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Falling Together: A Novel

Falling Together: A Novel

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Falling Together: A Novel

valoraciones:
3.5/5 (88 valoraciones)
Longitud:
468 página
7 horas
Editorial:
Publicado:
Oct 4, 2011
ISBN:
9780062100726
Formato:
Libro

Descripción

New York Times bestselling author Marisa de los Santos returns with Falling Together, an emotionally resonant, powerfully moving, and pitch perfect novel about friends, family, and love. 

It's been six years since Pen Calloway watched Cat and Will, her best friends from college, walk out of her life. Through the birth of her daughter, the death of her father, and the vicissitudes of single motherhood, she has never stopped missing them. When, after years of silence, Cat—the bewitching, charismatic center of their group—urgently requests that the three meet at their college reunion, Pen can't refuse. But instead of a happy reconciliation, what awaits is a collision of past and present that sends Pen and Will on a journey around the world, with Pen's five-year-old daughter and Cat's hostile husband in tow. And as Pen and Will struggle to uncover the truth about Cat, they find more than they bargained for: startling truths about who they were before and who they are now.

With her trademark wit, vivid prose, and gift for creating authentic, captivating characters, Marisa de los Santos returns with an emotionally resonant novel about our deepest human connections.

Editorial:
Publicado:
Oct 4, 2011
ISBN:
9780062100726
Formato:
Libro

Sobre el autor

Marisa de los Santos is a New York Times bestselling author and award-winning poet with a PhD in literature and creative writing. She lives in Wilmington, Delaware, with her family.


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Dentro del libro

Cotizaciones principales

  • Instead, she sat in the child-sized blue plastic chair and felt like one of the paintings in the book, imbued with a warm, lemon-colored radiance. It took her a few seconds to realize that what she felt was happy.

  • Cat and Pen were the people with him on the train; everyone else was the blur outside the windows.

  • Will set limits and his mother rolled over them like a tank mowing down a picket fence.

  • Please don’t let him notice that I’m braless.

Vista previa del libro

Falling Together - Marisa de los Santos

Publisher

CHAPTER ONE

PEN WOULD NOT USE THE WORD SUMMONED WHEN SHE TOLD Jamie about the e-mail later that night. Additionally, she would not say that the e-mail dropped like a bowling ball into the pit of her stomach, and at the same time fell over her like a shining wave, sending arcs of sea spray up to flash in the sun, even though that is precisely how it felt.

Across from Jamie at dinner, forkful of rabbit halfway to her mouth, Pen would cock an eyebrow, cop a dry tone, and say, Leave it to me to get the e-mail of my life while wedged between Self-Help and True Crime, listening to Eleanor Rex, M.D., recount her career as a paid dominatrix.

The truth is that Pen was not giving Dr. Rex her full attention, even though she should have been. She liked Eleanor. She liked her Louise Brooks bob, her large, smoky laugh, and her impeccable manners. In the nine hours she had spent driving Eleanor around to radio interviews, stock signings, and an appearance at an upscale but vampireden-looking private club called Marquis, Pen had come to view the dominatrix gig—no sex but a lot of mean talk and costumes—as an utterly valid and even sort of nifty way to put oneself through medical school. Even if she hadn’t, she should have been listening. As a general rule, she listened to all of her authors. It was part of the job.

But this evening, Pen was unusually tired. She stood with her head tilted back against the bookstore wall, her ears only half hearing a description of how to single-handedly lace oneself into a leather corset (There’s an implement involved, she told Jamie later. There always is, he said.), her eyes only half seeing the otherwise lovely store’s horrible ceiling, paste-gray and pocked as the moon, while the weary rest of her began to fold itself up and give into its own weight like a bat at dawn.

Yesterday, Pen’s daughter, Augusta, had come home from school with a late spring cold, and Pen had recognized, her heart sinking, that they were in for a rocky ride. Augusta’s sleep, disordered in the best of circumstances, could be tipped over the edge and into chaos by any little thing. To make matters worse, it was her first illness since Pen had purged their apartment of children’s cold medicine following newly issued, scarily worded warnings that it might be harmful to kids under the age of six. When Jamie got home at 2:00 A.M., he had found Augusta cocooned in a quilt on the sofa, wide awake, coughing noisily but decorously into the crook of her arm the way she had been taught to do in school, and a pale, wild-haired Pen staring into the medicine cabinet like a woman staring into the abyss.

I hate the FDA, Pen had spat viciously. And don’t tell me I don’t.

I would never tell you that, said Jamie, backing up. Noooo way.

In the bookstore, Eleanor’s voice grew fainter and fainter, and Pen was so completely on the verge of sliding down the wall and curling up on the hardwood floor that she was planning it—how she would tuck her knees under her skirt, rest her head on a very large paperback book, possibly some sort of manual—when she felt her phone vibrate against her rib cage. Jamie, a sucker for gadgets, had given her the phone just a few days earlier—a smartphone he’d called it—and he had since realized what Pen had known the second he’d handed it to her: that it was far, far smarter than she required or deserved.

A hummingbird, Pen marveled through her sleep fog, in my purse.

A second later, she thought, Augusta, and then, Oh no, and her heart began to do a hummingbird thrum of its own. Generally, Pen’s girl was as healthy as a horse, and her cold had been of the messy but aimless variety. But anything could happen. A couple of months ago, Pen had sent Augusta to her father’s house for the weekend and, apparently seconds after Augusta had stepped over his threshold, her flimsy sore throat had flared like a brush fire into a serious case of strep.

Pustules all over her tonsils, his wife, Tanya, had hissed. "Pustules. Everywhere! And you never noticed? I’ve got news for you, lady: strep can turn into rheumatic fever. Just. Like. That."

Anything could happen with children. No one had to tell Pen this. Anything could happen with anything. Pen didn’t even bother to check the message before she was punching in her home phone number and snaking her way through the small crowd of people who had gathered at the back of the store to hear Eleanor. In every bookstore audience, there were those who stood on the fringes instead of taking a seat, even when seats were plentiful, folks Pen called lurkers. Usually, this label was both unkind and unjust, simple snideness on her part, but in the case of Eleanor’s lurkers, perhaps not so much.

One ring and Jamie picked up.

Jamie, Pen whispered frantically into the phone. What? Fever? Pustules? What? Just tell me.

You, Jamie told her calmly, are insane.

Pen breathed, and her eyes filled with tears of relief. She swiped at them with her finger.

"Well, you called, she said, clearing her throat. Naturally, I was worried."

I called? There was a brief pause and then Jamie said, "You didn’t check the voice mail, did you? You didn’t even check the number of the person calling, even though it was right there on the screen. Just hauled off and called me in a panic like a crazy person."

All true, but Pen was not going to say that to Jamie, so instead she said, Not that many people have this number, Jamie. It’s new, remember? You and Amelie and Patrick and Mom and Augusta’s school. The school is closed; Mom’s in Tibet or wherever the hell; Patrick never calls in the evenings; and I just talked to Amelie twenty minutes ago. That leaves you.

There was a small silence as Jamie considered this, then he said, a sly note sliding into his voice, Let me ask you this.

No, Pen said. Whatever it is, no.

Did your phone even ring?

It didn’t ring, Pen corrected. I’m in a bookstore. It whirred.

Repeatedly? Or once? One long whir?

"Who knows? Could’ve been one whir. Maybe. So what?" She gave her phone an accusatory look.

Jamie groaned. E-mail. He enunciated the word as though it were composed of three distinct syllables. Didn’t we go over this? Check your e-mail, Penelope. We’re fine. Augusta’s fine. No fever and she ate like a champ. We had a long, and I’m talking about crazy-long, dance contest, and then she conked.

Pen swiped at her eyes again. Oh. Well, thanks. Sorry.

Quietly, Jamie said, The world doesn’t spin out of control the second you turn your back, Pen.

Oh, yes it does. That’s exactly what it does. You know that as well as I do. Pen thought this, but she didn’t say it.

Jamie sighed. Listen, if she busts out in pustules, I promise you’ll be the first to know.

After she hung up, Pen almost didn’t check her e-mail. She glared at her phone and stuffed it into her handbag. Contrary to what Jamie probably thought, she knew how to check it, but anyone who needed urgently to reach her would call, and the mere thought of pecking out an answer on the phone’s microscopic keyboard made her fingers inflate to the size of baseball bats. Besides, she needed to get back to Eleanor.

