Book chat: ‘The Precious One’ by Marisa de los Santos

The Precious OneTaisy Cleary thought she’d finally banished him. After her father abandoned the family when she and her twin brother, Marcus, had just turned 18, Taisy made it her mission to press on without the dominating, controlling, sneering Wilson Cleary. With his pregnant second wife quickly ready to welcome a new daughter, his first wants only to exorcise him.

Wilson makes it his mission to protect Willow, this precious babe, from all the world’s hurts. As his third child lives a sheltered, academically-rich life under her father’s tender wing, Taisy and Marcus work to erase difficult Wilson from their lives. And they succeed — mostly — for 17 years. But after learning of her father’s recent heart attack, Taisy is shocked to receive an invitation back to the hometown she fled so long ago.

Faced with a surly teenage half-sister, dreamy stepmother and father who remains as self-obsessed as ever, Taisy is also confronted with memories of another man she lost so long ago: her first love, Ben. Returning to the Delaware town where she’d once been so happy, she hopes to forge new connections . . . just as her sister needs her the most.

Lyrical, thought-provoking and filled with memorable characters, Marisa de los Santos’ The Precious One challenges our notions of family, loyalty and second chances. Though it got off to a slow start for me, I became lost in the beautiful language and sucked into the world of the complicated, broken Clearys.

In chapters alternating between Taisy and Willow’s viewpoints, the story begins with Taisy estranged from her father and his second family — but still faced with a longing to understand, and be understood by, her dad. While her brother has long given up on Wilson, Taisy can’t seem to shake her strange, misguided feelings of loyalty to the man who destroyed to their once-strong family unit. Even decades later, she can’t help wondering . . . why?

With Wilson now in his 70s and in questionable health, he calls his oldest daughter — a writer — for a favor: to ghostwrite his life story, one of his marvelous mind. An unquestionable genius, Wilson places education and knowledge above all else. His daughter, Willow, was molded in his image: a brilliant, savvy young woman who thinks easily for herself . . . but can’t function away from her father’s grasp.

Public high school is a new circle of hell for Willow. With Wilson unable to continue her homeschooling, she enters eleventh grade without any of the grasp of culture or social norms. And it’s painful. When the author has us join Willow in a dirty stairwell where she’s somberly eating her lunch alone, I ached for her. Who hasn’t felt like the misfit?

And that’s why it’s so easy to understand how she is quickly adopted by a new mentor: her English teacher, a 30-year-old man who easily quotes poetry and Shakespeare but harbors dubious intentions. The Precious One is as much the story of a family as it is one of predation and loneliness, hope and belief.

I related to Taisy — in her thirties, still smarting with the dissolution of her first love — and with Willow, this sad and lovely girl who can’t understand just how sad and lovely she really is. No matter your age, there is probably a bit of Taisy and Willow in all of us: people who still seek the approval of their parents, regardless of what’s come to pass between them. Willow’s fondest hope is to never make a mistake, and Taisy’s is to atone for her worst one of all.

Can you tell I liked this book? I really liked this book. I read it almost entirely in one afternoon with my swollen pregnant feet propped on a coffee table, lost in the Clearys and their myriad issues . . . swept up in the idea of Wilson’s mysterious past and how much he inflicted his own issues upon his unsuspecting children.

Though I didn’t feel we got the most satisfying story arc from Wilson’s history, I appreciated Taisy’s desire to dig deeper — to try and find the root of what made this man so calculated, austere and cold (to everyone but Willow, that is). As Willow begins to clear a small path in the real world outside her parents’ arms, I felt a surge of protection for her . . . even though my loyalty was, for the most part, with Taisy.

The evolution of the sisters’ relationship is at the heart of the story. Though we have sinister subplots peeking into the crevices between paragraphs, Willow and Taisy finding solace and camaraderie in one another — and the changes they help bring to each other’s lives — was moving, to say the least. Though Willow would have never admitted to needing a “sister” around (and Taisy could never imagine being that sister), their changing dynamic was my favorite part of The Precious One.

With a satisfying conclusion and engrossing plot, Marisa de los Santos presents a winning novel that swept me up with its gorgeous prose and compelling characters. This family isn’t one I’ll soon forget.

4.5 out of 5

Pub: 2015 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor on Facebook
Complimentary copy provided via TLC Book Tours for review consideration


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write meg!’s 2008 reading honors

write meg!
2008 reading honors

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Another fabulous reading year has come and gone, and it’s always great to reflect on times past and present! I found some great new authors this year, spent a ton of time with Edward Cullen and Bella Swann, discovered the simultaneous awesomeness and craziness of BookMooch and LibraryThing, started my little book/life blog and have stayed up way too late wrapping up novel after novel.

And in honor of the overall bookishness that was 2008, I now present the write meg! 2008 honors! Yes, I know — incredibly exciting! I should have made some little graphics or something, but unfortunately time has been scarce. Perhaps for 2009?

