A Sequel That Stands Up

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos

Cornelia and Teo, who are introduced in the splendid Love Walked In, are newly married and newly arrived in the suburbs, where Cornelia has become quite certain she’ll never fit in. After a few social humiliations, she meets the irreverent Lake, who appears to be a kindred spirit, and the two become fast friends. Lake’s son, Dev, a science prodigy, has a developing story of his own, as he falls in love for the first time and decides to track down the father he never knew. Piper, the neighborhood queen bee who is the root of much of Cornelia’s certainty that the ’burbs are not for her, becomes positively human right before our eyes, as she suffers along with her best friend, Elizabeth, who has cancer. de los Santos has a gift for developing warm, realistic characters who nearly walk off the page. She also has a skill for writing interweaving storylines (which merge here in a way I didn’t see coming). All kinds of good stuff: marriage (beginning and ending), friendship, betrayal, the inability to know truly what our neighbor is experiencing right across the street, and the connections we can make as we build our families.

Cry, Cry, Cry

Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean

A heartbreaking, haunting book about smokejumpers’ deaths in a wildfire in Montana, written by a brilliant writer who knew he was nearing the end of his own life. This is the first book I began re-reading within days after reading it the first time. And it was equally devastating the second time around (and in subsequent re-readings). Maclean’s understated writing can make a person weep. For the full experience, listen to Richard Shindell’s definitive interpretation of James Keelaghan’s song “Cold Missouri Waters” on the CD Cry Cry Cry.