Pen was walking toward the rows of chairs when she heard someone ask, So I know you’re, like, retired? But do you ever, you know, make an exception if the guy’s, like, really special? Like really cool or whatever? The person’s voice had an unfinished, squawking quality: a boy, about twelve years old, thirteen at the outside. He was talking to Eleanor. Pen winced, stopped in her tracks, and there, in the heart of the Animals and Pet Care section, she checked her e-mail. The new one was from Glad2behere, an unfamiliar moniker but one that struck Pen as cheerful. Good for you, she thought.

Dear Pen,

I know it’s been forever, but I need you. Please come to the reunion. I’ll find you there. I’m sorry for everything.

Love,

Cat

Pen did not draw a blank or have a moment of confusion or have to read the message twice. She didn’t think, Cat who? There was only one Cat. What she did was sit down on the floor between the shelves of books, shut her eyes, and press the cell phone to her sternum, against her galloping heart. Out of the blue sky and after more than six years of waiting—because no matter how hard she had tried not to wait, that is exactly what she’d been doing—Pen had been summoned. As soon as the merry-go-round inside her head slowed its whirling and jangling enough for her to think anything, she thought, Oh, Cat, followed by, Finally.

CHAPTER TWO

CAT WOULD BEGIN IT: WE MET CUTE.

No, Pen would correct. We met terrifying.

And hostile, Will would add.

I wouldn’t say ‘hostile,’ Pen would say.

You were yelling, Will would remind her. And swearing.

And pushing, Cat would add. Although not that hard.

How would you know? Pen would demand. And I wasn’t the only one swearing.

"I know, Cat would insist. You were hostile. I was cute."

You were terrifying, Will would correct.

Through no fault of your own, Pen would concede.

But cute, Cat would assert, nevertheless.

And no one would disagree.

This was the way they told their story.

IT WAS THE FOURTH DAY OF THE FIRST WEEK OF THEIR FIRST YEAR OF college, immediately following a lecture on Beowulf.

Weeks afterward, when their friendship had become an ageless and immovable fact, Will would remark that he had noticed Pen during the lecture, specifically the way her hair had looked all of a piece, a glossy brown object hanging next to her face as she tilted her head to write.

God, Cat would say, grimacing, don’t tell me you were checking her out. Don’t tell me that Pen piqued your sexual interest. Because the thought of that is just nauseating.

Thank you, Pen would say.

Nope, Will would assure them. "It was just that hair. It was so brushed that it didn’t even look like hair. Who has hair that brushed?"

No one, Cat would reply. "No one has hair that brushed. And no one cries over Beowulf. No one but Pen."

Pen had not cried exactly, not out and out cried, not during the lecture anyway. She had cried the night before when she had gotten to the part about Beowulf’s death. It wasn’t so much the death itself, since Beowulf had never, during the hours she’d spent reading the poem, felt particularly real to her. Instead, it was the moment immediately following his death, a still and private moment near the end of an epic’s worth of action and fighting, appearing suddenly and taking Pen off guard. The smoke cleared, and there was Wiglaf, the youngest of Beowulf’s warriors, exhausted and blood-spattered and out of options, sprinkling water on the face of his dead king to wake him up.

During the lecture, Pen had waited for the professor to cover this moment, its bottomless sadness, but he had not even mentioned it. Still, while he spoke in cool tones about Beowulf’s death marking the beginning of the end of an entire civilization, Pen had envisioned the boy’s cupped hands full of water and had not burst into sobs, thank God, but had felt her eyes flood with tears. Her embarrassment at displaying emotion in front of what appeared to be hundreds of strangers was compounded by the fact that she was wearing mascara for the second time in her life. Her high school boyfriend, Mitchy Wooten, had liked her lashes plain, but he had abruptly broken up with her fewer than twenty-four hours before they’d left for their respective colleges. Mascara was part of the new, college Pen, but as her dampened eyelashes began to gum, Pen vowed to throw the stuff away forever, a vow she would keep.

However, before its absolute exit from her life, the mascara had a role to play because when the professor ended the lecture a half hour early so that the class could break into small groups and meet with their respective teaching assistants, Pen did not go directly to her assigned classroom. Instead she wandered through the belly of the old, neoclassical, externally gracious, internally dank building in search of a bathroom in which to repair her smeary eyes. It took some time, but she found one, and as soon as she opened the door, she found Cat.

The bathroom was tiny, just two stalls, one sink, a paper towel dispenser, a trash can, and a large radiator. Lying on the scarred black and white tiles, face-up, her head jammed against the radiator, was a small girl in big trouble. Pen did not immediately identify the exact kind of trouble because the second she opened the door, the scene slammed into her senses, scattering them: a spill of black hair, limbs in terrible motion, a rigid face, a gasping, prolonged moan, a banging, banging, banging.

Pen yelped and fell back against the paper towel dispenser. For a few seconds, her hands flapped stupidly. Then she squatted down and took hold of the girl’s thin ankles. She had expected them to stop moving, but they bucked inside her hands like two animals.

Oh, God, Pen squeaked. It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay. But it wasn’t.

Pen leaped up, wheeled around, and shoved open the bathroom door.

Help, she said, not as loudly as she’d meant to. She saw a sweatshirt, grabbed it, and pulled it into the bathroom. Inside the sweatshirt was a boy.

Shit, the boy said breathlessly and with what Pen would later discover was a relatively rare display of profanity. She’s seizing.

Of course she is! Pen shrieked, even though, before the boy said it, she had not hit upon a name for what the girl on the floor was doing. We have to call 9-1-1!

Wait, said the boy.

Wait? squealed Pen.

She’s got one of those bracelets.

A bracelet? Are you insane?

The boy was insane she decided. Insane and useless. She yanked open the zipper of her backpack, fished wildly inside it, and snatched out a pen.

The boy pulled off his sweatshirt.

"Oh, great. Are you getting warm? yelled Pen. Are you a tad uncomfortable?" She pushed past the boy and leaned over the girl.

What are you doing with that pen? demanded the boy.

You’re supposed to put something in her mouth, so she doesn’t swallow her tongue.

To Pen’s amazement, he grabbed the pen out of her hand.

That’s a myth, the tongue thing, he snapped. You’ll hurt her.

Pen launched into a rant about the boy not being a doctor, damn it, and about how everyone knew the tongue thing was true and about how he needed to return her pen right now, this second, but the rant petered out before it really got started because what the boy did next was drop to his knees and tuck the sweatshirt under the girl’s head, placing part of the shirt on the floor, part of it between her head and the radiator. It was among the most restrained and gentle gestures Pen had ever seen.

Look, the boy said softly. She’s stopping.

Pen and the boy stayed still, waiting, and in a few seconds the noise emptied out of the room and was replaced by an opalescent quiet.

Eventually, the girl’s eyes batted open. She looked from the boy to Pen, bewildered. She turned her head to the side, looked at the base of the sink, and groaned.

Oh, bloody hell, she said hoarsely. Give me a minute, okay?

Sure, said the boy, and Pen added, ridiculously, like a person on TV, Take all the time you need.

Minutes passed. The girl might have fallen asleep, she lay so still. Her blouse was gauzy and peacock blue, scattered with yellow flowers. Pen caught sight of her own reflection in the mirror and gave a start at how haggard she looked, before she realized it was mostly because of the smudged mascara. Surreptitiously, she touched her forefingers to her tongue and rubbed under each eye. It helped a little.

When the girl opened her eyes again, she said, So tell me who you are.

Relief and the sudden sound of the girl’s clear voice sent Pen’s adrenaline flowing again.

Pen, she said. Penelope, actually. Calloway. My grandmother’s name. Penelope, I mean. Not Calloway. She was my mother’s mother, so you know, different last name. The words hopped out one by one, flip flip flip, like goldfish out of a bowl. Pen sighed.

The girl smiled, and Pen noted that the smile managed to look exhausted and sparkling at the same time. Got it, the girl said.

The boy wiped his hand on his gray T-shirt and held it out.

Will Wadsworth, he said.

The girl’s eyes widened.

Get the hell out of here! she cried.

