Thursday, November 27, 2008

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos (a review)

Love Walked In by Marisa de los SantosA couple of months ago I filled out a reading questionnaire that asked about books I was “an evangelist for.” Although I answered the question by naming books I had recommended over and over to friends and friends of friends before I became a book blogger, I wasn’t sure I was zealous enough in my recommendations to qualify as an evangelist for those books. Or maybe it’s just that I’d read all of the books I mentioned quite some time ago and some of my initial enthusiasm for them has rubbed away with the passage of time. (I have a bad memory, so the details of why I loved those books have begun to fade.) All of this to say, when I read Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos, I reconnected with my inner book evangelist*—I fell in love with this book and with Cornelia, the main character, right from the first paragraph:
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. My friend Linny would snort and convey the kind of multi-pronged disgust I rely on her to convey. One prong of feminist disgust at the whole idea of a man changing a woman’s life, even though, as things turned out, the man himself was more the harbinger of change than the change itself. Another prong of disgust for the inaccuracy of saying my life began after thirty-one years of living it. And the final prong being a kind of general disgust for the way people turn moments of their lives into movie moments. (p. 1)
Love Walked In is the story of Cordelia, a café manager who does have a habit of turning moments of her life into movie moments; Martin, the man who walked into her café and changed her life (and who just happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to Cary Grant); and 11-year-old Clare. The novel is told from the alternating points of view of Cordelia and Clare. Cordelia’s segments are written in the first person and she occasionally addresses the reader directly, a device I generally find annoying but that only serves to create a feeling of intimacy here, as if one were having a conversation with a close friend.

I find it hard to articulate exactly why I loved this book so much—it’s the writing of course, which is fresh, original, marvellous. I want to quote reams of it in this review. Here’s another favourite passage:
On our third date, we went to a Tom Stoppard play about A. E. Housman that left me awed and exhilarated. On the way out of the theater and for blocks and blocks, I gushed about the braininess and wordplay and passion and compassion and ruthlessness and how I’d sat in the theater and trembled with the sense that what was happening onstage was turning me into a better person. Martin said he felt the same way, “Except that you were watching the play, and I was watching you.”

Amazing right? How could there be more, right? There’s more.

“I love movies, but usually plays make me restive,” I told Martin, after a pause both elated and shy.

“Oh restive. One of those words,” said Martin, nodding.

“I know,” I said, almost certain that I did.

“One of those words that mean the opposite of how they sound,” said Martin.

“I know, I said again, because I did know, exactly. “Like enervated.”

“Spendthrift,” said Martin.




“Cleave,” said Martin, who didn’t miss a trick.

On my doorstep we kissed, urgently, for somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty minutes. (pp. 43-44)
Sure, some of the story is wildly improbable but I didn’t care. In this way, Love Walked In reminded me of The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd and Before Women Had Wings by Connie May Fowler. All three are about girls in difficult family situations** and all three contain plot elements that are unbelievable, yet as a reader I accept these stories because I wish they were true. They are fables of sorts, or, as Jennifer Weiner said about Love Walked In, “grown-up fairy tale[s].” They are stories about love in all its permutations and, despite the improbable aspects of these books, the characters are flesh and blood, human, complex. In the case of Love Walked In, the best part (once I was done reading it) is that there’s a sequel to look forward to: Belong to Me.

This was one of my favourite books in 2008.

For other reviews of this book, visit these blogs:
Book AddictionBookslutCaribousmomInsert Witty Title HereLesley’s Book NookPassion for the PageThe Bluestocking SocietyThe Places You Will Go

This is the second book I review for the LibraryThing Author Challenge.

*And yes, I know that I recently qualified The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent as “the best book I’ve read all year.” Luckily I don’t have to be monogamous in my book love!

**I must stress that the stories themselves are otherwise very different.


  1. Wow! A book evangelist! You made me want to read it.

  2. Kathy, I really don't feel like I've fully done the book justice in my review. It's definitely worth reading!

  3. I haven't had a chance to read this one yet but I did read the sequel with a book club at Barnes & Noble in May this year. It was for a month and the author joined us. I loved the book and I loved Marisa de los Santos! It was so good and although it was a sequel they could both be stand alone books. Cornelia is the main character and Clare is in this story but I think the rest, or most of them, are new.

  4. Wrighty, I'm happy to hear you enjoyed the sequel. Do read this one too!

  5. Was this a book fair book? The cover looks familiar... Loved your review (and your blog!) - sounds like the perfect book to distract me from family mayhem during the holidays!

  6. I'm SOLD after reading your review and those quotes!


  7. What a great review! Thanks for the recommendation. I'll definitely have to check this one out.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  8. Glad to see you loved this book as I did (thanks for the link to my review :)) I know what you mean about not always being able to articulate why a book strikes your fancy!

  9. Those are some great quotes and it seems like a really good book. Good job evangelist

  10. Hi Michelle! Thanks for dropping by my blog and I'm glad to hear you enjoyed reading my review (and the blog in general). Yup, this was a book fair book. (I also wrote a post on the book fairs here and mentioned many of my finds.)

    Thanks, Shana and Anna. I hope you both get a chance to read it!

    Wendy, it happens to me all too often that I have trouble articulating why I love a book. When I dislike them, it's usually much easier to explain!

    Thanks, Nicole!

  11. I've been eyeing up Belong to Me (love the boots on the cover) but had no idea it was a sequel!

  12. I like the sound of a 'grown-up fairy tale'...
    one of my favorite words for sounding like the opposite of what it means is "téméraire" in French...which reminds me of 'timorous' but means its opposite!

  13. Thanks for the excerpts, that opening is an attention-grabber.