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Love Walked In (de los Santos)

Love Walked In
Marisa de los Santos, 2006
Penguin Group USA
320 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780452287891

Summary
A tribute to classic film and true romance, Love Walked In tells the story of two women—one older, one younger—and the unexpected ways in which their lives are forever changed by chance.

For thirty-one-year old Cornelia Brown, life is a series of movie moments, and "Jimmy Stewart is always and indisputably the best man in the world, unless Cary Grant should happen to show up." So imagine Cornelia's delight when her very own Cary Grant walks through the door of the hip Philadelphia cafe she manages. Handsome and debonair, Martin Grace sweeps Cornelia off her feet, becoming Cary Grant to Cornelia's Katharine Hepburn, Clark Gable to her Joan Crawford. Meanwhile, on the other side of town, eleven-year-old Clare Hobbes must learn to fend for herself after her increasingly unstable mother has a breakdown and disappears.

With no one to turn to, Clare seeks out her estranged father, and when the two of them show up at Cornelia's cafe, the lives of Cornelia and Clare are changed in drastic and unexpected ways. A cinematic and heartfelt debut that pays homage to the classic Cary Grant/Katharine Hepburn romantic comedy The Philadelphia Story, Love Walked In is sure to win over critics and readers of contemporary fiction. (From the publisher.)



 Author Bio
Birth—August 12, 1966
Where—Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Education—B.A., University of Virginia; M.F.A., Sarah
   Lawrence College; Ph.D., University of Houston
Currently—lives in Wilmington, Delaware


Marisa de los Santos achieved her earliest success as an award-winning poet, and her work has been published in several literary journals. In 2000, her debut collection, From the Bones Out, appeared as part of the James Dickey Contemporary Poetry Series.

De los Santos made her first foray into fiction in 2005 with the surprise bestseller Love Walked In. Optioned almost immediately for the movies, this elegant "literary romance" introduced Cornelia Brown, a diminutive, 30-something Philadelphian with a passion for classic film and an unshakable belief in the triumph of true love.

In this much anticipated 2008 sequel, Belong to Me, de los Santos revisited Cornelia, now a married woman, newly relocated to the suburbs, and struggling to forge friendships with the women in her new hometown.

Extras
From a 2008 Barnes & Noble interview:

• De los Santos' love affair with books began at a young age. She claims to have risked life and limb as a child by insisting on combining reading with such incompatible activities as skating, turning cartwheels, and descending stairs.

• I'm addicted to ballet, completely head-over-heels for it. I did it as a little kid, but took about a thirty year hiatus before starting adult classes. I do it as many times a week as I can, but if I could, I'd do it every day! In my next life, I'm definitely going to be a ballerina.

• I'm terrible with plants, outdoor plants, indoor plants, annuals, perennials. I kill them off in record time. I adore fresh flowers and keep them all over my house all year round because they're beautiful and already dead, but you won't find a single potted plant in my house. So many nice people in the world and in books are growers and gardeners, but the sad truth is that I'll never be one of them.

• I'm an awful sleeper, and the thing that helps me fall asleep or fall back to sleep is reading books from my childhood. Elizabeth Enright's Melendy series and her two Gone Away Lake books, all of the Anne of Green Gables books, Little Women, The Secret Garden, the Narnia books, and a bunch of others. I have probably read some of these books twenty, maybe thirty times. I read them to pieces, literally, and then have to buy new ones.

• I am crazy-scared of sharks and almost never swim in the ocean. Yes, I know it's silly, I know my chances of getting bitten by a shark are about the same as my chances of becoming president of the United States, but I can't help it.

• My favorite way to spend an evening is eating a meal with good friends. The cheese plate, the red wine, the clink of forks, a passel of kids dancing to The Jonas Brothers and laughing their heads off in the next room, food that either I or someone else has cooked with care and love, and warm, lively conversation-give me all this and I'm happy as a clam.

• I adore black and white movies, particularly romantic comedies from the thirties and forties. I love them for the dialogue and for the whip smart, fascinating, fast-talking, funny women.

When asked what book that most influenced her career as a writer, here is her response:

I read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was ten, I can't count how many times I've read it since, and every single time, I am utterly pulled in. I don't read it; I live it. I'm with Scout on Boo Radley's porch and in the colored courtroom balcony, and my heart breaks with hers at Tom Robinson's fate. Over and over, the book lifts me up and sets me down into her shoes. I remember the wonder I felt the first time it happened, the sudden, jarring illumination: every person is the center of his or her life the way I am the center of mine. It changed everything. I know that sounds dramatic, but it's true. That empathy is the greatest gift fiction gives us, and it's the biggest reason I write.