Will froze for a second, then put his outstretched hand on the back of his head and rubbed. When Pen looked at him, she saw that under his tan, his cheeks were turning red. Oh, right, he said. Yeah, yeah. Sure. No problem.

He started to stand, made a slight move in the direction of the sweatshirt, still underneath the girl’s head, then seemed to change his mind.

So, uh, I’m glad you’re okay and all, he said and turned sideways to squeeze past Pen and head for the door.

Pen giggled, a slightly hysterical sound, and Will Wadsworth turned toward her, startled.

What? he said.

I don’t think she meant for you to really get the hell out, Pen told him, still giggling. I think it was an expression of incredulity. Disbelief.

I know what ‘incredulity’ means. Will looked at the girl on the floor. Yeah? he asked.

The girl smiled again. It was the name! she sang out. Will Wordsworth! Like the poet!

Uh, it’s Wadsworth, actually, said Will, his face relaxing. Like the other poet.

The girl laughed, a chiming sound, and said, Well, you sure know how to make a first impression.

Will crouched down next to Cat, his elbows on his knees.

"When I first met you, he pointed out, you were having a grand mal seizure."

The girl laughed again and sat up, her back against the radiator. She hooked her tangled hair behind her ears with her fingers, a snappy movement.

Tonic-clonic, she told them, inscrutably but with great charm, her black eyes twinkling. And I’m Cat.

WHEN CAT, PEN, AND WILL EMERGED, IN THAT ORDER, FROM THE over-conditioned air of the English-department building and stood blinking in the sudden sunlight, Pen stood and looked out at the saturated greens of the grass and trees, the white columns blazing against the red brick of the buildings, the cobalt sky stretched tight as a tarp overhead. Ever since she had arrived at the university, she had walked around, heavy (like a soaking wet pathetic tea bag, she’d e-mailed her mother) and dull, missing her parents every waking second and also in her sleep. She had watched the other new arrivals, resenting the pact of eager chipperness they all seemed to have signed. Now, standing between Cat and Will, a veil lifted; she felt engulfed by the electric beauty of everything around her. She gasped. It was a loud gasp.

"I know, moaned Cat. The heat! Ugh."

It’s like walking through Jell-O. Hot Jell-O, observed Will, shedding the sweatshirt he had put back on only minutes before.

Pen peeled off her red cardigan sweater and said, It really is awful, isn’t it? But she didn’t feel awful. She tipped her face to the sun and smiled.

Will carried Cat’s backpack. He offered to carry Cat herself.

Not to be a jerk or anything, he said to Cat slowly, but do you think you can make it walking? Because I can carry you, no problem.

Cat looked at Pen and rolled her eyes. God, that was jerky, wasn’t it? What an offer.

Pen peered at Will. "Do you know what ‘jerk’ means?"

Will laughed. Okay, okay. Just answer the question. Carry or no carry?

No, said Cat thoughtfully. I used to be one of those small people who liked to be carried. Up on people’s shoulders usually. I’d also sit in laps. But I’m done with all that.

Gave it up for college? asked Pen.

Exactly.

I gave up not wearing mascara, but then just a little while ago, I gave up wearing it.

Good choice. With your kind of eyelashes, said Cat, squinting at Pen, mascara just muddies the waters.

Good choice to you, too, said Pen, and the three of them, Will and Pen with Cat in between, set off together, amid the people, under the bright sky, and straight into the whites, greens, reds, and blues of the day.

THAT EVENING, THEY ATE A CHEESE PIZZA ON THE LAWN IN FRONT OF Pen’s dormitory. Plain cheese was Pen’s favorite kind of pizza; she found it pure and unencumbered. But in the argument that preceded the placing of the pizza order, Pen had not advocated for cheese. As Jamie had pointed out to her for years, it was a boring preference, reflecting underdeveloped, kindergarten-like taste. So she kept quiet about cheese and let Will and Cat battle it out to a stalemate.

Forget it, Will finally said. I’d rather have no toppings at all than eat anchovies.

She did have a little bit of a rough day, Pen reminded him. Maybe you could tough it out this once?

No chance.

Hatred of little fish is a reflection of a little mind, said Cat primly. But fine. No toppings. Cheese me, man. Let’s do it.

They ate, slathered in citronella and sitting atop Pen’s bedspread on the cropped, prickly lawn. Late summer life—young and gold-edged—crackled around them: footballs and Frisbees cutting parabolas into the sky, club music undulating out of someone’s window into the humid air, and it seemed to Pen that she, Will, and Cat were part of the action and also separate from it, so that when Will leaned back on his elbows and laughed, the sound rang through the quiet the three of them had made at the same time that it was just another noise.

Tell us what’s funny, Pen ordered.

"‘Are you getting warm?’" said Will. He shook his head in amazement.

Pen put her pizza slice down and covered her face with her hands.

Oh, no, she said from behind the hands. I was a nightmare, wasn’t I? Totally inept and screeching.

Oh, yeah.

What are you talking about? demanded Cat. No fair you two knowing something I don’t know.

That’s what she said, explained Will. In the bathroom. When I took off my sweatshirt.

Oh, God, said Cat to Pen. You said that?

I was a little freaked out, Cat.

"You were enraged," corrected Will.

That’s what happens when I get freaked out, said Pen, truthfully. I get enraged.

And hurl insults, added Will.

I’m sorry, said Pen. She looked at his face in the fading light and realized that ever since she had met these two people, she’d been too busy at first and then too comfortable later to really notice what they looked like. Will’s hair was wavy, but the rest of him was all straight lines: straight eyebrows, a straight mouth, his cheekbones two arrows pointing to the straight line of his nose. Even his eyes were somehow straight. It was a good face, but severe. When he smiled, though, with his straight, straight teeth, everything softened and lit up.

He smiled and said, No problem. It got pretty scary there for a while.

Wait! I don’t think I thanked you guys, did I? cried Cat. Oh, God, I didn’t!

Pen looked at her, too, and found that she was bird-boned and broad-faced, not pretty in an ordinary way, but a joy to look at. Her delicate brown hands danced when she talked. She knee-walked over to throw her arms first around Pen’s neck, then Will’s, planting kisses on their foreheads.

That doesn’t usually happen, she said, the tonic-clonic thing. Grand mal. I haven’t had one in aeons. But I got thrown off last night.

How? asked Pen.

Cat wrinkled her nose. Ooh, well, a little party happened in my dorm, I guess.

You drank? asked Will, then quickly added, Not that you shouldn’t. I meant does drinking do it?

I don’t know if it was the drinking exactly. I think it was more of a triangulation.

Like in trigonometry? asked Pen.

Of course not, said Cat. I hate math. As in three things. She counted them on her fingers. I drank three beers, even though I hate beer. I stayed up too late. And I forgot to take my medicine.

So maybe you shouldn’t do that anymore, ventured Will. You think?

I definitely shouldn’t, said Cat, nodding. But I probably will.

Then she reached out, grabbed one of their hands in each of hers, and squeezed. Thank the Lord in heaven you didn’t call an authority figure. Or 9-1-1! Gosh, that would’ve been bad.

Even in the heat, Pen felt her face grow hot, as her own voice yelling about calling 9-1-1 echoed in her head. In a flash, she pictured the ambulance screaming up to the building, Cat being slid into it like a batch of cookies, the hordes of gaping undergrads, Cat known forever after as the girl who mysteriously malfunctioned in the English building. Pen shot a don’t-rat-me-out-please look in Will’s direction, but he was already talking.

It was pretty stupid of us not to, given the fact that we didn’t know what was wrong with you. A kid at my high school had epilepsy, so I sort of thought the seizure would be over fast. But we didn’t know for sure.

Pen smiled her thanks at him. She wasn’t ready to tell Cat the whole story, yet, but she knew that she would tell her before long. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe the day after that. There was plenty of time. She watched the sunset settle itself into dark pink and apricot layers behind the faraway trees.

Your bed’s going to smell like citronella for weeks, remarked Will.

I don’t mind, said Pen.

CHAPTER THREE

YOU’LL GO, TAUNTED JAMIE, LEANING BACK IN HIS CHAIR. You know you’ll go. You know-know-know you’ll go-go-go." He played the kitchen table like a conga drum, ending with a flourish.

