Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Group Review: Falling Together

Summary: What if saying hello to an old friend meant saying good-bye to life as you know it? It’s been six years since Pen Calloway watched her best friends walk out of her life. And through the birth of her daughter, the death of her father, and the vicissitudes of single motherhood, she has never stopped missing them. Pen, Cat, and Will met on their first day of college and formed what seemed like a magical and lifelong bond, only to see their friendship break apart amid the realities of adulthood. When, after years of silence, Cat—the bewitching, charismatic center of their group—e-mails Pen and Will with an urgent request to meet at their college reunion, they can’t refuse. But instead of a happy reconciliation, what awaits is a collision of past and present that sends Pen and Will, with Pen’s five-year-old daughter and Cat’s hostile husband in tow, on a journey across the world. 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. 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. They must confront the reasons their friendship fell apart and discover how—and if—it can ever fall back together. ~amazon.com

Julie's Review: For years I've been hearing that I must read Marisa de los Santos, so when Library Thing's Early Reviewers had her 3rd novel, Falling Together, on their list, I requested it. I've had the book since October but due to other book obligations, I am just now getting to it. Plus Alice and I wanted to read/review it together. I loved the description of the book and it seemed right up my alley.

It's not to say that I didn't like the book, but in the end it wasn't what I expected. It left me wanting more. More of what? That I can't even answer. It's not that Ms. de los Santos isn't a great writer, she is but I just found myself thinking "get on with it already" when it came to certain aspects of the plot.

While I liked Pen and Will, I kept wondering what was so special about Cat that they couldn't operate as friends without her. I wondered this throughout the entire novel. We get to know Cat, Will and Pen through flashbacks that Pen has of their friendship during college. It isn't until you are quite a ways into the novel that you find out why Cat broke off and then why Will decided that they all should go their separate ways. Frankly, Cat's reasoning wasn't good enough for me to end a friendship that was so special. I understand wanting to grow up and feel your own way in the world, but you can do that with friends by your side. Through every flashback, I felt that Cat was self-absorbed, that she loved being the center of the group. I felt that she made it so Pen and Will felt they couldn't survive without her. What also struck me was that if they met in college then they were friends for 4-5 years before the "break", so they were apart more than they were together. It just hit me as strange to put such an emphasis on a friendship that in the scheme of things was a small part of life.

I liked Pen. She's a good person but she's terribly needy for Cat, even after a 6 year divide. It floored me because she does have close girlfriends currently in her life, so I'm not sure why she could never move on. Perhaps it was because she never had a say in the "break-up" that she was unable to let go.

At the end of the book, I thought "well finally", which is not a good sign for me. I did have to mull this novel over a bit before starting my review. There are subplots that I would have liked to have explored more: Will and his rage; Pen and her father's relationship to name a couple. Those are the things that interested me more than the adventure to find Cat.

Would I ever read another Ms. de los Santos? I'm up in the air about that one. Someone would have to do a pretty good sell to me.

Final Take: 3/5

Alice's Review:  There were a few things about this novel I found a touch troubling. I think our author could have brought Pen, Will and Cat together in a different way. The premise seemed a bit unrealistic. The friendship was believable but the way it ended wasn’t. I will never understand why people do what they do. Friends will be your friends as long as you allow them to be, they accept you, support you, and will tease the holy heck out of you. They are supposed to, it’s their job. To end a friendship because you can’t handle the truth is dumb. Plain and simple. The fact these three ended a great friendship because one wanted to grow up (and I use that loosely) and the other two couldn’t handle the fact that other feelings existed between them is idiotic. To bring them together to search for Cat with Cat’s sometimes-likable husband was, for lack of a better word, odd. Made no sense to me, especially how they came together at the college reunion. And that’s where we began, not the greatest start.

To steal a line from the novel, I have no idea why Pen though Cat “hung the moon.” There was nothing redeeming in Cat that would make me travel halfway around the word to make sure she was okay. I found her to be mean and egotistical. She was a woman who would rip apart a friendship for her own selfish gain. And it wasn’t just the friendship that suffered, it was her marriage as well.

There are things I absolutely agree with Julie about: Our disdain for Cat. What a “beyotch.” The lack of any real conflict in the novel between Pen and Will that wasn’t forced. The journey that was sometimes a bit tedious, tiresome. The only thing that made the search bearable for me was Pen.

As I told Julie, I heart Pen. She was one of the most authentic characters I have read in a long time. She was funny, smart. Flawed? Absolutely. Truth be told, I didn’t like her initially. Through the first few chapters, I thought she was a slightly pathetic, sanctimonious, needy woman who was wallowing in the bad choices she made. As I kept reading, I saw a transformation in her. I saw that she was someone who held steadfast to an idea of family, she didn’t want to let anyone go. She was a keeper and guarded what she had ferociously. I loved the connection she had with her brother, mom and daughter. I loved how vulnerable she was when discussing her father. I found most of her actions natural, real. I thought that Pen and Will had great chemistry together. It wasn’t rip your bodice type chemistry, it was I’m in love with my best friend type. I thought they fit together beautifully. In the final chapters, there is some forced tension between them. It seemed thrown in to add conflict to the novel. It was completely unnecessary.

There are two reasons I enjoyed this novel as much as I did. The first is Pen. The second is about how family and togetherness embodies this novel. I come from a large Portuguese family. I have a brother and sister, but almost as many aunts, uncles and cousins as there are stars on a clear night. I love being part of something that is so big and wondrous. I love having a place where I belong, where everyone is loud and crazy and funny. It’s an incredible thing. This novel reminded me of that.

The main difference I found in this novel from Ms. de los Santos’ other novels is that where her first novels started strong and finished weak, this novel started weak and finished strong. I am a fan her work and recommend her novel Love Walked In as well.

Final Take:  4/5



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