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Fastest Read

Cracked Up To Be, Courtney Summers

A fast-paced, surprising and poignant young adult read, I finished this one in a matter of hours.

Runner-up: The Solomon Sisters Wise Up, Melissa Senate

This chick lit book had me captivated from day one: three sisters, a lifetime of distance and a few weeks to make up for it. Great read.

Funniest Read

Marley & Me, John Grogan

Grogan’s story of the wily, “worst dog” in the country and his tender family had me laughing — and crying — the whole time.

Longest Read

Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer

The fourth tome in Meyer’s Twilight series packed in the plot — and page count. It totaled nearly 700 pages but had me running through it like water.

Brain-Hurting Read

Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander, Ann Herendeen

This historical romance couldn’t keep my brain from going into overdrive — the language was antiquated, the plot quite disorienting. I wanted to like it — and tried valiantly to — but couldn’t quiet my headache long enough to really enjoy it.

Most Poignant Read

The Longest Trip Home, John Grogan

Any child will relate to Grogan’s story of rebellion and redemption — and the ultimate power and grace of family. Grogan appears on my list twice — lucky man!

Best Read Outside My Comfort Zone

Maus, Art Spiegelman

Spiegelman’s classic graphic novel following his parents’ experience and ultimate escape from the Nazi regime was spell-binding. As a total graphic novel newbie dating a graphic novel expert, I was hesitant to try this one — but was very pleasantly surprised.

Most Addictive Book Series

The Twilight Series, Stephenie Meyer

Okay, no real surprise here. They might not be the most eloquent, well-written books around (yeah, they’re not), but the story of a difficult, brooding vampire and his mortal lady love had me carrying the books around in my beach bag nonstop. Great books to get lost in — and continue to enjoy discussing after the fact. My sister’s on Eclipse right now!

Biggest Disappointment

Remember Me?, Sophie Kinsella

After enjoying Kinsella’s Shopaholic series and other works, I expected something more than the trite and unappealing Remember Me? Good thing it was an ARC.

And, finally . . .

write meg!’s Top Read of 2009

Belong To Me, Marisa de los Santos

An absolute master of language, De los Santos penned two fabulous books in Love Walked In and Belong To Me. I actually enjoyed this sequel more than the original, though Belong To Me can certainly be enjoyed on its own. Boiling over with beautiful imagery and caricatures as well as love, grief and ultimately hope, I had a difficult time putting this one down — and never wanted it to end.

Tuesday Thingers: Early Reviewer program

Today’s question: Early Reviewers- do you participate? How many books (approximately) have you received through the program? Have you liked them generally? What’s your favorite ER book? Do you participate in the discussion group on LT?

I do participate in the program, but I have yet to receive a book through Early Reviewers. In all fairness, I’ve only requested about 12 over the course of two months — and I realize it can take a while to receive one! I’m sure when I do get a book, I’ll participate in the online discussions.

I do get plenty of advance reading copies, though — through my job at the bookstore. We have an ever-growing stack just there and ready for the taking! This is, without a doubt, one of the greatest parts about my part-time job. Last night I grabbed John Grogan’s The Longest Trip Home, which I’m really looking forward to reading. In the past I’ve gotten both of Marisa de los Santos’ outstanding novels — Love Walked In and Belong To Me — as well as my most recent review of Lesley Kagen’s Land of a Hundred Wonders.

I’ve snagged countless others, too, and I’ve liked many of them. Advance reading copies are a really outstanding way to get your books in the hands of appreciative audiences, and they’re awesome for the booksellers (and readers), too — we enjoy your work (at no cost to us, definitely a plus!) and then recommend it to our friends, family, coworkers and blog readers. It’s a giant chain of fun!

National Book Festival . . . or lack thereof

The wonderful Marisa de los Santos

I’m so bummed I have to work on Saturday and can’t make it to the National Book Festival downtown. On Saturday, Sept. 27, more than 70 authors are gathering on the Mall to read, sign their books and talk with readers through the afternoon.

I was super excited to see both Geraldine Brooks and Marisa de los Santos will be there, though I’ll be spending all day in an air-conditioned bookstore . . . and not out in the sunshine, talking about some of my favorite books with their authors! I just finished Brooks’ Year of Wonders and can’t stop raving about De los Santos’ Love Walked In and Belong To Me. I can’t praise her books highly enough — Belong To Me is definitely the sort of book that changes your perspectives on family, on relationships, on unconditional love and friendship. I know that’s a grand generalization gone horribly wrong, but I don’t know how to describe it other than to say . . . It’s amazing. Pick up one or both, but definitely give De Los Santos a chance.

And she’s going to be at the book festival! Get thee to D.C.! Too bad I can’t convince my employer that attendance at the festival should be mandatory . . . Hey, it’s research! And it’s only forty minutes or so away . . . I’ll see what sort of magic I can conjure up . . .