Ignoring him, Pen focused on the food on her plate. It smelled winey and still held the shape of the take-out container: a tiny, brown, glistening mesa. Pen wheeled her knife and fork like birds looking for a place to land, poked wearily, took small, snapping bites. She set the knife and fork down with a bang.

Why rabbit? she asked irritably. Why French? Again? I mean, I appreciate your bringing me leftovers, but enough with the rabbit and the snails and the congealed butter and the soggy crepes. Crepes don’t travel well; I thought we’d established that.

Jamie shrugged. It’s Nancy. She thinks if it’s not French, it’s not sophisticated, and if it’s not sophisticated, it’s a bad date.

Pen narrowed her eyes. "If it’s not French, it’s not sophisticated?"

Yeah, yeah, I know.

Why work so hard to please Nancy, anyway? Isn’t she just one of the Jims?

She was. Jamie snagged a bite of Pen’s rabbit and grinned, chewing. I just tonight asked her to call me ‘Jimmy.’

Pen shook her head. You are hopeless. Hopeless and bad.

Roughly two years ago, shortly after Pen and Augusta had moved into Jamie’s apartment in what was meant to be a temporary arrangement, Jamie had devised a system that he called a work of genius and on which he congratulated himself with a glee and a frequency that Pen believed spoke volumes—and nothing good—about his moral development.

Upon first meeting a woman, he would introduce himself as James. At some point in their relationship, and this point could come within minutes or after several dates, whenever Jamie decided it was time for a phone number exchange, he would ask the woman to call him something else: Jim, Jimmy, Jay, or Jamie. For example, he might tell her, I always introduce myself as James, but, actually, my friends call me Jim. I think maybe we should be friends, or something along those cornball lines. Occasionally, if the relationship continued for long enough and the necessity arose, Jamie would initiate what he called, obnoxiously, an ancillary nomenclatural shift.

While the women took the changes to be a sign of growing intimacy, they were actually unknowing participants in a scheme that involved a reluctant Pen and the use of a code. In the drawer of the telephone table that had once belonged to their grandmother, tucked beneath the folder of take-out menus, Jamie had placed a laminated sheet (Laminated? Pen had said upon seeing it. Are you kidding me?) delineating the code:

If she asks for . . .

Most of the callers asked for Jim. There had been just three Jimmys (Pen had neither cried nor hung up on any of them) and two Jays, although Pen knew that the number of callers did not accurately reflect the number of women Jamie had met or dated because the majority of those women did not progress past the James stage. In two years, Pen had never once fielded a call from a woman asking for Jamie.

Pen was ashamed of her participation in the system, and every few weeks, she railed at Jamie for his treatment of women in general and for the system in particular, saying things like You will burn in hell for this, or You suck, or You are hopeless and bad. Just once, after a particularly fragile Jim had broken down on the phone, sobbing apologies to Pen, she had said solemnly, Jamie, what would Dad say? He treated Mom like gold. He treated everyone like gold, but when she saw Jamie’s eyes change, she knew she had gone too far.

The truth is that when Jamie first proposed the system—he had a brainstorm one day as he watched her answer the phone: Hold on, he said, squeezing his eyes shut, pointing at her with one hand, pressing his other palm to the side of his head, "I can use this. I know I can use this"—Pen hadn’t felt repulsed, but touched, even grateful. That her older brother would invite his emotional wreck of a sister and her sleep-disordered toddler to live with him at all was kindness enough, but that he would figure out a way to view Pen’s presence as an asset, something to high-five her over, rather than as the liability it clearly was, moved her nearly to tears, even now, whenever she thought about it. It was such a quintessentially Jamie thing to do.

When Pen was twelve and the despairing victim of mean-girl awfulness, sixteen-year-old Jamie had scooped her up and let her live for a whole fall in the reflected glory of his perpetual coolness, even letting her walk around the track at football games with him and his beautiful friends. Pen could still see Mary Anne Riddle’s evil face in the dazzling stadium lights, the dual stripes of her blush, her jaw actually dropping in an expression of envy and shock. Jamie had not discussed beforehand with Pen his decision to do this, had not set down ground rules or made her feel like she owed him. She was pretty sure he hadn’t even thought about it much. Under Jamie’s lawyer suits and caddishness, Pen knew he was still that carelessly generous boy, so that even when she called him hopeless and bad, she never really believed it.

So we were talking about how you’re going to the reunion, said Jamie. How there’s no-no-no way you’re not going.

Pen pushed her plate in Jamie’s direction. Take it, she said. I’m through.

I thought you’d be eating dominatrix food with the dominatrix anyway, said Jamie, digging in.

She was tired and decided to order room service.

Through a mouthful of rabbit, Jamie said, "I thought you’d be eating with her, but just in case you weren’t, I got you your own order of profiteroles. Check out the white box on the counter."

Pen hooted with joy and began to sing a rough approximation of La Marseillaise. She paused and said, Chocolate sauce?

In its own separate container for do-it-yourself, type-A-freak drizzling.

While she was in the middle of chewing the first ungodly good profiterole, Jamie said, It’s your ten-year college reunion, which is a big deal, right? Why weren’t you planning to go even before you got the e-mail?

Pen swallowed, her throat suddenly tight, and, briefly, pressed her fingers to her eyes.

You know why, she said.

The kid and no husband thing? Forget about it. Patrick sucks. Augusta’s awesome. You made out like a bandit with that deal.

You think I don’t know that? demanded Pen, her eyes flashing. And who gives a nit about what anyone thinks?

Jamie smiled at gives a nit, one of their mother’s stock phrases, along with shut the cluck up.

Good. So why not go?

Don’t pretend you don’t know.

Jamie looked down at the table for a few seconds, fingering his napkin. Pen watched his brow furrow and relax. The sound of a siren swirled in the distance, first faint, then louder. Jamie’s eyes met Pen’s.

It’s not like it’s on the same day as the thing for Dad.

As soon as Jamie said the word Dad, Pen saw her father’s face, yellow under that streetlamp, felt the stillness of his hand inside hers. She remembered the way he lay on his side, as though he were asleep. She put her hand over her mouth.

Come on, Pen, said Jamie, sighing.

‘Come on, Pen’? Of its own volition, her voice rose. Jamie glanced over her shoulder at the hallway that led to Augusta’s room. Pen took a breath and said more quietly, "‘The thing for Dad’? The thing means he died two years ago. Remember that?"

Jamie ran a hand across his forehead. Yeah, I remember.

Do you?

Jamie shook his head, picked up the plate with the remains of Pen’s rabbit on it, and pushed back from the table. Pen watched him as he scraped, then rinsed the plate, first one side then the other, and slid it into the dishwasher. Jamie had always performed small tasks this way, ever since he was a kid, as though he were being graded for thoroughness.

I’m sorry, said Pen. She looked down at the profiteroles, the chocolate sauce in its plastic cup, and she ached for Jamie and herself and her mother in Tibet, and her father, who deserved better than to die on the dirty ground.

Jamie leaned on the counter with both hands, his shoulders hunched.

You think I don’t miss him? he said finally, without turning around. "You think you’re

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3.6
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  • (4/5)
    Originally posted on A Reader of Fictions.

    Under a misapprehension that Falling Together would deal with the same characters as Marisa de los Santos' prior books (because I fail to read blurbs most of the time), I read the one I hadn't yet gotten to, Belong to Me, last week. Now, Falling Together actually has nothing to do with the prior two, but I'm glad for the mistake, because I love Marisa's writing and who can regret an error that results in more joyous reading? While Falling Together did not touch my heart the same way Love Walked In and Belong to Me did, it is still a marvelous, beautiful, thoughtful novel on the nature of love, friendship and family.

    So far all of Marisa's novels have had friendship, the sort of long-lasting kind that is more important than family even, the friends that become your family and part of your heart forever, at the core. While romance certainly enters into her plot lines, I would argue that it's not even close to being the most important thing thematically. Before love, friendship.

    In Falling Together, the friends in question met and promptly became inseparable in college. They had that sort of instantaneous kinship, obvious kindred spirits. Stories of powerful, enduring friendship perhaps affect me more emotionally than all of those romances that make me swoon, because I can identify with those feelings. I've come across people like that, who were so obviously intended to be a part of my life, whether or not I believe in fate or god or preordination. Some people just seem to belong with you. Plus, friendship as a theme generally takes a back seat to romance, so it's always a refreshing read.

