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All Saints Hardcover – February 27, 2007

18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A rarified Southern California Catholic high school serves as the setting for thrice-divorced, 50-year-old Emily Hamilton's reckoning in Callanan's oddly luminous novel (following The Cloud Atlas). A teacher who finds her life intertwined with three of her students', Emily revisits relevant stages of her past (nicely interspersing an abundant knowledge of saints' lives) as she gets around to telling how she kissed Edgar Mandeville, an upstart student in her church history class (dubbed "Saints and Sinners" by everyone, including Emily herself). Refreshing insights into teenage angst (including secondaries such as the sexually confused Paul, the aforementioned Edgar and the shy but longing Cecily) are matched by midlife crisis candor—including that of irreverent department chair Fr. Martin Dimanche, with whom Emily has an ambivalent relationship. Emily herself has been struggling for personal redemption for nearly four decades: her teenage pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage are just the beginning. The book's stark events are handled while retaining sympathy for Emily: no mean feat. Callanan gets into her head with page-turning panache and authority. (Feb.)
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“A stunning piece of writing by a genuinely precocious talent: haunting and smooth and wise.”—Christopher Buckley, author of Thank You for Smoking

“Liam Callanan is that rare thing, a writer adept and creative enough to inhabit the mind of character entirely different from himself. He does so completely, with absolute authenticity and emotional truth. Emily Hamilton is unapologetically acerbic and a delight to spend time with. This book is every bit as good as The Cloud Atlas, and that is saying a lot.”—Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits

All Saints asks a very private question: How do you move forward in life when faced with your own failures?... The desires of the soul, the impulses of the flesh and the confines of the human condition drive the novel’s story until the line dividing the saints from the sinners is blurred.”—Los Angeles Times

"All Saints is a jewel of a book: bright, sharp-witted,  full of the fantastical lore of the saints and the secret yearnings of everyday American life, full of secrets and surprises.   In particular, this novel is the story of Emily Hamilton who I found myself thinking about long after I closed the book.  Missing her rueful wit and intelligence.  Realizing that I'd maybe even fallen a little in love with her.  I imagine other readers will fall for her, too—and for this book."  —Dan Chaon,  author of You Remind Me of Me

“Luminous.... Callanan gets into [his heroine’s] head with page-turning panache and authority.”—Publishers Weekly

"All Saints is about the mystery and danger of love, all kinds of love—so intense and funny and wise.  Emily Hamilton has such a complicated, appealing voice—at once guarded and full of passion, energy, irreverence. She is a great and serious character, a real triumph.  I couldn't put it down."—Susan Shreve, author of A Student of Living Things

“Consider this your crash course in theology.”—Marie Claire

“Callanan doesn’t shelter his heroine.... She speaks in a voice that is frustratingly real and endearing, bestowed with a truthful grace.”—Entertainment Weekly

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press; First Edition edition (February 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385336969
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385336963
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,673,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm the author of two novels -- The Cloud Atlas (um, not that Cloud Atlas; you can read about the merry confusion here: and All Saints -- and a forthcoming short story collection, Listen and Other Stories. I teach in the English department of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which hosts an awesome creative writing program (to judge from its students, anyway).

I also write shorter things, including essays, short stories, and public radio commentaries (listen in at I don't write poetry, but envy those who do, and am generally a big fan, which is how I came to create and co-executive produce the Poetry Everywhere animated film series, which you can view on iTunes and Youtube, and found the Eat Local::Read Local program, which distributes local poets' poems to diners at local restaurants during National Poetry Month.

I was born in Washington, DC and grew up in Los Angeles, but now call Wisconsin home, and root for every last one of its teams, especially the Brewers.

That about covers it, but there's more about me, my writing, and even a literary children's guide to Paris at Happy reading!

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By T. Sanford on March 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I had the pleasure of hearing Callanan read a few passages from his excellent new book a few weeks ago at KGB Bar in NYC. He was on the bill with two other authors -- one of whom just had his book favorably reviewed on the front page of the NYT Book Review -- and honestly Callanan blew both of his fellow writers out of the water. I started reading All Saints when I got home from the reading that night and never stopped. My sister has a copy and was so engrossed by the book that she completely missed her subway stop while reading it. Since I went to Catholic school, I suppose the book had particular relevance for me, but the central themes of the book are truly universal -- love, longing, aging, faith, how our experiences and memories shape us over time, etc. Callanan's narrator shares her hard-earned wisdom with us in a voice that is both genuine and genuinely funny. I thoroughly enjoyed "All Saints," even more than I did Callanan's outstanding first novel, "The Cloud Atlas."
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Vermeer fan VINE VOICE on September 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Met Emily Hamilton-thrice divorced, reasonably taut, menopausal teacher of religion in a California Catholic high school perched just by the sands. Enter a trio of students-Edgar, the scenic man-boy exploring his options; Paul, the sensitive scholar who longs for acceptance and Cecily, the "good" girl who pines for Edgar. Or is it Paul?

