Real Simple’s No-Obligation Book Club reads the novel by Marisa de los Santos.

Hello, Bookies!

What can I say? Part II of our reading has taken us on quite the ride. Picking up from the realization that Martin is Clare’s father, I feel that we are introduced to three very different characters in Cornelia, Clare, and Martin. When we first meet Cornelia, she has no real direction or purpose, but now she has found her “something to live for” in Clare. In our first reading, we saw Clare as this take-charge little lady trying to stay afloat as the world she knows gets washed away with the odd behavior (and subsequent disappearance) of her mother. However, with the introduction of Teo, we really witness just how much of a child Clare is. And Martin… dear Martin… we already started to see the “Cary Grant” in him die out, but his true character becomes more obvious with every interaction he has with Cornelia and Clare in these chapters. Although I hate to speak ill of the fictional dead, the good-looking, smooth-talking, successful businessman has been stripped down to a negligent and selfish dud. Somewhat of a non-meaningful character, so much so that when he dies in the car crash in London, I evoked very little emotion.

While the death of Martin would typically have made for a pivotal moment, it’s obvious from Cornelia and Clare’s reaction that Martin’s inability to truly get to know others has the people closest to him somewhat unmoved by his passing. We don’t see a grief-stricken Cornelia or an “I can’t get out of bed” Clare. In fact, the only person who shows any true emotion is Martin’s ex-girlfriend, who leaves the scene as quickly as she comes in. By this point, Cornelia has made it clear that she does not love Martin (my hopeless romantic dreams were crushed) and Clare makes no qualms about telling people that her dad did not love her.

As down and disappointing as things may be getting in the lives of our main characters, I love that the author brings us Teo for a little relief. For me, he is everything I wish Martin was—loving and attentive with striking looks, a great personality, and a good sense of humor. Did I mention he can cook? (As an aside: I didn’t realize how much I wished Martin was like Teo until I found myself somewhat upset that Teo was married to Cornelia’s sister Ollie instead of her. Was it just me?)

Although the holidays are supposed to be a magical time for everyone, especially children, without Teo’s ray of light it would have been a pretty dim season in Philadelphia. He’s the one who bakes treats with Clare, goes Christmas shopping with her, and even takes her to the light show—which he did not even want to go to. And most importantly, he listens. It may not seem like much, but for Clare, just having someone to talk to and know that he genuinely has concern for what she is saying is something she has been missing out on for quite some time.

Teo has this special ability to show his love and support for the situation at hand, while still thinking practically. Although his thoughts on what should happen to Clare differ quite a bit from Cornelia’s, and maybe even ours, he brings a perspective that is mature and much needed.

So what do you think the ending will have in store for Clare and Cornelia? Do you think they’ll end up together as they are obviously hoping, or do you think Teo is right in believing the current situation should only be temporary? Also, what are your thoughts on Viviana? Do you think she’ll ever reappear? Post your thoughts in the comments section below. And for next week, let’s read through to the end of the book.



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