    Cat, Will and Pen were like this. Trios are rough to maintain, because usually two of the three generally get along slightly better than the third. These three make it work...for a while anyway. After college, they live together in an apartment in Philly, but, eventually, Cat tires of their exclusive circle. She wants to marry and start a new life, and feels unable to do that with Will and Pen still in it. They are too protective of her, too judgmental of her suitors (the 'rump slap' bit was my favorite part!). Left alone, without the hub of their social group, Pen and Will eventually separate, all three agreeing not to communicate in any way anymore, preferring to keep their memories of one another pristine.

    The catalyst for the journey of the novel comes with a mysterioug email from Cat, the first contact in six years, telling Pen she needs her and will hopefully see her at their college reunion. Unable to pass up the chance to see one of the people missing from her soul for all this time, Cat goes, and discovers that nothing was quite what she thought. Her journey leads to surprising places. There's romance that I found quite touching, and parts that broke my heart. There is even a charming child. I give Marisa de los Santos full credit for having written three books with children as main characters, and having made me like all of them. This one wasn't even a teen, but she still was pretty adorable.

    This book took me a while to get through, though, because up until Pen goes to the reunion, I was rather bored. Pen does a lot of sitting around and feeling pathetic, which I can sympathize with but it still didn't interest me. There are also a lot of extended flashbacks, which messed with the tempo as well. I feel like this might have been stronger if it started in college and then jumped to the future where they're not together, rather than flashing back. The pacing was just off.

    I also, personally, feel like the story might have benefited from first person narration, rather than third person limited. Pen would undoubtedly have a really powerful voice, and I'm sure I would have liked her, but I felt somewhat removed from her as it was, though perhaps that too is because of the pacing.

    Marisa de los Santos has become one of my favorite authors. While this one might not shine quite so brightly, it's still powerful and beautiful, and one I expect I shall revisit sometime in the future.
  • (3/5)
    This book contains some beautiful passages like "...sometimes there is nothing to do but surrender yourself to wonder." Even so I never bought into the story itself: a trio of close friends meeting up at their 10th college reunion then two of them undertaking a search across the world for the third with a four year old child and a distraught husband in tow. Despite the poetry of Marisa's language, I didn't connect with the main characters. I liked her previous novels much better than this one.
  • (5/5)
    I have a new "Among My Favorites" authors, and it is Marisa de los Santos! Falling Together is a multi-layered story of love, loss and friendship that had me hooked from the first chapter, and the ending was anything but a foregone conclusion...guess one could say that about the middle of it too!!Three college freshmen meet the first week of school and wind up forging deep friendships that seem destined to last forever. But shortly after graduation they separate, with adamant declarations that they will not reconnect. Complete separation is infinitely better than shifting to occasional and shallow contact from separate parts of the country, at least according to Cat Ocampo. Six years later two of the three, Pen Calloway and Will Wadsworth, received a terse email from Cat, the third member of their circle of friendship. "I need you," was all she had to say, but she added, "I'm sorry for everything." Pen and Will return separately to the reunion, longing to renew their friendships, but not knowing how the others would respond. Pen is now a single mother of a 5 year old, living with her older brother, and working peripherally in the book industry but there is not much question about whether she will go to the reunion. Will is single and making a living as a children's author, and like Pen, is assaulted with memories of the friendship and the final parting. He knows he will go as well.It is a most unusual reunion, and in almost no time at all Pen is on her way around the world, along with her child and her friends, to solve a mystery and find a friend who sorely needs them. Along the way, the author fills in the back story of her exquisitely drawn characters. Flawed but charming people, even the obnoxious ones are redeemable in the author's capable hands. I highly recommend a good story, a sweet romance, and a tribute to the power of family and the importance of forgiveness, all wrapped up in one un-put-downable book! Check it out!
  • (4/5)
    Lots of little plot holes and things that are not quite believable in this novel, but all in all a pleasant, quick read that includes travel, love, and mystery. The characters are often cliche and predictable, but the sweet story of young friendship maturing into love is what makes me glad to have read the book.
  • (4/5)
    Loved the dialogue and relationship between the three main characters.
  • (3/5)
    Three formerly inseparable friends at the heart of a novel? Great. Travels to the Philippines? Cool. This book? Boring.