Mr. Callanan weaves these characters into a rich stew of hormones, regrets, and true tragedy. Emily's past is strewn with rash decisions-a teenage pregnancy, a 24hr. "starter" marriage, remarks that are meant to be clever and leave a trail of hurt. And her future is not going much better...

While you might get perturbed by Emily and her decisions throughout the story, you do want to find out what happens to her when all is said and done. Rather like a long-time friend who takes life's shortcuts but would give you the shirt off her back. And Father Martin, the Catholic priest who plays a significant part in Emily's life, is a joy. Would that we all know a character like that in our lives.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Callanan’s storytelling ability is on full display in this delicious little novel. As he takes us into the life of Emily Hamilton, a teacher at a Catholic high school in Southern California, we hear the character’s unique and wonderful voice, and I quickly became lost in the portrayal. The story develops with humor and sadness as Hamilton contemplates regrets and lost opportunities.

Hamilton’s years of teaching has brought her to the existential questions of whether or not what she does actually makes a difference. When a student comes tells her that she’s pregnant, Hamilton does everything she can to make sure the girl gets what she needs, including an abortion, which, of course, flies in the face of the Catholic doctrine. To complicate matters, Hamilton becomes involved sexually with another student, who also has an interest in the pregnant teen.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. However, I can’t give it 5 stars for what may be a personal problem of mine. I expect first person narratives to shed insight into the main character. Unfortunately, after I finished this story, I didn’t feel that I’d learned much about Emily’s motivations. I know the mantra is show, don’t tell, but I really needed to know more about why a 50 year old teacher would sleep with a 17 year old student. Or why she thought the attentions of a priest and friend were unacceptable. These interactions are at the core of the story, and I’m not sure, after reading the whole novel, what drove her to do what she did.
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By BVB on January 3, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very well written book - the author has an excellent ability to make clever plays on words, and he also possesses a very strong vocabulary. But it is not quite what I had expected based on the reviews on the back of the book. A great deal of the story centers on the woman's internal dialogue in her mind about her thoughts, feelings and beliefs regarding past and current experiences. Still, the story is interesting and thought-provoking, and has many references to Catholicism. So if you have not much exposure to Catholicism, you will undoubtedly not understand most of the references to this religion [as was the case for me].
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harris on June 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I loved the bleak-yet-teeming landscape of Liam Callanan's Cloud Atlas. Now he's succeeded in following his own tough act with All Saints. Teen angst, religious mystery, secrets, desire: what's not to be engrossed by? His particular triumph in this case is the sustained voice and character of Emily Hamilton, whom I looked forward to spending time with every time I opened the book (which was not that many times, since it was hard to put down).
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By mfaromantic on March 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
All Saints is a very interesting novel about one woman's struggle with faith and what she identifies as the failures she's made throughout her life. Although much of the novel centers on Emily Hamilton, the complicated situation she finds herself in with several of her students, and the consequences of those actions (or lack of actions), the parts I enjoyed most dealt with her relationship with Martin, a priest teaching at the school who she has a very close connection with, and her explorations of her faith and her relationship to God.

I find religion fascinating - especially Christanity. I was raised Roman Catholic but have never felt it call to me. Despite that, I have always been interested in Christanity from a more objective, intellectual perspective and this novel gave me the opportunity to explore it in a new way. I found Emily's struggle between believing (or wanting to believe) and her critical view point on many aspects of her faith to be especially moving and interesting. Additionally, I liked that the religious figures in the novel, (Martin, the other priests, and a few nuns) were not stereotypical holy men and woman who glorify everything about their religion but rather had some of the cynicism and intellectual practicality that I think is essential in this modern world and for a true understanding of religon. It lends a level of depth to the idea of God and faith that I think makes it more powerful than a traditional and righteous view of Christianity. (I hope that makes sense!)

Finally, the focus on the saints and the humor that Emily's character brings to almost the novel was great. Even in her darkest moments, she is not so far gone as to miss the humor in the situation or to be able to put her troubles into perspective.
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