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Falling Together: A Novel Paperback – October 2, 2012
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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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“The mix of perfectly realized personalities and genuine emotion make this a winner.” (Publishers Weekly on FALLING TOGETHER)
“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 another—and confronting unwelcome truths—at 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)
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lots Santos is well-known for is in abundance from the first page, this story moves at a snail's pace which becomes increasingly annoying. Virtually no plot or character development takes place until the last few chapters. Instead the pages are filled with whys and what ifs. By the end, I grew to appreciate the lush language, put to fine use describing the Phillipines and the transformations and clarifications that took place there. It appeared to me that this was a possibly great short story that should never have been forced into a novel. Finally, the content and the form were a disappointing mismatch.
Pen (short for Penelope), Will, and Cat met in college. "Met cute," they liked to say, when Will and Pen came to Cat's aid when she was in the middle of an epileptic seizure in a university bathroom. Pen was the idealist, Cat the flighty one, Will the steadfast one. The three were inseparable for a number of years (often at the expense of romantic relationships any tried to pursue), until one day, Cat decided to get married and determined that in order to have any chance at a successful marriage, she needed to end her friendship with Pen and Will. Shortly thereafter, Will left Pen, because he said he didn't know how to be friends with just her. Will and Pen both got on with their lives, until one day just before their 10-year college reunion, both received an email from Cat saying she needed help and begged them to come to the reunion. The email sent their lives into disarray, and is the catalyst for an interesting, sometimes frustrating and heartbreaking, journey.
Some have referred to de los Santos' novels as "chick lit," because they're books about relationships and love, but I believe that doing so denigrates the quality of her writing and her storytelling ability. Her use of language is almost poetic and she develops characters that seem fairly simple on the surface but are truly complex, flawed, unique people. While some of the directions the story takes are a little overly dramatic, the book pulls you in emotionally and makes you want to get invested in the story. I thought this book was fantastic, and you can't go wrong with either of her other books. Take the chance--you won't regret it.
It's the story of three friends who go through college together and become separated. After years go by they are searching out one of their friends. It is not just the story of romance, although love is found but it is also the story of how through anything they will always have each other.
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