    I would recommend this book if you have some time you need to waste, because it is just entertaining enough to get you through something like a plane ride, but no more. It has 3 spots that could have been the end, but the author dragged it on for a little more unnecessary drama. Throughout most of the book, discussion was about how much everyone missed this one character, but when we finally met her, she was completely one-dimensional and a huge disappointment. There were some good parts, but overall I wasn't moved.
  • (4/5)
    I wanted a light book for last week's heat wave and this fit the bill, light but not too fluffy. I agree with other reviewers about Cat and about Pen, liked the latter and was annoyed by the former. I found the ending too predictable and unsatisfying.
  • (1/5)
    I was just notified that I won this book in a First Reads Giveaway. Update 10/17: I've received the book and will be reading it next. I will probably have a review up by the end of the week at latest. Update Oct. 28:As you can see it took me far longer than expected to get to this point, on page 265. The book isn't finished but I am. I'm done with trying to grapple with the long, convoluted nonsensical random rambling sentences. It took 11 days to read a measly two hundred and some pages, when I usually read a book a day. The simple act of trying to read, make sense of and follow this book is monstrous. I kept thinking, Why is this so much work?. Now there are books that are suppose to be challenging, that are suppose to be work and that are ultimately rewarding for such effort. That's not this book. There's nothing at the end of this rainbow to make reading this worth it. I hate pretty much everything about this book, except the package it came in. I mean the cover, the pages. The simple natural feeling and how well the book fit in my hand made me want to read a book packaged like this, but not this book.I don't care about what happens when they find Cat. I find Will and Pen's bumper-sticker conversation annoying enough, adding Cat back to make the original Trio may make me want to kill myself. Funnily enough, that's how another character described their conversations and the Original Trio are very aware of how annoying they are to other people. Yet we're suppose to like them, like their conversations and give a rat's ass about them reuniting? Fuck no. Are we suppose to want and long for this kind of relationship while feeling the sadness of their break up? I sure as hell didn't feel anything like that. Their relationship just comes off as toxic and unhealthy to me. I hate how Pen is stunted due to her dependence on people and her sheer determination to cling. I mean really? With her "cluck no"s, and her attitude of "you can't leave, you love me. If you leave that must mean you never loved me and I can't accept the fact that people change. Everything must stay the same" Pen seriously comes off like a 5 year old. Her child Augusta seems far more mature. Now, Will I liked. I just hated him with Pen and feel bad that he's falling in love with her for some incomprehensible reason. He lived and grew and became a better person when The Trio broke up. Cat did too. Cat realized how dependent, how stunted and stuck The Trio was to them individually. Pen failed to do so. While Jason came off as an immature frat boy jerk, I understood his hatred of The Trio. I have tried to make it through. I gave it almost two weeks. I can't do it. It's like the soap opera version of Will & Grace. It is the reason I have 7 books to read and review and have no desire to read. I think this book might have killed that compulsion to finish books now matter what. I'm fearful of the next book being like Falling Together. I'm going to take the day off from reading to readjust from this book and try delving into another book tomorrow. For example, starting on page fucking one, She [Pen] stood with her head tilted against the bookstore wall, her ears only half hearing a description of how to single-handedly lace oneself into a leather corset (“There's an implement involved,” she told Jaime later. “There always is,” he said.), her eyes only half seeing the otherwise love store's horrible ceiling, paste-gray and pocked as the moon, while the weary rest of her began to fold itself up and give into it's own weight like a bat at dawn.Yesterday, Pen's daughter, Augusta, had come home from school with a late spring cold, and Pen had recognized, her heart sinking, that they were in for a rocky ride. Augusta's sleep, disordered in the best of circumstances, could be tipped over the edge and into chaos by any little thing. To make matters worse, it was her first illness since Pen had purged their apartment of children's cold medicine following newly issued, scarily worded warnings that it might be harmful to kids under the age of six. When Jamie had come home at 2:00 A.M., he had found Augusta cocooned in a quilt on the sofa, wide awake, coughing nosily but decorously into the crook of her arm the way she had been taught to do at school, and a pale, wild-haired Pen staring into the medicine cabinet like a woman staring into the abyss. I should have run away right here. Pen is just stupid for not using cough medicine. With two-hundred-sixty-four more pages written like this, it finally broke me. I read that much in broken tiny clumps of pages because it was so annoying, pointless and hard to follow. This on page 243, sums up how I feel about both Jason, Will and Pen, Pen said to Will, “These seats are insane. I feel like a Poppin' Fresh roll, unpopped.”“I fell like a jack-in-the-box,”said Will,”in the box.”“Jesus freaking Christ, please tell me this isn't the way you guys always talk.”Jason, standing in the aisle next to Will: loud, looming, big as a barn, American flag T-shirt blazing. “Or I might have to change me mind about changing my seat, when the black dude in the sleep mask gets off at Vancouver.”As Will and Pen looked over at him, the black dude on the other side of Augusta lifted his sleep mask, took a long look at Jason and told them, “Lucky you.”Before that, Pen shows irony and lack of insight here on page 244 with Jason, “Did not,” he [Jason] said.Listen to you, thought Pen, you are straight out of the clucking sandbox. Of course, Pen did get the “clucking” thing from her mother and am guessing some of her other baggage comes from her as well. Moving forward 10 pages and a day or so later in the book, Pen and Will have a conversation regarding Jason, over Jason. When the pause in the conversation started to become unbearable, Will nudged Pen encouragingly. She ignored it. He nudged her again. She kicked him.“So. Uh. Jason,” said Will,” do you think she went to Cebu to be with Armando?”“Oh, Will,” Pen exclaimed, flinching. “ 'Be with him'? God. Could you not do better than that?”“Hey, it's not like you were asking.”“Well, clearly, I should have.”“And you would've phrased it how?” demanded Will. “'Visit him'? 'Spend time with him'? Come on, we all know a euphemism when we hear it.”“All I'm saying is-”began Pen, but Jason raised his hand.“Hello? I'm sitting right here,” he said.They both stared at him.Ten more pages and another day or so later in the book, I finally said Fuck this shit, it's not worth it.
  • (3/5)
    My synopsis will be brief as the back of the book sums it up very well. Basically this is a story about friendship and family and all the ups and downs that go along with those relationships.I gave this one 3 stars because there are other readers out there who will thoroughly enjoy this book and I couldn’t give it less just because it wasn’t my cup of tea. Plus, I really thought I would be one of those people during the first half. I lost patience with it when I discovered that the mystery that had grabbed my attention from the start was sitting on the back burner. With that out of the way I also found that I wasn’t relating to the characters or their relationships. The familial relationships were relatable and realistic but I didn’t embrace the friendship that was central to the plot. When it comes to the mystery, I had figured it out and it had lost its importance by the time it was revealed. It’s not all negative. There are a few laugh out loud moments and heartwarming moments that most people can relate to. I will recommend this book as I do know a lot of readers who will love it.
  • (4/5)
    Falling Together is a touching story about friendship, family, love, and the bonds that keep people together across physical distance and even after death. Above all, it is a story about love. Love wins, love lasts, as one character puts it "Love is an imperative." It also features wonderful, humorous dialogue that helps to paint the picture of people who have known each other forever, know all the others' stories and the in-jokes, and can follow each other's train of thought no matter what. It is one of the best books by an author previously unfamiliar to me that I have read in a long time.I received this book as a free ARC from the publisher.
  • (4/5)
    This is the second book that I have read by Marisa de los Santos. The first was her debut, Love Walked In. While I really enjoyed Love Walked In, I think her skills have grown even better with this, her third book! The book is about Will, Cat, and Pen. Three college friends who have not seen each other in quite some time after Cat decides that they can no longer be friends. When Will and Pen receive a message that Cat needs help, they rush to be with her.There are surprises along the way and the story is an enjoyable one. I love the way the the author puts words together and I kept re-reading passages and marking them throughout the book. There are so many neat descriptive phrases throughout. The characters are all likeable and fully developed. Without giving away the story, there were some parts that left me feeling a little off balance at the end, but that is what made the story good.Reader received an Advanced Readers edition from Library Thing Early Reviewers program.
  • (4/5)
    "Falling Together" is about a trio of friends who meet in college and quickly become indivisible and exclusive in regards to others not in their triangle. Pen, Will and Cat finish each other's sentences, love and accept eachother's quirks, and become inexorably entwined into eachother's lives. When Cat falls in love with Jason, the triangle is fractured, and Cat abandons Will and Pen, as she believes she must to be with Jason. Subsequently, Will and Pen do not know how to continue in their relationship without Cat, and they too, ultimately end their relationship.Years later, when both Will and Pen receive contact from Cat requesting them to meet her at the Class Reunion, both struggle with their feelings of hopefulness and apprehension about being reunited as a trio. This novel is charming, heartwarming, and well-written, with Marisa de los Santos' wonderful style of prose and metaphor sprinkled throughout. This trademark style of breathtaking analogy is really the best part of the book, as her turns of phrase shuttle the reader into the scene in a multisensory way. There were times where I wanted to pluck the words from the page and save them in a jar to savor and re-read later. The story was however, a little long in the dialogue and short in the action. There were times when Will and Pen had overanalyzed their relationship with Cat to the point that I felt exhausted. I desperately wanted the story to move on, and when it did, I was happy to keep going. In general, though, I thought the story was good, the characters were solid and multifaceted, and the dialogue was quick, intelligent and hilarious. I was sorry to see the story end, as I wanted to remain friends with Pen and Willl. Perhaps they will return for another visit in another book?
  • (3/5)
    While I have loved Marisa de los Santos's earlier books, this one was not one of my favorites. I felt the book could have been shorter or more could have happened faster. I can't really recommend this one.
  • (4/5)
    I was pleasantly surprised by de los Santos' previous two novels, and so was rather anxious to see what this third novel had in store. Whereas her previous two had some recurring characters, this was a brand new storyline with new characters. I'm torn because I feel like I want to compare this one with the others (better or worse), but ultimately I'm rating this one a 4-star, as I did the previous two. This is basically the story of 3 people (one male, two female) who become best friends during college, then drift apart following a somewhat mysterious/questionable episode, which is gradually unfolded to the reader. My favorite thing about de los Santo's writing is her characterizations. Although her characters have their flaws, they're very likeable -- often to the point of making me want to know them as a real person & sometimes forgetting that they're not. And in that respect, this novel did not disappoint. I absolutely adored the banter between the two major characters, Pen & Will. If I had to single out what I didn't like about this novel, it would be that sometimes the prose was a bit confusing & almost awkward at times, making me have to go back and re-read a paragraph or two. Though she writes well, sometimes de los Santos is too wordy, and the sentences are a bit lengthier than necessary.I'm not sure if this is a stand-alone novel or if there are in plans in store for a pseudo series, but I'd look forward to following the future adventures of Penn, Will, & Cat.
  • (3/5)
    Book OverviewPen, Will and Cat meet during their first year of college and are immediately drawn to each other after “meeting cute/terrifying/hostile” (according to Cat, Pen and Will respectively). Forming a close-knit triad who finish each other’s sentences and know each other inside and out, the three are as close as friends can be. Until one day, they part ways abruptly and painfully.Although Pen (short for Penelope) has moved on with her life—becoming a single mother to her beloved 5-year-old daughter Augusta—she’s always felt the lack of Will and Cat in her life, especially after the sudden death of her father, which has left her devastated and lost. So when, out of the blue, Pen receives a somewhat cryptic and desperate e-mail from Cat asking her to come to the upcoming college reunion, Pen realizes she’s been waiting for this “summons” ever since they parted. Little does she know that Will has received a similar e-mail. When the two arrive at the reunion, the mystery of what is going on with Cat deepens and becomes more complex—leading Pen and Will to reexamine their past, present and future as they try to help their friend and figure out how and if they can fit into each other’s lives again.My ThoughtsThe second I saw that Marisa de los Santos had a new novel coming out (the official release date is October 4), I immediately began plotting how I could get my hands on it. (Lucky for me, I was able to score an ARC through Amazon Vine.) I fell in love with de los Santos’s effervescent writing and lovable characters in her first two books, Love Walked In and Belong To Me. Those books were utterly delightful, involving, touching and funny. The main character in those books, Cornelia Brown, felt like my long-lost best friend. I loved her immediately and instantly got caught up in the stories that surrounded her family and friends.This new novel, de los Santo’s third, doesn’t involve Cornelia Brown, and I was a bit disappointed when I discovered that. (I was hoping to visit with her again!!!) Still, de los Santos wrote so charmingly in her first books that I fully expected to be drawn into this book just as easily. I’m so sorry to say that wasn’t the case. Although Falling Together isn’t a bad book by any means, it wasn’t as delightful and fun and involving as her first two books. In fact, it took me almost a week to read it, when I clearly remember gobbling up the previous two books in just a day or two.When trying to figure out why I didn’t fall for this book, I realized that there were two main problems. First, Pen (the primary narrator) just didn’t have the sparkle, humor and pizazz that Cornelia did. Listening to her tell her story just wasn’t engrossing. Admittedly, we’re meeting Pen at a low point in her life. Reeling from her father’s death and involved in a rather bizarre relationship with Augusta’s father, Pen is a bit of a downer. Although I sympathized with her, I also got annoyed at her passivity and inability to recognize what seemed blindingly obvious to everyone around her.Second, the “Cornelia” character of the book—the one you want to be girlfriends with—is Cat, who we barely get to know except via Pen’s memories and flashbacks. In fact, the entire book is really about Pen and Will’s quest to find Cat, who is built up into this almost larger than life person (despite her diminutive size). But hearing about such a character without really getting to know them is distancing. It’s like hearing your good friend rave about another friend but, never having met the person yourself, you don’t fall under their spell.Still, as I said before, the book isn’t without its charms. The writing is sometimes so graceful and lovely that you want to write the passages down and make them into a poster. Yet, in the end, I found myself just liking the book—not loving it. Perhaps because of my delight in the first two books, I was destined to be disappointed with this one. However, I encourage you to give de los Santos a chance. She’s a gifted writer who has a lovely poetic way of observing things and she’s definitely worth checking out.
  • (5/5)
    Pen, Cat and Will all met in college and almost instantaneously became best friends. But, then, their friendship fell apart. Now, six years later, both Will and Pen receive a mysterious email from Cat asking them to come to their tenth year college reunion because she “needs” them. Anxious, but eager to see Cat, they make the trip. Within moments of reuniting, Pen and Will resume their old friendship filled with warmth and conversation and something else which neither of them have yet acknowledged. But Cat is not at the reunion and instead her childish, somewhat hostile husband, Jason, confronts the two friends. Before they know it, both Pen and Will (with Jason in tow) find themselves on a search for their old friend, uncovering secrets, and discovering who they have become in the years between college and now.Marisa de los Santos creates characters that are warm, flawed, and oh so real. It is one reason why I have loved her books. Falling Together is no exception. Pen, still reeling from her father’s death and raising her daughter alone, holds onto the fantasy that she, Will and Cat will be able to recapture their old friendships. Will, now a children’s author, regrets having left Pen behind all those years ago. And Cat, perhaps the most mysterious of the characters, has plunged ahead with her life and found independence.The writing in this novel is witty and vivid. de los Santos was educated as a poet, and her prose often resonates with lyricism and beautiful description.The themes of friendship, love, and human connection are strong in the novel. Those readers who enjoyed the character interactions in de los Santos’s previous novels, will not be disappointed with the unspooling relationships in Falling Together. I found myself caught up in the lives of Pen and Will, Jason and Cat – I wanted to see them find happiness and friendship. I really did not want to see their stories end.Marisa de los Santos has written a book full of heart and joy, and also laughter.Recommended to those readers who have enjoyed this author’s previous books, and for readers who love women’s fiction.
  • (5/5)
    Loved, loved, loved it!
  • (3/5)
    I had heard nothing but good things about Ms. de los Santos' books so when I saw this one through LT ER, I requested it.While the book was good it wasn't really what I expected. I kept waiting for something to really happen during the course of the book and until the last 20 pages nothing really did. That's not saying that the plot wasn't moving forward , it was but at a very slow pace. I still wonder what it was about Cat that made Pen and Will feel that they couldn't be friends without her. For me that was never really resolved.
  • (2/5)
    It had been six years since their friendship fell apart and each went their own way. So it was surprising when Cat's email arrived requesting Pen and Will to attend their college reunion. She said she would see them there, that she needed them and she was sorry. Reunited at the reunion, Pen and Will wait for Cat's arrival, which doesn't happen. They spend their time re-living their conversations, picking up some where they left off, going over the reasons for the break up and finally deciding to search for Cat. The book was mainly conversations, some important and some trivial. But very little else. And truth be told, I didn't care. The conversations were uninteresting. I took the book on a long drive for Thanksgiving, but preferred to listen to a book on my MP3 player. I started to read another book which captured my attention. I haven't returned to this book--I don't know if I ever will.
  • (5/5)

