It seemed impossible that you could stand in a kitchen making hot chocolate and grilled-cheese sandwiches with your best friend dying in the next room, the voices of her children tangled up with the voices of your own, that you could butter bread and watch, through the window, the trees relinquishing their leaves and hear the silvery tumble of water into a kettle, and be suddenly aware that what resided at the heart of every shape and sound was peace. A rightness hovering above all that was wrong, shimmering, like heat rising from a street in summer. -From Belong To Me, page 85-
Marisa de los Santos has penned a novel filled to the brim with laughter, tears, friendships, dreams, and love. It is a novel so genuine and real that I found myself nodding and thinking ‘exactly!’ over and over again.
Cornelia Brown moves with her oncologist husband, Teo, from the city to the suburbs – envisioning a perfect life complete with manicured lawns. Instead she finds a world filled with a grounding reality; a world more rewarding than she could ever have imagined.
All of Santos’ characters are authentic – flawed and all too human at times, they wiggle their way into the reader’s heart. Piper, Cornelia’s queen-bee next door neighbor, introduces Cornelia to the neighborhood with biting judgment tinged with anger – but, later reveals herself to be a person filled with self doubt, a character whose depth and honesty made me love her. Dev, a thirteen year old boy with an absent father, embodies the awkwardness of adolescence mixed with a maturity beyond his years. Lake, Dev’s single mother, holds a devastating secret – one that will rock all the characters to their core when it is uncovered. Santos draws her male characters splendidly…Teo, Toby, Rafferty and Tom all made me wish I lived in Cornelia’s neighborhood.
Santos is an award-winning poet (and best selling author of her first novel: Love Walked In), and her love of language shows in her radiant descriptions and acute ear for dialogue. Santos builds the tension slowly, revealing her characters chapter by chapter, until the final and unexpected end. Belong To Me is not just Cornelia’s story, but the story of all women – and it ultimately reveals the redemptive power of love and forgiveness.
This was a novel I resisted putting down for even a few minutes. It is Women’s Fiction at its best. I loved it, and I can’t wait to read Love Walked In.
Santos is a talented writer – one who will touch the reader’s heart and make you wish the book will never end.
Belong To Me is highly recommended. Rated 5/5.