Amazon Exclusive Essay: Marisa de los Santos on Falling Together
I am an incorrigible homebody. I like my own pillow, my own imperfect showerhead, my coffee and pizza and bagel shops, my little rituals. I am quite old lady-ish about it. I like to write in—and only in—my radically unbeautiful office (I share it with guinea pigs). I like to drive my kids to swimming. At night, the moment when I shut my book, turn off my bedside table light, and know that everyone is sleeping under the same roof, our roof, is as close to a state of grace as I ever hope to come. I have always been this person.
So it is probably not surprising that, until now, my writing has stuck close to home, as well. In the first two novels, my characters did a little meandering but rarely outside of the 95 corridor, never outside of the country. They needed no passports; they never suffered jet lag. And now, with Falling Together, what have I done but put Will, Augusta, Jason, and my poor aviophobic Pen on airplane after airplane and sent them clear across the world? What was I thinking? I was thinking about the story, mostly, and that these were people who, each in her or his own way needed to go in quest of something (apart from Augusta, who has everything she needs). Also, I was thinking that the Philippines, where my father grew up, is too beautiful, too much a part of the landscape of my heart not to write about.
I visited the Philippines for the first time when I was 22 and on Christmas Day, woke up to voluminous sunshine, enfolding heat, a houseful of relatives, and a roasted suckling pig, pointy-eared, tiger’s eye-orange, and smelling like bliss. I was not in Kansas (or Virginia) anymore. I rode in dazzlingly painted jeepneys; I visited roadside fruit stands as resplendent as parade-floats and cemeteries in which people laughed, ate, and talked as though they were in their own living rooms and the gravestones were furniture or friends. I ate a lot: the little fists of bread called Elordes after the boxer; rice sticky with coconut milk; fish with blue bones like a secret; fruit shaped like sea anemones, hedgehogs, brains; heavenly, palm-sized mangoes with flesh you can scoop like custard.
Amid all of these discoveries, the best part was the people, a branch (or palm frond) of my family tree that I had only seen in glimpses. Now, this family surrounded me. I learned that traits I thought were uniquely my father’s—having conversations with his eyebrows, a brusque, instinctive generosity that shrugged off thanks—were family or cultural traits. I learned that home is a word that can stretch. Since that first visit, I’ve been back many times since, especially since my parents retired there six years ago, and every time, home stretches to include something new: a coral reef, a helper’s bewitching baby, a soup made of mung beans, a tiny tarsier’s enormous eyes.
In Falling Together, Pen goes to the Philippines in search of her friend, but I think she finds more than that. She sits in a banca boat with a school of jackfish shoaling beneath it and thinks, awestruck, “All this time, every second: this.” She experiences the world as big and small at the same time. While I sit at my desk, drive my children around, sleep under my roof, all the time, every second, there is another version of home, my home, vibrantly alive and unfolding itself thousands of miles away. The least I could do was put it in a book.
A Look Inside Falling Together
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“Readers who enjoy the connection forged through the ties of family and friendships should find much to savor in de los Santos’s comforting, leisurely paced novel.” (Library Journal on FALLING TOGETHER)
“A satisfying novel about friends rediscovering one anotherand confronting unwelcome truthsat their college reunion.” (People on FALLING TOGETHER)
“[FALLING TOGETHER] is a good, solid read that succeeds in being both funny and heartbreaking. De los Santos has a knack for best-friend banter and stays true to the emotions involved in letting go of treasured relationships.” (Booklist on FALLING TOGETHER)
“Falling Together explores the ways our familial relationships and friendships affect who we are and who we’re becoming…the appeal of de los Santos’ books remains the intimacy with which the reader gets to know each character.” (BookPage on FALLING TOGETHER)
“Brimming with the author’s trademark wit, vivid prose and captivating characterizations, FALLING TOGETHER brilliantly explores our deepest human connections and confirms Marisa de los Santos as one of America’s most exciting contemporary novelists.” (Bookreporter.com)
“Prose that shines in moments of tenderness.” (People on BELONG TO ME)
“By the book’s end, humanity is discovered in the unlikeliest places, and Cornelia learns that tempting as it is, you can’t always judge a woman by her hairstyle.” (New York Times on BELONG TO ME)
“De los Santos keeps us totally engaged with these fragile creatures, who get under our skin and, ultimately, into our hearts. Highly recommended.” (Library Journal (starred review) on BELONG TO ME)
“Witty and intelligent.” (Kirkus Reviews on BELONG TO ME)
“Fans of de los Santos’s previous heartfelt novels will rejoice to learn of her new one, and those readers just discovering her with Falling Together will be thrilled to hear that she has a backlist they can devour.” (SheKnows.com on FALLING TOGETHER)