Thursday, August 12, 2010

Review - Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

Summary (via Goodreads): "When Martin Grace enters the hip Philadelphia coffee shop Cornelia Brown manages, her life changes forever. Charming and debonair, the spitting image of Cary Grant, Martin sweeps Cornelia off her feet, but, as it turns out, Martin Grace is more the harbinger of change than the change itself." Meanwhile, on the other side of town, eleven-year-old Clare Hobbes must learn to fend for herself after her increasingly unstable mother has a breakdown and disappears. Taking inspiration from famous orphans (Anne Shirley, Sara Crewe, Mary Lennox, and even Harry Potter) Clare musters the courage to seek out her estranged father. When the two of them show up at Cornelia's cafe, Cornelia and Clare form a bond as unlikely as it is deep. Together, they face difficult choices and discover that knowing what you love and why is as real as life gets.

Review: Um, Marisa de los Santos? I have one question.  

Can I have a hug?

Love Walked In is the type of book you curl up with on a rainy day in front a large bay window. It's a fairy tale...fantasy with a dash of reality thrown in. I finished this book and, I'm not lying, hugged it. I HUGGED IT.

The story alternates between Cornelia and Clare. Cornelia is a 30 year old cafe manager, who is not quite sure how's she's ended up where she is. Clare is a 11 year old girl whose mother abandons her; she mentally checks out at first and then, right before Christmas, completely leaves by letting Clare out on the side of the road. Their lives intersect by one man: Martin

Santos gives both Clare and Cornelia their own distinct voice. Cornelia is...effervescent. She's smart, she's witty. She references and compares many moments of her life to old movies; she idolizes the likes of Katherine Hepburn, Ingrid Berman and Bette Davis. This is a woman who, regardless of the circumstances, is positive. She's grounded & realistic, direct & honest. She's a delight to read. 

Clare, on the other hand is struggling. She's trying to cover for a mother who has a breakdown of sorts (we later learn this is bipolar disorder). She's makes lists of what she needs to do in order to make her mom seem perfect. When she reaches out to her father, whom she describes as a "near-stranger", he brushes her off and tells her that her mother is fine and that she's exaggerating. She feels like she's invisible with him, and rightly so, as every time she reaches out to him, he's busy.  Because of this, Clare's voice is one of an adult.  It's somewhat sad to read because this voice is much older than an eleven year old's should be.

Now, Martin? Martin is the bridge. The first line of this book is about Martin. Cornelia says:
"My life--my real life--started when a man walked into it, a handsome stranger in a perfectly cut suit, and yes, I know how that sounds"
When Martin enters Cornelia's life, he is perfect. He's gentle, charming and romantic. The banter they share is similar to the quick quips traded between Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn in the movie Holiday (which everyone needs to see, btw! Just sayin'...) They're a dream. We love Cornelia and because he's good to her, we love Martin.

So imagine when we find out that our dream man is Clare's bum of a father? UGH.

It's from this point that Martin becomes somewhat of a background character because the relationship between Clare and Cornelia? It's vibrant. It's golden. It's the 'true love' of this story. From Cornelia, Clare gets the unconditional love and stability that she's been craving. From Clare, Cornelia gets validation--validation that there's nothing wrong with the life that she's chosen...and that she should go after what she wants. This is not to say their road is easy; there are deaths to contend with, as well as the return of Clare's mother. Still, these incidents do not diminish the joy that comes from this relationship. If anything, it makes it stronger.

I also want to point out that there were no villains. She's fleshed these characters out so that there are no bad people. There are people who have made mistakes. I never disliked anyone in this book. I disliked the choices they made but everyone was flawed in their own way. Everyone was human.

I don't want to keep rambling. I'll just say that it's a warm, genuine read. It's the closest you'll ever get to a hug from a book.

Lit Snit Verdict: A 

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