By J. Rentilly
de los Santos
THOUGH AUTHOR MARISA de los Santos ficult for me. You live for the moment when you
resides in Baltimore, her bestselling romantic- hit upon the right word or combination of words
comedy novels, Love Walked In and its sequel, so that the poem comes to life. It gets intense and
Belong to Me, bear more in common obsessive and not much fun,” she says.
with The Philadelphia Story, the 1940 After giving birth to her first child,
Cary Grant–Katharine Hepburn–James de los Santos began to hear a voice in her
Stewartclassic.Overflowingwithwhip- head. “A certain syntax and sense of
smartverbalpyrotechnics,richlydrawn humor and way of interpreting the
characters and a giddy, unpredictable world,” she says. “It lived in my head for
romanticism, de los Santos’ novels are months before I wrote a single sentence.
addictively delightful reads. Funny, as The voice was Cornelia Brown’s.”
de los Santos didn’t become a novelist Cornelia Brown is, of course, the
until her late 30s. heroine of de los Santos’ beloved best-
Prior to working in prose, de los sellers, an eccentric, utterly lovable
Santos—daughter of a Filipino sur- woman looking for her very own Cary
geon and a mother from Maryland— Grant. Brown’s universe crackles with
Marisa de los Santos
was a poet (From the Bones Out, energetic, honest, verbally dexterous
University of South Carolina Press, 1999) with a and fully drawn characters, drawing readers into a
doctorate in English literature and creative writ- storyline that would make Mr. Grant himself
ing from the University of Houston. swoon. Love Walked In and Belong to Me pay rich
“I wrote poems because I had to write poems,” homage to the classic screwball comedies loved by
she tells The Connection. “I love poems for the the author—and her heroine.
immense pressure they put on language. The music “Cornelia and I do have that in common, and
of words, what happens when they bump against or some other things too. We share an associative
glide into each other, is something that I find intel- way of thinking and a roundabout way of telling
lectually and emotionally exhilarating.” stories,” de los Santos says. “But she’s much nicer
Eventually, though, poetry began to feel than Iam.”
“claustrophobic” for the author, who counts While she is putting the finishing touches on
among her favorite books A Little Princess, The her third novel, she is raising her two children,
Secret Garden and Elizabeth Enright’s Melendy loving her husband (writer David Teague), jug-books. “Writing poetry was always extremely dif- gling laundry and grocery shopping, and volunteering in her community. “There are days when I
don’t get to write very much, but all of these
involvements are good for me,” she says. “It feeds
my humanity, and that feeds my writing.”
While de los Santos’ life reads like a fairy tale,
not everything is served with a cherry on top in
her fiction, including this month’s Book Pick,
Belong to Me, “a more complex, challenging book”
than its predecessor, according to de los Santos.
While the book is rife with witty wordplay, sly plot
turns and a crackerjack, intoxicating romanticism,
its characters have been around the block a few
more times and the stakes are, naturally,
higher—just as they should be, says the
author. “None of these characters’ lives work
out the way they think they will, but they’re
all ultimately able to say, ‘It’s not what I wanted,
but let’s make it work.’ I think that’s a good place
to be in life.” C
Marisa de los Santos’ books
are poetry in motion
ONE OF THE JOYS of reading
is that it often provides a
mirror for our own lives and
relationships. Marisa de los
Santos’ sophomore effort,
Belong to Me, is such a book.
Filled with wit and grace, this
novel deftly explores everyday
life. And the author’s training
as a poet is obvious, as each
word seems to have been
Three women, Cornelia,
Piper and Lake, each face one
of the following: marriage
trouble, loss of control and
dark secrets. As their stories
unfold, they learn what trust,
belonging, sharing and love
Belong to Me and Love
Walked In are available at
most Costco warehouses.
Belong to Me is also available
For more picks this month,
see page 37.
COSTCO HAS 50 signed copies of Marisa de
los Santos’s Belong to Me to give away. To
enter, print your name, membership number, address and daytime phone number on
a postcard or letter and send it to: Marisa
de los Santos, The Costco Connection, P.O.
Box 34088, Seattle, WA 98124-1088. Or send
an e-mail to
“Marisa de los Santos” in the subject line.
NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS
NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES.
Purchase will not improve odds of winning. Open to legal residents of
the U.S. (except Puerto Rico) who are age 18 or older at the time of
entry and who are current Costco members. One entry per household.
Entries must be received or postmarked by June 1, 2009. Winners will
be randomly selected and notified by mail on or before July 1, 2009.
The value of the prize is $14.99. Void where prohibited. Winners are
responsible for all applicable federal, state and local taxes. Odds of
winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. Employees
of Costco or HarperCollins and their families are not eligible.
Send your feedback on this month’s book to:
Costco Book Buyer
J. Rentilly is a Los Angeles–based journalist who
writes about film, music and literature.