In this latest novel from New York Times bestselling author (Belong to Me, Love Walked In, and Falling Together) Marisa de los Santos, The Precious One takes readers into the heart of an estranged family: Three siblings, two older: Eustasia ‘Taisy’ and Marcus Cleary, abandoned by their father Wilson when he decides to create a new family with a woman other than their mother; and Willow, the much younger sister they have been kept from knowing.
Wilson has not seen his two eldest children since the terrible Thanksgiving-gone-wrong after he married his new wife Caroline ‘Caro’, and Marcus got roaring drunk and said exactly what he thought of the situation. In all that time Wilson has never extended an olive branch and tried to heal the rift, but a heart attack prompts him to call Eustasia who has since become a successful ghost writer, and he asks her to come home. When Taisy arrives she discovers he is the same difficult man whose love and approval she has spent a lifetime pinning for, that his relationship with his other daughter, Willow, is completely different—and that he wishes Taisy to write his biography.
She also discovers her high school love, Ben Ransom, still lives in the town she grew up in, and that he hasn’t married.
Hopefully that is enough about the plot to tempt fans of women’s fiction to read the book, but if it’s not, here’s this: If you like women’s fiction, but find yourself sometimes (or even often) disappointed in the quality of the writing itself, de los Santos’ writing will be an eye opener. Here is a writer adept at writing witty, fun dialogue, and those pulse points of action in-between—who knows both how to write with some literary flare, and how to write engaging commercial fiction.
Sixteen year old Willow’s voice is so different from the other characters the heading of Willow is hardly needed above those sections that introduce her. She speaks like a precocious teenager who has had her intellect coddled and groomed since birth – which is exactly who she is.
And Taisy is unrelentingly pragmatic and self-possessed (until she’s not, and then even that is believable).
“I remembered the girl who had walked home down these sidewalks countless summer evenings, the world, the whole of the world, effervescent with fireflies, raucous with cicada song, threaded through with the clean scent of honeysuckle; porch lights and kitchen lights and streetlights blooming on around her; every house familiar and strange in the deepening blue-gray dark; and I knew that I was still that girl. Nothing here needed reclaiming because it had never stopped being mine.”
There were only two things I didn’t like about this book: One was that it was a bit too YA for my tastes, though that isn’t likely to put off most readers in this YA hungry book culture. And the YAness is somewhat mitigated by Willow’s voice; her level of self-awareness and her diction are not common among people of her age, so that made reading her parts of the book more interesting than it would have been.
“Luka regarded me with the oddest expression on his face, an expression I couldn’t name but that I recognized because it was so much like the one Eustasia had given me in my father’s room the day before, a mix of pity and concern, and it was as though he and I were caught, like two burrs, in the fabric of something, although I couldn’t say what, and if none of this makes sense to you, well, it made even less to me.”
The other thing is that Wilson’s ‘problem’, when it’s finally revealed, seemed almost trivial. Horrible, yes; funny in a perverse way, definitely yes, but not a good enough excuse for all the damage he does. But read the book, and see what you think. You won’t be bored. 359 pages.
Read and reviewed for She Reads.
HarperCollins has agreed to give away a copy of The Precious One to one lucky reader!
To be entered to win, simply *leave a comment here, and tweet this post with hashtag #ThePreciousOne by Sunday May 24th*, when a winner will be chosen. Open to the US only.