Book #38: A different kind of love story

Fast Facts:

Book Title: Love Walked In

Author: Marisa De Los Santos

Genre/Audience: Fiction, family; adult

Rating: 7/10

Worth the read?: It’s not life-altering, but sure.

Like many of America’s young Netflix subscribers, I recently sat down to watch the new film “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” And, like pretty much everyone else, by the movie’s end, I was a mess of all sorts of feels thanks to Lara Jean Covey and that precious, precious Peter Kavinsky.

And then, over the next few days, I watched the movie three more times (more watches are imminent).

Anyway, when the credits rolled, I knew I needed to immediately read a good love story. I searched my bookshelves and was astounded to discover I have approximately zero traditional love stories. I emphatically texted a friend about my need for a good book, saying, “I NEED LOVE!” (She then offered to let me borrow her copy of TATBILB, but I wasn’t about to leave my house that late at night. I needed a book now!)

So, in my desperation, I decided to give Love Walked In a shot. I bought this book at Goodwill some time ago and tried to read it earlier this year, but got distracted by schoolwork less than 30 pages in.

The first bit of the book sure makes you think you’re about to read a traditional love story, but before long it becomes clear how wrong that assumption is. I was bummed because I really only wanted a nice, romantic story, but still, the book was good and I needed to know what would come of the characters.

The book is odd because half the narration is in first-person and the other half is in third-person limited. Partially because of this, the storytelling is engaging and authentic, and De Los Santos is a wonderful writer (perhaps that’s why she has a PhD in literature and creative writing. Yay for powerful women!).

The first-person narrator is Cornelia, a lost-and-unsure 30-something who manages a cafe, while the third-person narration peeks into the mind of 11-year-old Clare as she struggles to stay afloat amidst a life suddenly seeping with loss and change.

Cornelia is dating Martin Grace, Clare’s father, when the young girl’s formerly devoted mother becomes erratic and abandons her. When Clare finds her absentee father, he takes her to meet Cornelia. The two become close, and before you know it, the story is less about romantic love and more about the love shared between a parent and a child. Who ends up with who, and what comes of Clare’s missing mother? These are the questions the reader is left debating until the very last pages.

All along the way, I was torn between rooting for Clare and her mother or Clare and Cornelia. The author does an amazing job of making each character relatable and understandably broken. The way she addresses mental illness through the eyes of a child is compelling and, I think, fair. She is careful not to villainize Clare’s mother while also not dismissing the damage her behavior causes. Having grown up around people with mental illness, I didn’t feel at any point that it was represented unfairly or inaccurately—and that is a rarity. Her mother’s character actually broke my heart into pieces. I understood her on a deep level.

The story is heartbreaking and humorous, hopeful and tragic. The end is questionable, as it attempts to wrap everything up a little too neatly, and thus loses the rough edge of real life. But I was happy to have read it. It’s a book I probably won’t reread any time soon, but would certainly pass along to friends in the meantime.

Also, the cover of this book is charming and the title is perfect for the story.

See you next time!