Belong to Me
by Marisa de los Santos
Cornelia Brown and her gorgeous husband, Teo, have just moved from the busy city to the quiet suburbs. Cornelia looks forward to a change of pace, but she seems unable to fit in with the wealthy, judgmental mothers in her neighborhood. The leader of these women is the indomitable Piper Truitt, who instantly decides Cornelia does not fit in with her set. Vicious Piper has a softer side, though; her best friend Elizabeth is dying of cancer, and Piper is utterly devoted to her, causing a considerable strain on Piper's marriage. Blocked from the society of her neighbors, Cornelia befriends a waitress named Lake and her precocious son Dev. Lake, like Cornelia, has just moved into town, supposedly so that her son can attend a school for the gifted. Each woman has a secret she's hiding, but secrets have a way of slipping to the surface when their keepers least expect it...
I didn't realize that this book was technically a sequel to Santos' first novel (which I have not read), but that didn't matter. It isn't necessary to read Love Walked In to follow the story here. The books may share characters, but the plots are wholly separate, and anything you need to know from the previous book is quickly covered here.
It seemed like every few chapters another side plot was introduced. Cornelia has to adjust to life in the suburbs, Elizabeth's cancer returns, Dev begins a search for his father, Cornelia befriends Lake, Piper faces divorce, Cornelia's friend Clare comes to town, one of Dev's friends attempts to kill herself, and on and on it goes. Marisa de los Santos does a fantastic job of juggling all her characters and their stories. Some of the connections between the characters seem pretty forced, especially toward the end, but at least those connections are clear and easy to follow. I never felt confused about who did what, and when and how.
Santos' writing style is very descriptive and easy to follow. She alters it slightly to match whichever character currently in focus – for example, whenever Dev's story is being told the text is full of references to Darwin and biology – but throughout the book it is clear and steadily paced.
I listened to this book on CD, and the narrator, Julia Gibson, did a great job. Her reading was very clear and precise, with subtle acting. If you decide to check out Belong to Me, I strongly recommend trying it in this format.
4 out of 5 stars