This book club selection brought to you by Ginger and Jenn. Ginger created the book club, and Jenn picked the book for this round. The book selected was Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos, and I have to say I liked it. Really liked it. Okay, I loved it.
Why did it take me three tries to admit I loved this book? Well, I have a very high bar for truly loving a book. Usually chick lit, while I enjoy it for something light and fun to read in between some heftier stuff, doesn't quite make the cut. But this one was different. Something about the way she drew you in right at the beginning, using first person to narrate Cornelia's voice so that you're immediately connected to her. And then she narrates all Clare's parts in third person so that you really just feel like Cornelia is telling you all this over a cup of coffee -- she's telling you what was going on in her own life and then explaining what was happening to Clare at the same time. And then she throws in such great little twists so that it's not just some story about how she fell in love with Martin and that was that and they had some problems and then it all was okay again. ***SPOILER ALERT: From this point forward, the review is riddled with spoilers*** No. Martin wasn't even the love of her life in the end. He turned out to be kind of shallow and unlikeable, and then just when he was almost getting some depth to himself (such an artful way of writing a shallow character, too...he wasn't just flat on the page, he had life, but you could tell he was just one of those "what you see is what you get" people) he goes and dies. And it was one of those deaths where you just say, "oh well, too bad." No tears...there was no connection for the tears.
I also loved how the Teo and Cornelia relationship developed. Or, rather, slapped Cornelia in the face, since, as she says, there was no process to the falling in love. She just wasn't in love with him and then she was. It sounds odd, even unbelievable, but I believe her. I can believe that if you've known someone forever like that, and you know you love them in a certain way but you think it's just like brother and sister, it could easily happen that you look at them one day and something just shifts. I think that's how it works for people who've known each other forever who suddenly fall in love and there they are. I don't think they could have been in love with each other the whole time...if they had been, why did it take so long? And in the case of people who've known each other since childhood, could they have really been "in love" at the start? Can kids fall in love with each other? We don't know exactly how long Teo had been in love with Cornelia, he doesn't say. He just said it had been so long that he'd learned to hide it. So maybe he did love her when they were children. Either way, I thought this development was pulled off really well. It was perfectly believable, because best friends DO fall in love, but it didn't feel like a cliché. It just felt real.
I also loved how effectively she made us want Clare's mother to return, but then when she did, we weren't sure anymore if we wanted her there. We knew she had to come back because Clare needed her, but they had formed this family unit for Clare that was almost better than what she'd had with just her mother. I think the resolution of this conflict was appropriate. Cornelia definitely couldn't stay as an additional "mom", I think that just would have been weird. I liked the idea when Clare first mentioned it, but then as I thought about it I just thought it was kind of inappropriate now that Clare's mom had returned and was properly medicated. But Clare still needed that network of people she could go to -- another house she could run to any time if anything weird started happening, people who would notice if something was wrong and would DO something, and people who would support Clare and her mom and get them back to a good place in their lives.
It was also good that we didn't have any "input" from Clare's mother. Some authors would have had additional narratives from her, explaining where she was and what was wrong, but I think that would have taken away from the conflicted feeling I ended up with when the mother finally returned. I would have fully wanted her back, knowing what struggles she had gone through to get better and see Clare again, instead of worrying that maybe she wasn't ready to come back, maybe she wasn't truly better.
So, anyway, I really did love this book. Chick lit or not...it's a lovable book. I even got the sequel (which isn't so much a "sequel" as it is another story centering around Cornelia, now married to Teo and recently relocated from NYC to the suburbs, dealing with new struggles and new characters) and I'm pleased to report it has the same effective writing style. So thanks to Ginger and Jenn, without whom I never would have picked up this book. :)