(Author bio and interview from Barnes & Noble.)



 Book Reviews
Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos, is the kind of book that makes you want to hunker down on a chilly day in a comfy chair and read straight through 'til dark. The beginning is light, entertaining and inviting, the middle grows more serious, and then, toward the end, the violins really start to play in this poignant, heart-tugging story about a single woman and a little girl who develop an unlikely bond.
Susan Adams - Washington Post


Philadelphia cafe manager Cornelia Brown drifts effortlessly through her unattached life, unapologetic for idealizing romance and breathlessly recommending The Philadelphia Story-to the reader and everyone else. Eleven-year-old Clare is a child of divorce whose mother, a successful party planner, is quickly going to pieces. In alternating chapters of Cornelia's first person and Clare's free and direct third, poet de los Santos, making her novel debut, tells the story of their finding each other. That Cornelia, early on, immediately falls for Cary Grant doppelganger Martin Grace is no surprise; his relation to Clare, revealed a third of the way in, isn't really either. As she discovers maternal instincts she wasn't sure she had, Cornelia works up the courage to face her own feelings for Clare with honesty. As Martin exits, Cornelia's childhood friend Teo enters, but neither makes much impact, and Clare's rather serious issues get reduced to Clare-did-this, Clare-thought-that episodes. The two main characters exist for one purpose: to enact a cross-generational, strong-but-vulnerable-and-loving, screenplay-ready femininity. Chick lit? You bet: with rights sold in at least eight countries, and, indeed, to Paramount-Sarah Jessica Parker will star and coproduce with Sideways's Michael London. The book is fine, but for this property, it's a case of waiting for Carrie to walk in.
Publishers Weekly


Cornelia would be the first to admit that she has turned her life into a series of movie moments. She moved to Philadelphia because she fell in love with a movie—The Philadelphia Story—and there she waits for her leading man. When Martin, the handsome stranger in a perfectly cut suit, opens the door of the coffee shop Cornelia manages, she is all too ready to be swept off her feet and into the arms of her Cary Grant, her Clark Gable, her Jimmy Stewart. But is Martin her real love? Will he be the one to transform her fantasies into reality? Across town, eleven-year-old Clara struggles to hold her life together as her mother becomes increasingly unstable. When her mother disappears, abandoning Clara on the side of a road, Clara turns to her estranged father for help. And when Clara and her father show up on Cornelia's doorstep, Clara's and Cornelia's lives are changed forever. This is a novel about love between men and women, friends and strangers, mothers and daughters. There are a few (very few) obscenities, and the intimate moments between some of the characters are discrete. A choice for older teenage girls although many—if not most—will not be familiar with the leading men and the romantic movies of the past.
Anita Barnes Lowen - Children's Literature


Cornelia is a sprightly little thing who's stuck in a rut managing a coffee shop and watching her beloved film classics in her spare time. Then, right out of the movies, "love walked in," looking just like a modern-day incarnation of Cary Grant. Martin seems to be perfect for Cornelia, until she meets his ten-year-old daughter, Clare, whom he had failed to mention. When Cornelia learns that Clare's mother, Martin's ex-wife, has disappeared, she steps right into the situation. Narrated by Cornelia and Claire in alternating chapters, this is the story of how two lives intersect and a great relationship blooms from an unexpected seed. Poet de los Santos's debut is a light, sweet read with just a bit of substance underneath. Sarah Jessica Parker is slated to star and coproduce the film version with Sideways producer Michael London, and it seems like a good match. This may be one of those books that will be even better on the big screen. Recommended. —Beth Gibbs, Davidson, NC
Library Journal


