Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

Sometimes I read chick lit and think, “I was just not the target audience for that.” I have tried several of Sophie Kinsella’s books, and I never got past page 10. Alisa likes Kristin Billerbeck, but I don’t really care for her. I can do the lovesick calorie counting kind of chick lit (a la Bridget Jones), but I don’t have a lot of patience for the shopping kind. I’m just not a shopper. I like books that show some growth, and I’d like the girl and the boy to end up together . . . but I can be talked into an ending in which they go their separate ways. I love a good romantic story, to be sure, but I’d rather see our character learn something about herself.

It all has to do with the main character, really. She has to be . . . likeable. We all do silly things, but she needs to have a modicum of intelligence and not be completely flighty. I don’t feel like these are so much to ask, but it’s been a while since I read something marketed as chick lit that I enjoyed.

Which is why I am happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the book I read this weekend: Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos. It features two main characters: Cornelia, a thirtysomething who manages a coffee bar and whose life “begins” when a man named Martin walks in the door, and Clare, an eleven-year-old girl whose mother is becoming increasingly unstable. She turns to her estranged father for help, and they in turn show up at Cornelia’s coffee bar.

Cornelia relates everything to movies – old movies, to be precise. One of her favorites is The Philadelphia Story. Isn’t it funny how, once something comes up somewhere, you start seeing it everywhere? Mike and I watched The Philadelphia Story a few weeks ago because it was referenced on Gilmore Girls, and I was certainly glad that I had seen it before reading this book. And the book may finally have convinced me to sit through Casablanca. Anyway, I found the movie theme very endearing.

Clare, on the other hand, relates things to the books she’s read. She’s very concerned about being an orphan, so she makes lists of famous orphans like Anne Shirley and Sara Crewe. I found that endearing as well, especially since she didn’t just stick to Anne of Green Gables, but had read all the sequels and referred to characters in them.

This is a book about love, but the truth is that it’s actually about finding love in unexpected places, about love that grows without you knowing it. About how movie love, in the end, doesn’t really satisfy, and what you need is something more tangible and less dramatic, and that there’s romance in that, too.

It’s interesting that that was the theme, because I have read some things recently that were dealing with that same idea, though in very different ways. I don’t have the book in front of me, but Philip Yancey’s Prayer had a quote in it about how prayer can be like sex – everyone is afraid that they’re not doing as much of it as everyone else, as much as they’re “supposed” to. I liked that, because if you based your sexual/romantic expectations on the media, you’d probably feel that you were lacking. But if the average relationship has sex (as they say) three times a week, then there are people having sex both more and less often than that who are “normal.” But the point is that the drama and romance of a new relationship is just not sustainable.

Which brings me to the next thing I read that stuck with me – I was looking at Lauren Winner’s site and reading some of the articles that she had linked, and in this one she talked about how sex should not be so separate from domesticity.

It is, of course, a salutary thing to suggest, as Stark does, that our frantic jobs are less important than the fabric of our marriages. But is the “solution” to America’s married sex “crisis” really simply to work harder at sex–an idiom that befits a society in thrall to advanced capitalism? Maybe roommate-like status is not what we ought to be aspiring to in marriage–but neither is the thrill and romance that one associates with one’s fondly remembered dating days. (Why bother with marriage if the romance of dating is all you’re after?) Surely what married people should aspire to is, well, living as husband and wife.

Enjoy the occasional weekend getaway at a B&B, sure, but create an eros situated squarely in the household. That means not just sex and candlelight, but much more often sex and domesticity, sex and routine, sex that is part of, rather than abstracted from, the day-to-day life that is marriage. Our task, then, may not be to “work harder” at romance and desire, but rather to reconceptualize eros. Our task may be to move away from the logic that tells us that erotic love is the thing that married couples try to approximate at the end of their date nights, and to adopt instead a robustly domestic and household sexuality. Our task may not be to cultivate moments when eros can whisk us away from our ordinary routines, but rather to love each other as eros becomes imbedded in, and transformed by, the daily warp and woof of married life.

In a small way, I felt like Love Walked In was also about these things, about taking joy in your relationships as they are rather than measuring them by the standard of what you see in the movies. While it wasn’t a life-changing story, it was a pleasure to read about these very likeable characters, and I would certainly try another book by this author.

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