In this extraordinarily lovely and absorbing read, Pen Calloway is long estranged from the two friends who filled her soul and enriched her life for eight wonderful years. In the six years since their painful falling-out, she has gained and lost one job, fallen in love and had her heart broken, moved in with her brother, and enjoyed mothering her daughter. Ever since her beloved father died, Pen has been fragile emotionally and can't help thinking that her best friends, Will and Cat, loved her father, too --- and they don't even know he’s gone.
"This is an irresistible tale with sympathetic three-dimensional characters, an intriguing storyline, and a well-paced plot."
In her job at a bookstore, Pen is listening to an author give a talk on her career as a paid dominatrix when her smart phone --- a recent gift from Jamie, her gadget-addicted brother --- vibrates. She is instantly positive that Jamie is calling to say that her daughter, Augusta, is mortally ill. But when she calls him, he laughs at her, instructing her to check her email. She is jolted by a message from Cat saying she needs her and wants her to come to their upcoming 10-year college reunion. Pen tells Jamie later that it feels like she's been summoned; she knows she inevitably will go to the reunion to see Cat.
Pen remembers meeting Cat and Will during their first week of college. A weepy reaction to a professor's lecture sent Pen to a restroom to repair mascara damage where she discovered a stranger having a seizure. Pen panicked, rushing out of the restroom to find help. The boy who assisted her with Cat was Will. The three of them were destined to be the very closest of friends forever --- or so Pen had assumed. However, the friendship eventually fell apart. Cat left them for the most unlikely reason imaginable. Will and Pen tried to carry on with a friendship without the third person of their trio; their relationship ended in nightmare fashion.
Back in the present, Will has received the same email summons from Cat, word for word. What strikes him is how unlike Cat that terse message sounds. But, like Pen, Will knows he can't refuse Cat when she asks for his help.
Pen must ask Augusta's father, Patrick, to keep their little girl while she attends the reunion. Patrick lives in a huge fancy house with his wife and older child. Pen and Patrick's history is complicated. Patrick continues to exacerbate matters by ignoring boundaries that Pen can't afford to overlook. As she drives to the reunion, Pen recalls a college Halloween party she attended with Will and Cat, which proved to be significant to their friendship. It was the first time Pen realized what an issue Will had with rage. The events of that night also eventually played into the forces that removed Cat from their three-way friendship.
Back in the present, Will and Pen see each other for the first time in six years. It's obvious they have much to catch up on, and yet deep emotions remain the same. They compare their identical summons from Cat, and are puzzled and fearful when she doesn't appear. The next day at the reunion barbecue, someone from the past does arrive. It's the most unlikely person either one could have imagined they would see…and yet this individual has a request that Cat's old friends can't bear to turn down. After all, they had both expected that tiny, impulsive, whimsical Cat would enjoy a "resplendent" future. Now they must discover the truth of their friend's life.
It's no surprise that FALLING TOGETHER is filled with gorgeous descriptions of everything from landscape scenery to the scenery of the human soul. Author Marisa de los Santos is an accomplished poet, as well as a master spinner of tales. You may have read reunion stories, but I can guarantee that you haven't read one like this, a book you can't stop reading even as you dread reaching the end. This is an irresistible tale with sympathetic three-dimensional characters, an intriguing storyline, and a well-paced plot. We can only hope that de los Santos is busily writing away on her next page-turner.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on October 6, 2011