hard girl to refuse, so if somewhere down the line she decides she's not finished with me, I'll have no choice but to write more of her story. Actually, I'd love it if that happened." Originally from Baltimore, de los Santos received a B.A. from the University of Virginia, an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College, and a Ph.D. in English literature and creative writing from the University of Houston. The award-winning poet currently teaches English at the University of Delaware and lives in Wilmington with her husband, David, and their children, Charles and Annabel.
From Our Booksellers
I was fooled into thinking this was going to be a fluffy chick-lit kind of book. Boy, was I wrong! I became so involved with these charming, fully-developed characters. The writing is so luscious! Like biting into a juicy peach, where every sense is touched and filled with delight and wonder. --Dorothy Newmark, Freehold, NJ
You will like, love, and hate these characters. But ultimately, you will miss them once they're gone. All I can say is, I want more! --Rosey McArdell, Apple Valley, MN
For anyone who has ever felt they don't fit in with the crowd. Spunky and fierce, Marisa de los Santos rewrites the whole chick-lit genre. --Angel Ramandt, Ellicott City, MD
Reading Belong to Me was like eating a delicious candy bar that -- as it turns out -- just happens to be good for you. --Rebecca Fell, Hamilton, NJ
Smart, funny writing about the risks we take for love.
Cornelia Brown, heroine of de los Santos's bestselling Love Walked In, returns in a gracefully written if formulaic sophomore effort. Cornelia and her husband, Teo, move to suburban Philadelphia, where she finds it difficult to fit into the sorority-like atmosphere. Despite a bevy of domestic dramas (planning a family among them), Cornelia's first-person chapters are the quietest of the three points of view. Seemingly shallow and vicious, neighbor Piper shows her kinder side as she struggles through her best friend's fight against cancer. Though the extreme of Piper's two-facedness isn't convincing, her moments of sincerity invite genuine empathy. Cornelia also yields narrative time to Dev, a precocious teenager whose father is missing and whose mother develops a friendship with Cornelia. Dev's connection to the story is initially unclear, though he does grow close to Clare, a troubled teenager with an unconventional connection to Cornelia, and a late-breaking development grounds his role more firmly. Though each story line is a good read on its own, they don't always braid nicely, and while the predictable plot wanders into sappiness, the prose is polished and the suburban travails are familiar enough that fans of the women's fiction and higher-brow mommy lit will relate. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal
Having met Cornelia Brown in de los Santos's well-reviewed debut, Love Walked In, we now follow her and her oncologist husband, Teo Sandoval, to suburban Philadelphia. Piper Truitt lives across the street with her husband and two young children. She considers herself the arbiter of style and local propriety. Add to the mix waitress Lake and her son, Dev, who is enrolled in a private academy far superior to his previous California public school. From the outset, Cornelia and Piper are traveling down different paths, while Cornelia and Lake seem to hit it off. Go figure? But there is more beneath the surface of these women and their motivations than the lovely locale can mask. Dev thinks he and his mother moved to the area because his long-lost (and unknown to him) father is there. But how do you go about locating someone who's been gone for 13 years? Then Piper becomes caregiver to her longtime friend Elizabeth, diagnosed with cancer, a role that seems more appealing to Piper than wife to Kyle. These family dynamics collide and reconfigure in a variety of ways that readers will find fascinating. De los Santos keeps us totally engaged with these fragile creatures, who get under our skin and, ultimately, into our hearts. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ1/08.]
Bette-Lee Fox Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
In de los Santos's second novel (Love Walked In, 2006), Cornelia Brown returns the as heroine, now married to handsome oncologist Teo and trying to make a new home in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Having moved out of New York City after the double whammy of a miscarriage and 9/11, Cornelia finds herself a shunned outsider among the community's perfect blond matrons. Particularly unwelcoming is her tightly wound neighbor Piper, who is as sharp-tongued as she is judgmental about fashion, flowers and childrearing. Cornelia does begin a fledgling friendship with another newcomer, Lake, a waitress who has moved from California to enroll her genius 13-year-old son Dev in a special school after his previous school punished him for being too smart. Dev suspects there might be more to the move, that Lake may be moving them closer to the mystery father he's never met. As much as Cornelia likes Lake, she senses Lake holding back at crucial moments and responds in kind. Meanwhile, Piper turns out to be a far more complicated woman than she seems on the surface. She drops everything (but her children) to care for her best friend Elizabeth, who's in the last stages of cancer. By the time Cornelia succeeds in becoming pregnant, she and Piper have grown surprisingly close, each opening her heart a little to the other. Days after Elizabeth dies, Piper's husband leaves her and she finds herself an outcast for continuing her (platonic) involvement with Elizabeth's mourning husband and children. In another development, Dev stumbles on the truth Lake has been hiding and learns the identity of his father. The father is stunned; Cornelia is devastated; and oh-so-sensitive, intelligent Dev is furious. Needless tosay, a happy ending awaits Cornelia, but readers will be far more interested in Piper, a complex, genuinely intriguing character. Pages on which she appears glow; the rest merely flicker. Witty and intelligent but too often pat. Agent: Jennifer Carlson/Dunow, Carlson & Lerner
Read an Excerpt
It hit me then: Lake needed a friend, probably more than I ever did. She wasn't desperate (I thought that in her own way, Lake must be as immune to quiet desperation as Toby), but she needed a friend, and her need made her fragile as I'd never imagined she could be. So, with the sudden tenderness tugging on me as a gentle current and because I've required enough second chances myself to be a true believer in them, I took three big steps toward Lake, hugged her, sat her down, and made her talk.