Two heroines, Clare Martin and Cornelia Brown, discover the power of friendship and the meaning of love in this remarkable tale. De los Santos crafts two irresistible characters in her debut novel. First we meet Cornelia, a hopeless romantic, addicted to classic films in which dashing men like Carey Grant bedazzle glamorous leading ladies like Grace Kelly. Cornelia is a 30-something underachiever whiling her time away as the manager of a Philadelphia coffee shop. While she neglects her interior life, Cornelia keeps her intellect sharp by engaging in clever repartee with the eccentrics who patronize Cafe Dora. But everything changes when Martin Grace strolls through the cafe's door. Martin is matinee-idol perfect-the witty banter, the impeccable clothes, the air of mystery. Cornelia is hooked. The relationship whizzes along, bringing Cornelia an offer of marriage. But before she gets to live happily ever after, Cornelia delves deeper into her feelings for Martin. Is she willing to settle for a safe and reliable relationship with a weak physical and emotional connection? Maybe chemistry only exists on movie screens and sparks don't fly for mere mortals. As Cornelia struggles to find her romantic bearings, our other heroine is facing tragedy. Clare, a tenderhearted pre-teen, is devastated when her mother experiences a mental breakdown and abandons Clare during the holidays. Through serendipity, Clare and Cornelia cross paths at the cafe, and the author deftly interweaves their stories. These two fragile souls instinctively cling to one another and share their dreams. Clare longs for a safe and secure home life and a reunion with her mother; Cornelia hopes to create a family of her own and find love. De los Santos's writing engages throughout this powerful story. It's impossible not to cheer for these characters as they search for happiness. A timeless gem.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. Discuss Clare's attraction to fictional orphans. Why is she so fascinated by them, even before her mother leaves? Why can she relate to them? In what ways is she abandoned even before she is actually abandoned?

2. Cornelia claims that she doesn't fantasize about living in an old Hollywood movie but it becomes clear that she does. In what ways does she try to keep her own desires for the perfect Hollywood romance at bay? Why does she think she'll never have it? Does she harbor false or unrealistic expectations about love? In what ways, in the end, is Cornelia's story "old Hollywood?"

3. Why do you think Cornelia is so immediately drawn to Martin Grace? What does he represent to her? In what ways does he live up to her expectations? In what ways does he fail?

4. Discuss Martin's reaction to Clare's situation. Why do you think he never told Cornelia about Clare? Once Clare reappears in his life, what do you make of his actions and reactions to both Clare and to the missing Viviana? Do you think he handles it well? Try to imagine his perspective. Discuss.

5. In what ways are Cornelia and Clare alike? Why does Cornelia immediately feel the need to comfort Clare? How do they fill empty places in each other's lives? Also, why does Clare take to Teo so quickly when she can't do the same for her father? What about Cornelia and Teo together comforts Clare?

6. Clare realizes quickly that her father does not love her. Do you think that she's correct in her assessment? Do you think, in general, she is fair to Martin? Is Cornelia? When Martin told Cornelia he loved her, did you believe him? Why or why not? Do you think it's possible that he could love Cornelia but not his own daughter?

7. Why does Cornelia insist on taking Clare to her own house for Christmas? Do you think that was a mistake? In what other ways does Cornelia try to accommodate Clare? Why do you think she does these things? In what ways does returning to the house help Cornelia to better understand Clare? Why is this so important later on?

8. On p. 184, Clare thinks about love: "What she came to was that even if someone wasn't perfect or even especially good, you couldn't dismiss the love they felt. Love was always love; it had a rightness all its own, even if the person feeling the love was full of wrongness." Do you think Martin is a bad person? Do you think he deserves Cornelia's love? Clare's? Why or why not?

9. What do you make of Clare's reaction to Martin's death? Discuss the conversation she has with Teo on p. 204. Why does Clare think she's evil? Do you think she is? Why do you think she can have such open conversations with Teo? What about him makes him so trustworthy to her? Why are his opinions so important? What void does he fill in her life?

10. Throughout the novel, Linny is a very stabilizing force. What about her soothes Cornelia? Why are both Clare and Cornelia so relieved when Linny arrives just after Viviana? What role does Linny's character play in the novel? In what ways is she the opposite of Cornelia? Why is that something both Clare and Cornelia need so badly?

11. Were you surprised by Viviana's return? Did you believe that she would return? Do you think Cornelia's plans for herself and Clare were realistic?

12. What does Mrs. Goldberg represent to Cornelia? How do her memories of Mrs. Goldberg help her through difficult situations? How do her stories about Mrs. Goldberg help Clare? What does Mrs. Goldberg's house represent to Cornelia? To Clare? Why does Clare want so badly to stay there?

13. In the end, do you think Cornelia makes the right decision to leave Clare with Viviana? How is leaving them at Mrs. Goldberg's different than them returning to their own home? Why does it seem safer to all of them? Do you think Clare will really forgive Cornelia for leaving her?

14. Why is Cornelia surprised to discover that she is in love with Teo? Were you surprised? Why or why not? In what ways is he exactly what she was looking for? In what ways is he not? What do you make of his relationship with Ollie? Do you think he and Cornelia have a chance? Why or why not?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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