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Friday, June 06, 2008

Belong to Me

Three or four times a year, despite the odds against it happening, I end up really enjoying a book that in theory just should not have worked for me at all. Belong to Me was one of those books, the first one in that category this year, in fact. Two words sum up the reluctance I had about reading the book: Chick Lit. The book synopsis screamed “Chick Lit” to me loudly and clearly but the novel seemed to have such a good word-of-mouth buzz going that I took a second look at it. And, yes, it probably is Chick Lit, but at the same time it is the kind of novel that will appeal to readers of both sexes.

This is a book about relationships and what holds them together. It is about parents and children, husbands and wives, old friends and new friends, and the ever changing combinations that evolve from those relationships. It asks whether or not a person can ever really “belong” to another and whether it is selfish to expect that of anyone. It is a character-driven novel filled with enough interesting and quirky people to keep the reader turning pages until its gradually developing plotline reaches the point of making it impossible to put the book down. It is, in other words, a very good book.

Cornelia and Teo, her physician husband, have moved from New York City to a quiet Philadelphia suburb that reminds them of the neighborhood in which they spent their childhoods. The young couple might be a little wary of the lifestyle change they are making, but they want, and expect, to fit neatly into their new neighborhood. Cornelia, though, learns almost immediately that it won’t come easy for them when she meets Piper (rhymes with viper), the Queen of the Neighborhood, who doesn’t bother with much tact when explicitly pointing out to Cornelia what is expected of any neighbor of hers.

Lake Tremain and her son, Dev, enter the picture just in time to throw Cornelia a lifeline when she needs it most. The two have moved from California so that Dev can attend a prestigious high school while his mother tries to make ends meet by working as a waitress. Lake and Cornelia quickly become friends, giving Cornelia the ally she needs when it comes to dealing with Piper the Viper.

Dev is one of those characters I will remember for a long time. He’s a fifteen-year old genius with a great sense of humor and an even greater sense of ethics and morality. I really liked this kid and was happy to see him emerge as one of the book’s main characters. But this book is simply filled with likable characters, among them Dev’s new girlfriend, Claire, an almost perfect, but not trouble free, match for him. Even Piper, a character whose first impression was far from positive, evolved into someone I could respect and like by the end of the story.

Belong to Me is a sequel to Love Walked In but I am proof that it is not necessary to read that one first. I believed that I was reading a standalone novel the whole time and had no idea that many of its characters had been introduced in an earlier book until after I finished it. This one was fun, a nice change-of-pace for someone like me who came to it so reluctantly.

Rated at: 5.0

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