    Wonderful.  I am such a fan of this author.  Lots for a book club to discuss - but maybe not, in a way.  That is to say, while reading I kept wondering is that the right choice to make?" and "would I do that?" and "do I still like that character?" but by the end I realized that the author really knows people, especially her characters, and everything they do (even when they frustrate or disappoint me) is exactly right for them.

    There are a couple of interesting things I can't say w/out spoilers, but I have to hide them because this is, in a way, a mystery, and I do want you to read the book.  So, no peeking yet!  I almost want to visit the Philippines now, and will definitely make Philippine-style empanadas very soon.  The descriptions of jeepneys, Chocolate Hills, snorkeling, etc. also sound intriguing. I thought, all along, that Cat somehow arranged the drama to provoke Will and Pen to get together.  I was disappointed to learn that she really is so self-centered, and so chicken-shit, that she didn't care enough to talk to anybody before she tried to disappear.  The love they all still have for her is a kind of love I, personally, cannot understand.  It seems to me that, since Sam is right and they did baby her, that they do not really know her.  After all, they did only know college girl her, not grown-up her - so what they love is a memory of a part of her.  Elsewhere Pen unquestionably claims that ppl don't fall out of love, but rather realize they didn't love in the first place.

    There are some interesting theories about love in this book.  Other ppl besides the MCs are dealing with romantic love, also there's friendship, and parental love, and love for a parent that is or is not conditional on the parent being sane/ non-abusive / present....  I'm not sure *I* feel simpatico with all them, but I sure do appreciate the author & characters giving me different perspectives to mull over:

    "`What will I do if she leaves me?'
    The answer was so clear, so obvious that [she] had to fight to keep the impatience out of her voice.
    `You'll love someone else.`"

    Also, there's beautiful writing,  including just some great lines:

    "[He] shut his eyes, overcome by nostalgia for the days when a phone receiver was substantial enough to effectively bang across your forehead."

    A mother doesn't like to swear, so she and her children say "gives a nit" and "shut the cluck up."

    And literary references.  Unlike some pretentious, *L*iterary authors, who just drop in allusions w/out context or clue, as if they believe a reader who doesn't catch it isn't worthy, de los Santos gives us enough help we can remember our schooling, or look it up.  Speaking of someone who knew her career path from the time she was tiny:  "When has Tully *not* been in law school?... It's like Mephistopheles and hell.  Wherever Tully is is law school."

    I do recommend this, and I could see myself rereading it - it's that rich.

