This book is built upon a theme I generally eschew for being too predictable: friends getting together at a school reunion after not having seen each other for (in this case) six years, and then evincing fairly foreseeable reactions to one another. [On the other hand, I love the movie “Romy And Michele’s High School Reunion,” but (a) it’s a satire; and (b) who can resist the combination of Mira Sorvino, Lisa Kudrow and Janeane Garofalo?] Marisa de los Santos is also someone it is hard to resist: she is a writer who excels in chronicling changes over the course of relationships. Nevertheless, even while I love her writing, I didn’t love this book as much as her previous two.
Pen (Penelope), Cat (Catalina) and Will (William) had met the first week of their first year at college, and became immediate soul mates. But after years of constant and close companionship, something happened to cause them not to see or contact each other since. Suddenly, Pen gets an email from Cat asking to meet her at their ten-year reunion, saying she needs her. Pen can’t resist going; she has never stopped caring for her friends, and her life has been at loose ends ever since they parted.
Pen is now a single mom, living with her daughter Augusta at her older brother Jamie’s house. Jamie agrees to watch Augusta, and Pen goes off to the reunion meet her fate, for she knows that’s what it will be.
Discussion: I’m not so sure if making enigmatic much of what happened among the three friends was a useful plot device for de los Santos; I didn’t see any of the withheld information as significant enough to merit the mystery treatment. Rather, it seemed to me like a recipe for disappointment, because she was setting us up as if for something big that turned out to be rather mundane.
On the positive side, de los Santos’s writing is always a treat. The dialogue is clever and snappy (although sometimes so much so that the reader may be forgiven for suspecting that Pen, Cat, and Will traveled around with homunculi scriptwriters hidden in their pockets). The descriptive prose as well is vibrant and evocative, like this passage revealing Pen’s reaction to Augusta’s shimmery go-go girl outfit when Pen picks her up from a weekend with Augusta’s father:
“Pen could imagine her before-kids self being utterly disapproving of this, the little girl in makeup and grown-up clothes thing, the pre-pre-pre-tween fascination with fabulousness. But seeing it in action, she found it didn’t bother her. Little girls were magpies and butterflies, gaga for everything shiny, in sheer, giggly, joyful love with transformation. Pen looked at Augusta, so at home in her body, so convinced of her own gorgeousness. Keep it up, honey, she thought. Hang on to it with both hands.”
Evaluation: As you may perhaps agree after reading that passage quoted above, it’s hard not to love Marisa de los Santos, even in her less stellar efforts.
Published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2011