I'll Be Your Blue Sky (de los Santos)

I'll Be Your Blue Sky 
Marisa de los Santos, 2018
320 pp.

The bestselling author revisits the characters from her beloved novels Love Walked In and Belong to Me in this captivating, beautifully written drama involving family, friendship, secrets, sacrifice, courage, and true love.

On the weekend of her wedding, Clare Hobbes meets an elderly woman named Edith Herron. During the course of a single conversation, Edith gives Clare the courage to do what she should have done months earlier: break off her engagement to her charming—yet overly possessive—fiance.

Three weeks later, Clare learns that Edith has died—and has given her another gift. Nestled in crepe myrtle and hydrangea and perched at the marshy edge of a bay in a small seaside town in Delaware, Blue Sky House now belongs to Clare. Though the former guest house has been empty for years, Clare feels a deep connection to Edith inside its walls, which are decorated with old photographs taken by Edith and her beloved husband, Joseph.

Exploring the house, Clare finds two mysterious ledgers hidden beneath the kitchen sink. Edith, it seems, was no ordinary woman—and Blue Sky House no ordinary place.

With the help of her mother, Viviana, her surrogate mother, Cornelia Brown, and her former boyfriend and best friend, Dev Tremain, Clare begins to piece together the story of Blue Sky House—a decades-old mystery more complex and tangled than she could have imagined.

As she peels back the layers of Edith’s life, Clare discovers a story of dark secrets, passionate love, heartbreaking sacrifice, and incredible courage. She also makes startling discoveries about herself: where she’s come from, where she’s going, and what—and who—she loves.

Shifting between the 1950s and the present and…lternating voices…, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky is vintage Marisa de los Santos—an emotionally evocative novel that probes the deepest recesses of the human heart and illuminates the tender connections that bind our lives. (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 her 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.

Her third novel, Falling Together, released in 2011, recounts the reunion of three college friends, whose friendships dissolve as everything they believed about themselves and each other is brought into question.

The Precious One, published in 2015, follows the two half-sisters who meet for the first time as they struggle to please their narcissistic, domineering father.

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 adapted from Barnes & Noble.)

Book Reviews
A lovely rumination on the choices we make, with characters we’ve loved for years.
Romance Times

Love and mystery surround a darker thread about the safety of women in this complex and moving tale… The author doesn’t sugarcoat the violence that the women have suffered,… [t]his novel is both lovely and powerful.
Publishers Weekly

De los Santos here revisits the next generation of her beloved characters, moving the family saga forward with this engrossing story of unshakable love, personal ethics, and a commitment to life's larger truths. —Bette-Lee Fox
Library Journal

De los Santos brings her signature style, wit, and charm while weaving in beloved characters from her previous novels.…This tender, genuine, and joyful novel is one to savor.

The novel moves back and forth between Clare's current romantic quandary and Edith's difficult life in the '50…. De los Santos writes with disarming fluidity even when her plot takes far-fetched turns, but her heroine's inexhaustible perfection grows cloying.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. When Edith first steps into Blue Sky House, she feels her husband Joseph’s presence everywhere, and she experiences the house as "forthright and decent and kind." When Clare enters the house decades later, she also feels a human presence. Have you ever found a house or some other specific place to have a personality?

2. Clare admires her fiance, Zach, as a person who "tries so hard to be good," even when it doesn’t come easily to him, and she appreciates his desire to be different from his cold, judgmental family. Have you ever known a person like this? Do you understand why Clare would be attracted to these qualities?

3. What do you make of Clare’s relationship with Zach?

4. Edith and Joseph are both photographers. How do their photographs reflect their personalities?

5. Edith feels that she does not "fit" into the social world of small town 1950s. Can you relate to her discomfort?

6. When Edith and Joseph see the flock of white herons take flight, Joseph says, "That was you. You, you. That’s what you have been to me.  Exactly." What do you think he means by this?

7. What do you make of Edith’s decision to take George Graham up on his proposal, in spite of the risks?

8. Why do you think Edith decides to start keeping the "shadow ledger"?

9. What do you think of Clare’s relationship with Dev? Do you understand her decision to go to a different college from him and later to break up with him?

10. Why do you think Clare decides to ask Dev to help her solve the mystery of Blue Sky House?

11.What do you make of Edith’s friendship with John?

12. When Clare is out in Edith’s canoe, she has the realization that "[S]omethings you decide and some things you choose and some things just are." Do you know what she means? Have you ever felt this way?

13. Early in the novel, Joseph tells Edith, "I’ll be your blue sky." Later, Edith tells Clare, "The ones who look like home are home. They’re where you go." Do these sentiments resonate with you?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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