Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos
First line: “My fall from suburban grace, or, more accurately, my failure to achieve the merest molehill of surburban grace from which to fall, began with a dinner party and a perfectly innocent, modestly clever, and only faintly quirky remark about Armand Assante.”
Synopsis (from jacket cover): “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.”
Review: I had such high expectations for this novel after recently reading Love Walked In that I couldn’t believe Belong to Me could possibly live up to this. Well, I absolutely loved it. In fact, I picked it up and carried it around until I finished it — brushing my teeth, drying my hair, walking around the house… This novel actually fulfilled Hood’s comment from last week…
De los Santos is an award-winning poet and boy does this make a difference. Her abiding love of diction is palpable, memorable and well-crafted. From the first chapter:
“I had planned to remain an adventurous urbanite, to court energy and unpredictability, and to remain open to blasts of strangeness, ugliness, and edgy beauty for the rest of my life. Instead, as Teo drove ten miles an hour down street after street, it came from everywhere, from the red flags of the mailboxes and the swaths of green lawn, from the orderly flower beds and oxidized copper of the drainpipes: the sound of this sedate, unsurprising place calling me home.”
This woman loves language and I love her for it…
Belong to Me is told through multiple perspectives, just like Love Walked In. We see the neighborhood through the eyes of Cornelia (the narrator of Love), Piper (Cornelia’s “evil” neighbor), and Dev (the thirteen year old son of Cornelia’s friend, Lake). Not only are each of the perspectives interesting and complex, but even more importantly — real.
As I get older, I am finding that the more perspectives the better. So while we are predisposed to dislike Piper for her catty, clique-ish behavior toward our beloved Cornelia, I love the fact that we are forced into her world and grow into empathy and even affection for her.
This novel is as heart-breaking, beautiful and complex as human nature and relationships can’t help but be, and I’m already anxiously anticipating de los Santos’ next masterpiece.