The Sunday Salon – Belonging

Several years ago I was part of  a production of the musical The Secret Garden.  The main stage piece was a huge open book, with several scrims that came down in front of it.   It was a beautiful set which invited the audience to come inside the book and live the story. 

Have you ever read a book you wanted to crawl inside and live in?  Actually become one of the characters, be part of their family to share in the tragedy and triumph of their story?

I’ve read quite a few of those books over the years, and I’m in the middle of one right now.  Thinking back about some of the other books I’ve felt this way about, they all have this in common – they are ensemble stories. You know the kind I’m referring to.  A group of disparate characters whose lives intersect, bringing them into a tightly knit group which becomes like an alternate family. 

Belong to Me is such a book.  I’ve had this one on and off my radar even since it was first published in 2008.  A few weeks ago I was in the bookstore spending a birthday gift card and noticed a stack of hardcover copies on the remainder table.  “Oh yes,” I thought, grabbing it up, “I never did get around to reading this.”

And what a treat I was missing.  Belong to Me  is beautifully written, alternately funny and poignant, and has given me some purely pleasurable hours in my big reading chair. While critics probably wouldn’t call it a profound literary tour de force, I love because  it’s a book about real people facing real life dilemmas and delights, the kind of book that makes you reflect on your own life and where it’s been, where it’s going. 

So this need to belong is at the center of the story – to belong to a place, belong to a person, belong to a family.  Which is probably why it appeals to me.  Because while one part of me is a fiercely independent only child, the other part longs for connection, for friends and family, for a place to belong.  

I’ve been lucky enough to find that connection over the years, in my family, in musical groups to which I’ve belonged.

And sometimes between the covers of books, where I happily enter in and tarry awhile among some truly lovely people.

Now tell me about the books you’ve lived in, and where you feel you most belong.

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17 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon – Belonging

  1. I read the prequel (?) to Belong to Me, Love Walked In. I was actually quite surprised how much I enjoyed it and loved that the plot was about a relationship between a woman and a little girl.

    I do have Belong to Me on my shelves and plan to read that one too…eventually.

    Enjoy!

    (Oh and can you believe that I’m probably one of the few who have never read The Secret Garden!?!)

  2. I haven’t read Love Walked In, but I will now. If you enjoyed it, I’m sure you’ll enjoy Belong to Me.

    You know, I never read the book The Secret Garden either. The musical version is one of my favorite musicals.

  3. There are books that I would love to be in, books that transported me to a time different than the present. For example, Jane Austen made me want to live in the Regency Era.

    But a book that I felt like I belong to.. is something I have yet to find.

  4. I’m always interested in your book recommendations – I found the novel Admission which I loved through your blog. I’ll look out for this.

  5. Like Christina and Coleen I read Love Walked In and adored it and bought it for quite a few people when it came out in paperback in the UK.
    I bought copies of Belong to Me for myself and my eldest daughter and she has read and loved it just as much. My copy is still sitting on the shelf reproaching me but has just jumped to the top of the must-read pile after reading your post about it.

  6. I loved The Secret Garden as a kid–and I also like that kind of ensemble alternate family story. Have you ever seen Antonia’s Line? It’s that kind of story in film and I loved it.

  7. I’ve had Belong to Me on my shelves for quite some time. It was all the rage when I started blogging so I picked it up but somehow I never got around to reading it. It sounds like I will be quite satisfied when I do finally read it.

  8. That’s so interesting that you should write you’re a fiercely independent (only) child, as I am an oldest, but that you long for connections at the same time. I’m just like that! I want the best of both of those world.

  9. THE SECRET GARDEN MUSICAL IS MY FAVORITE MUSICAL EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I apologize for the gratuitous caps and exclamation points, but FOR REAL… I love that musical. I search for it every few months to see if it’s ever around the Boston area, because I HAVE to see it live again. But no one ever does it anymore! I vote for a REVIVAL!

  10. Oh, I loved Belong to Me! And Love Walked In may be even better, though I cannot decide this definitely without a lot of further rereadings. I read Love Walked In first, so I can’t rule out the possibility that I’m biased in its favor. But I know what you mean about Belong to Me, it’s such a wonderful book with a great cast of characters.

  11. You beautifully expressed how I, too, felt about Belong To Me — truly a gem of a novel I’ve raved about often since first reading it. Marisa de los Santos is a real talent.

    Books in which I’ve felt I belonged — or simply wanted to climb right into, basking in warmth? Eva Rice’s The Lost Art Of Keeping Secrets, for one, and probably my most recent read: Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s Life After Yes. Just thinking about them both makes me smile!

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