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Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos

This is the first book by Marisa de los Santos that I've read; I think it's her third book overall.  And I must say that I really liked it, and de los Santos may have made herself a new fan.  When I first started this book, I remembered that I tried reading it a few years ago, and for some reason it didn't take, so I ditched it.  This time around, it was hard to put down.  It's funny how that goes--a book doesn't grab your interest, but then a couple years later it does.  Anyway, on the surface this book is about reconnecting with old friends, but really, it's about two old friends finally realizing they are made for each other and FINALLY admitting their romantic feelings about each other.

Cat, Will and Pen met a week into freshman year at college and forged a tight knit, intimate, living in each other's back pockets kind of friendship that lasted four years past college graduation.  Truth be told, their friendship was so intense that it fairly strangled any other intimate, romantic relationship the three might have had outside of their small trio.  When Cat wanted a marriage and a family, she realized a relationship would never survive the intense friendship of the trio, and so she moved away, cut off all contact with Will and Pen, and got married (to a real jerk, but that's neither here nor there).  In the immediate wake of Cat's departure, the ensuing tidal wave of grief sank the vulnerable surviving friendship between Pen and Will, although by the end of the book, it's revealed that it's not the only reason that Will decided he had to leave Pen, too.

Six years on from her permanent estrangement from Will and Cat, and Pen is still grieving the loss of their friendship, their absence from her life, as well as the sudden, tragic loss of her beloved father, while raising a five year old daughter as a single mother.  When a cryptic email from Cat calls her to attend their ten year college reunion, Pen eagerly and trepidatiously attends the reunion hoping to heal the rift of the painful estrangement between herself, Cat and Will.  Once there Pen meets up and reconnects with Will and both friends hope to track down Cat.  Instead, they are ambushed by Jason, Cat's husband, who has duped the two friends into meeting him at the reunion.  Jason shares that Cat's father recently died, and that in the wake of that painful loss, Cat left ("left, but has not left him," so says the husband in denial and determined to hang on to a wife who does not want to be hung on to), having disappeared without leaving neither a trace nor a hint as to where she's gone.  Jason knows not where she is nor when nor even if she's coming back.

Later Will meets up with a friend of Cat's who has a line on where Cat went (but not where she is now): to the Philippines, the homeland of her beloved, if distant, deceased father.  Knowing this, knowing Jason's hostile, vehement bordering on violent reaction to the revelation of this news, Will worries about Jason going to find Cat on his own and knows that won't be good thing and that it won't end well.  So Will and Pen, along with Pen's five year old daughter, traipse across the world to track down their elusive friend.

Now.  Jason is an obsessive, hostile, insensitive jerk, and how Cat married him, I have no idea.  But he either needs to change his ways or Cat needs to leave his sorry ass by the end of this story or I'll be very displeased.  It's also clear that Will and Pen are meant to be (Will + Pen 4ever) and have been meant to be since they first met, but will they finally figure this out and draw up the courage to do something about it or will they settle for a long distance friendship?  What happens when they find Cat?  Will a third person upset their delicate dynamic and the momentum building between them?  These are all very important questions.

This is as much a novel about reconnecting friendships as it is about healing enough to be able to take the risk to build a future.  While the majority of the novel is spent wondering where Cat is, how Cat is, missing Cat's presence and so on, the woman herself does not make an appearance until near the end of the story (and this absence should be a clue as to how Cat will figure into the blossoming relationship between Cat and Will).  Yet her presence (or rather her absence as it were) is profoundly felt throughout the novel as the narration looks to the past to paint a picture of the blossoming and subsequent imploding of the friendship between these three people.  Having finished the novel, I look back now and realize that the absence of Cat throughout the story lent itself to a foreboding that I felt that once Cat was found, things were not going to work out the way Pen and Will (especially Pen) had hoped or thought they would.

Ultimately this is Pen's story--it's about her journey of self discovery.  She has some self-truths to acknowledge.  This is a woman who is sad, lonely, and grieving, who hates change, but for whom life is changing in profound ways and for Pen that is terrifying.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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