Thursday, May 27, 2010

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos

I am not a poet. In general I'm not even a fan of poetry. Yet Marisa de los Santos, who is a poet, uses incredible poetry in her descriptive novel. In fact, she breaks most of the rules writing guides tell struggling authors: she uses too many adverbs, she uses cliches with aplomb, and she lets her characters ramble. But put all her idiosyncrasies together and de los Santos writes a very compelling story. What makes the writing work is that each character has his/her own distinct voice.
Cornelia likes cliches and wandering thoughts.
Dev likes logic until logic no longer works.
Piper likes order until order falls apart.

Call me a book snob, but I am not a huge fan of "women's literature." Too many stories revolve around marital problems and children's health. I find them redundant and the authors often work too hard to pull at my emotional strings. Belong to Me does have some of those characteristics and yet I did not find them overwhelming the plot. The story stands strong even without the marital problems and the children's health issues.

Maria de los Santos has the rare skill to write from the perspective of very different individuals convincingly. To tell the story from the perspective of two women who hate one another on sight and yet grow to become friends is a challenge. As a reader my immediate opinion of Piper was disdain and yet by the end of the novel she had redeemed herself through her experiences and her growing acceptance of Cornelia and different ways of seeing the world. De los Santos writes Piper's haughtiness and changing nature realistically.

One of the best aspects of the book was the surprise. I didn't see it coming at all. The author does a great job laying out all the clues buy not alluding to the idea that the information is clues until the reader is hit with what is really going on.

On the other hand, she did wrap things up a bit too neatly for my tastes. In the epilogue she alludes to problems and discord but yet everything is tied up with a neat little bow. A little more discord would have rung more true - although who doesn't want to see all the characters happy at the end?

I would consider this book a good summer read: it makes one think, but not too hard. It has conflict and plenty of sadness - it did make me cry, but yet lots of redemption too.


Kelly Dahl said...

I really loved this book. Did you know it is a kind of part 2? Love Walked In is also wonderful. I read that first and have to say I liked it even better. I felt de los Santos's poetry before reading she is a poet. I cried reading Love Walked In and I rarely cry, let alone from a book.

g.n.a.t. said...

Ah! Thanks Kelly. That makes so much sense. I felt like Cornelia's back story was left too unexplained and now I know why. I'll add Love Walked In to my to-read list. (I remember seeing Belong to Me at your house. I think that's part of why I picked it up.)

Kelly Dahl said...

Yes, the back story will make sense, as will the back story of the young girl who came to visit. It will all make a lot more sense. Plus it is a beautiful read. Enjoy!