I like Marisa de los Santos’ books. So when I heard she had a new one coming out, I couldn’t wait to grab it off the shelf. I’d read her other two novels a few months ago and was pleasantly surprised by what a good writer she is. “Falling Together” is about three people who share an intense and very exclusive friendship during college. After graduation, Pen, Cat, and Will all move to the city, but when Cat decides to get married, they make the decision to go their separate ways. Their reasoning is that admitting another person into their circle would inevitably degrade the friendship, and they’d rather have nothing than less than what they had. So, Pen has a daughter, Will becomes a famous children’s author, and Cat gets married. Pen and Will see each other again at their college reunion after having received an email from Cat asking them for their help. What follows is their attempt to find Cat.
I’ll admit, I can’t say that I enjoyed de los Santos’ novel quite as much as her first two. Here’s why:
- I actually didn’t really like any of the characters. This is a problem for me – it’s why I loathe “Crime and Punishment.” If I can’t like at least one of the characters, I’m not going to like the book. The story is mostly told in Pen’s voice, and I found her snobbiness to be increasingly annoying. Cat simply came off as a selfish, needy person, who didn’t care how her choices affected others. Will was harmless and underwhelming. And I’m a little tired of precocious children who always get their way because they’re just so charming and cute, which is why I didn’t like Pen’s daughter.
- One of the main themes of the books is friendship, and I found the main characters’ friendship to be incredibly annoying by the end. One of the reasons why I like de los Santos’ novels so much is that she adds these very intimate details about people and their interactions with each other so that you feel like you know them. Her relationships are always very rich and beautiful, something to which the reader can aspire. However, this friendship just came off as being selfish, unbelievable, and excessive. The really good friendships should elevate you, and this one didn’t seem to do that.
- Marisa de los Santos usually creates these worlds that you’re either “cool” or not. Now, she probably wouldn’t use the world “cool,” but there’s a clear delineation between the characters who “get” it and those who don’t. Either you’re quirky and witty and like old movies or you’re a bumbling moron (as portrayed by Cat’s husband, Jason, whom Will and Pen dislike greatly). Her characters are just sometimes too extreme for my taste, and that was definitely the case here. Jason gets frustrated with the different language that Pen and Will speak, but so does the reader!
Now, all that being said, I have to say that one thing I do appreciate is that de los Santos is one of the few contemporary novelists who actually portrays families as being happy together. According to writers today, no one is happy, and no one seems to actually like their family very much. I also particularly enjoy the way she portrays maternal love – it’s poetic and lovely and puts into words something that I imagine is very hard to express.