    "
  • (4/5)
    This book is built upon a theme I generally eschew for being too predictable: friends getting together at a school reunion after not having seen each other for (in this case) six years, and then evincing fairly foreseeable reactions to one another. [On the other hand, I love the movie "Romy And Michele's High School Reunion," but (a) it's a satire; and (b) who can resist the combination of Mira Sorvino, Lisa Kudrow and Janeane Garofalo?] Marisa de los Santos is also someone it is hard to resist: she is a writer who excels in chronicling changes over the course of relationships. Nevertheless, even while I love her writing, I didn’t love this book as much as her previous two.Pen (Penelope), Cat (Catalina) and Will (William) had met the first week of their first year at college, and became immediate soul mates. But after years of constant and close companionship, something happened to cause them not to see or contact each other since. Suddenly, Pen gets an email from Cat asking to meet her at their ten-year reunion, saying she needs her. Pen can't resist going; she has never stopped caring for her friends, and her life has been at loose ends ever since they parted.Pen is now a single mom, living with her daughter Augusta at her older brother Jamie’s house. Jamie agrees to watch Augusta, and Pen goes off to the reunion meet her fate, for she knows that’s what it will be.Discussion: I’m not so sure if making enigmatic much of what happened among the three friends was a useful plot device for de los Santos; I didn’t see any of the withheld information as significant enough to merit the mystery treatment. Rather, it seemed to me like a recipe for disappointment, because she was setting us up as if for something big that turned out to be rather mundane.On the positive side, de los Santos's writing is always a treat. The dialogue is clever and snappy (although sometimes so much so that the reader may be forgiven for suspecting that Pen, Cat, and Will traveled around with homunculi scriptwriters hidden in their pockets). The descriptive prose as well is vibrant and evocative, like this passage revealing Pen’s reaction to Augusta’s shimmery go-go girl outfit when Pen picks her up from a weekend with Augusta’s father:"Pen could imagine her before-kids self being utterly disapproving of this, the little girl in makeup and grown-up clothes thing, the pre-pre-pre-tween fascination with fabulousness. But seeing it in action, she found it didn’t bother her. Little girls were magpies and butterflies, gaga for everything shiny, in sheer, giggly, joyful love with transformation. Pen looked at Augusta, so at home in her body, so convinced of her own gorgeousness. Keep it up, honey, she thought. Hang on to it with both hands.Evaluation: As you may perhaps agree after reading that passage quoted above, it's hard not to love Marisa de los Santos, even in her less stellar efforts.
  • (3/5)
    After reading de los Santos' other books, I was excited to win this as an Early Review copy. I found this time though, that I had a hard time getting into it. Once I hit page 50 or so, I felt that it really picked up steam and I began to fall for the characters and get involved in their lives. It is a bit predictable, as most in this genre are, and it lost its tempo near the end, but all in all it's a decent read.
  • (4/5)
    What a great book! It's about 3 college friends, Cat, Pen and Will. Pen and Will embark on a journey with Cat's husband to find her. It's truly more about the journey than the destination, with Marisa de los Santos' lovely, poetic writing and warm, familiar characters.
  • (3/5)
    Cat, Pen and Will were inseparable once they met in college. Now, Cat's married and in order to give her relationship a chance without the other two, all three have been living separate lives. Cat's mysterious disappearance reunites Pen and Will as they search with Cat's husband Jason for answers. Pen and Will are hurtling to an obvious conclusion, at least to the reader and while the journey to Cat is interesting, it seemed unfulfilling. This was my first Marisa de lost Santos novel and I guess I wanted to like it more.
  • (3/5)
    Falling Together is my first experience with Marisa de los Santos, and although I found the book enjoyable for the most part, I have to admit that reading this novel was not an overwhelmingly pleasant experience. I love books that deal with friendships, both lost and found, but for some reason this one did not hit the mark for me.Pen, Cat, and Will were best friends back in college, but their friendship ended suddenly, allowing them all to go their separate ways and figure out their lives on their own. They all make their own mistakes along the way, which is probably one of the reasons that Pen and Will are so willing to put their lives on hold to search for Cat. Maybe their lives would seem more logical if they could pick up their friendship with where it left off.As Will and Penn make the commitment to search for Cat together, they unknowingly are allowing each other to search their own souls. As they deal with secrets and hidden truths, Pen and Will finally accept something in each other that has been there throughout their entire lives. If only they could have given the emotional support they each needed in the six years they were apart.Although the summary indicates this novel was about searching for their friend Cat, the actual search seemed to take up very little of the book. A very small portion of the story was spent in the Philippines looking for her, and I think I would have enjoyed it more if the search was more extensive. And then when they did find her, I thought the reunion could have been a bit more eventful.So besides my reservations about this novel, I did find enjoyment from it. This novel seemed to be more of a search for Pen and Will, but searching for the people they used to be. The Philippines were described in a way that makes me want to hop on a plane tomorrow to walk on the beach enjoying a beautiful sunset. With themes of friendship, forgiveness, and love, you may enjoy this book too.
  • (3/5)
    Different style of writing than her first two books. I liked that the story had twists and kept you guessing. I would have liked a different ending, but to each his/her own! Still a good read!
  • (5/5)
    Falling Together did not disappoint me. So far, I will give Ms. de los Santos kudos for telling stories that are believable. It is possibel and most likey has happenbed ot many people the reunion of someone who has been out of their lives so long but once they have reentered the picture life becomes "sweeter." Readers forget real people have problems they have to work through. People have to growup and realize what is important to them. This is the case of Will, Pen and Cat the reason for the story. The story also shows peopel can change and those who were once despised can become friends. Life is that way, the unexpected can lead to shifts soem good and others not so much. Interestingly, I found the guys in this story the characters I like the best: Jamie and Will but now that I think about it, I felt that way with de los Santos' "Belong to Me and Loved Walked In." I am sure if you are into psychoanaysis this means something but it simply means to me these characters were more likeable to me. If you are a person who want the story to grab you fromt he first word without the nuances, this may not be the book for you. If you can't let yourself believe in love that transcends time, this is may not be the book for you. If you want a story with real life issues, give "Falling Together" a chance.
  • (4/5)
    I think I felt reversed with Marisa books. Love Walked In and Belong to me were good, but I really enjoyed Falling Together the most. I felt like I was a part of the story and was sad when the book ended because I wanted more time with the characters. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes her writing. This was a fairly quick read that captured my attention with the mystery of finding Cat.
  • (4/5)
    Normally I steer away from "friendship stories", the kind where old friends in a) college b) growing up c) a book club find themselves in some situation that an author is inspired to write about. I find them confusing and contrived, and for the most part, very irritating, trying to keep the characters straight and who love/hates/yearns for/inspires who. But this story of college friends, starkly separated, but rejoining around a reunion had only three main characters, and two of them were very interesting to me, so I persisted.I'm glad I did. Though there were some choppy moments in the story, trying to place certain ancillary characters, or when my brain didn't switch gears from character to character fast enough, there were some delicious moments, both in the story line and in the actual writing. The interesting aspect for me was the way Marisa de los Santos weaves the backstory of Pen, Cat, and Will into their own intermediary stories (each filled with tremendous loss), and their present day worlds. I also liked that while a more secondary character is a real jerk at times, there are aspects of his personality that make him totally redeemable, likable, and understandable, even though he also can be a (why does douche bag come to mind) buffoon and blow-hard. We all know people like that. Totally despicable, lovable turds.Once again, I failed to note some of my favorite lines. Why do I look at a page number and think I'll remember it to come back and quote a passage. I think some of the things that charmed me involved Will's books, the relationships between parent and child (charming in Pen's case for both her own and with her daughter, terrifying in Will's), and the breaking awareness of falling together. I remember telling my brother I had fallen in love with my husband. "Don't 'fall' in love," her told me. "Rise in it" I did and continue to do so, but that's another story.Gave this book a 4 simply for all the moments it made me stop and think about my own experience in life, for the lovely phrases that captivated me, for the descriptions of Pen's family (past and present), for sea-glass, for the darling fairy-princessness of Augusta, and Jason's beautiful way of relating to kids. I received this book from the kind auspices of Harper Collins. They were offering a chance for one of three books by 3 different authors. I'd read all three authors, but one book was a series, and one was a deceased author, whose personal conduct broke my own code of decency (and I was also wondering in how a man two years dead wrote a book.) Anyhow, I left the decision up to them and they most graciously sent me this copy of the book to read and review. I am most grateful.
  • (3/5)
    "Falling Together", a novel about three college friends who part ways after school and are brought together again years later under contrived circumstances was not my favorite book by Marisa de los Santos. Her lyric, fluid writing was there, but without enough of a realistic plot to bring it all together. What sort of person decides, at graduation, that the three close friends in their group should go their separate ways after graduation? Someone in another review described them as "melodramatic" and that's what I got out of it, too. "Contrived" was another word that came to mind. I'd expect that sort of decision making from a 13 or 14 year old. And all the "adventures" that brought them together again seemed contrived to me, as well. I'll definitely read de los Santos' next book because her writing is often exquisite, but I'll be hoping for more substance the next time.