Just finished Marisa de los Santos’ “Belong to Me,” the sequel to “Love Walked In,” which I found difficult to enjoy because its dual POV distracted me from getting lost in the story. When I saw that “Belong to Me” is divided into chapters told from the POV of not just two, but three characters, I was worried that this conceit would compound the problems I had with its predecessor. To my pleasant surprise, it had the opposite effect. By telling two-thirds of the book in limited third person and reducing Cornelia’s first-person narrative to every third chapter, de los Santos somehow creates a balance, like putting the third leg on a stool. There’s still an excess of telling vs. showing, especially in Cornelia’s relationship with her husband, which I think protests a bit too much about how profound and amazing their love for one another is, while rarely backing up that assertion through the dialogue and actions of the characters. And Clare, who thankfully has a smaller role in this book, still seems unrealistically saintly and preternaturally mature (though I did find her more believable as a 14-year-old than an 11-year-old).
But the book’s strongest asset is the newly introduced character of Piper Truitt. The sorority-girl-turned-super-suburbanite wife and mother, she’s the one who has it all together, from her perfect hair to her perfectly portioned treats for the kids — the one you love to hate but inside whose mind you’d give anything to peek. She’s like a sympathetic version of Hilly from “The Help.” Obsessed with maintaining appearances through rigorous regulation of both her inner and outer life, Piper sees her illusions of control come crashing down when she’s faced with the devastating illness of her best friend and rock, Elizabeth. Unfortunately, her storyline gets wrapped up a little too early to make way for some Cornelia-centered drama, but I’d like to read a whole book about Piper.