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Liars and Saints: A Novel Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (July 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743261984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743261982
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #730,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Opening with a wedding and ending with a funeral, Maile Meloy stuffs everything imaginable in between, and manages to maintain a cool, elegant prose style throughout. Liars and Saints, Meloy's debut novel, following her story collection Half in Love, chronicles the life of the Santerre family, who sin with the gusto of true Catholics. Written in a series of short story-like vignettes, the family's saga is told in turn by every member, from Yvette the matriarch down to T.J., her great-grandson. We start out with a relatively run of the mill family secret, when in the 1950s Yvette sends daughter Margot off to a French convent for the duration of her teenage pregnancy. As the decades pass, the transgressions become wilder and more melodramatic, as if the Santerres are trying to keep up with the times by way of their naughty acts. What makes the novel work is that all the while, Meloy maintains a quiet, slightly wry tone: illicit lovemaking and bloody mary mixing are recounted with the same equanimity. She also gets just right the tone of each era. When Yvette's other daughter Clarissa marries a jolly lawyer in the early 60s, he sends a telegram to Yvette: "HITCHED. THANKS FOR BEAUTIFUL DAUGHER. PROGENY PROMISED TO POPE." Likewise, in the 1970s the characters talk just groovy enough, and the 80s have a wised-up ring to them. Most multi-generational sagas are dull forays into sentimentalism, but in the aptly titled Liars and Saints, Meloy has written a corker. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The consolations of ardent faith, as well as the harsh demands of religious dogma, supply the leitmotifs of this dazzling novel of a Catholic family's life over five decades. Meloy, whose collection of short fiction, Half in Love, earned rave reviews last year, writes with wisdom and compassion about the secret guilt that shadows three generations of the Santerre family. Yvette Grenier and Teddy Santerre marry in California in 1945, just before Teddy ships out to the Pacific. Their wartime separation sparks Teddy's fears of Yvette's infidelity, and when naive Yvette is moved to confess an experience of sexual temptation to her priest, his strict penalty for her "sin of omission" creates enduring tension in the marriage. When one of their daughters gives birth at age 16, Yvette contrives to pass off the baby boy as her own son, convinced that God has chosen her to bear this burden. The strict injunctions of Catholic doctrine and the well-meaning deceit that follows trigger an intricate chain of events that finds history repeating itself in the next generation, bringing heartbreaking sacrifice and spiritual reconciliation. Meloy's unerring mastery of narrative is remarkable. The disciplined economy and resonant clarity of her prose allow her to present a complex story in swift, lean chapters. The alternating points of view of eight main characters shine with authenticity and illuminate the moral complexities felt by each generation. The rich emotional chiarascuro and fine psychological insight of this haunting novel mark Meloy as a writer of extraordinary talent.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Maile Meloy is the author of the story collection Half in Love and the novel Liars and Saints, which was shortlisted for the 2005 Orange Prize. Meloy's stories have been published in The New Yorker, and she has received The Paris Review's Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, the PEN/Malamud Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in California.

Customer Reviews

As a devout Catholic, I was afraid I might be offended by this book.
Tracy Braga
It is full of truth, the characters are real and rich, and the story is beautifully written.
AB Hancock
The plot was contrived and the characters were cutouts -- poorly conceived.
Janine Memon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Although I'd read and enjoyed Maile Meloy's short story collection, Half in Love, I was skeptical that her first novel would live up to the praise lavished on it by reviewers. I was delighted to discover that the reviewers were right. This is a remarkable book. In clear, unadorned prose Meloy offers a compelling family saga that spans more than four generations, three continents and almost sixty years. And she does it all in barely more than 250 pages. If you don't read this book you will say it's impossible, but she pulls it off with grace, empathy for every one of her flawed characters and powerful insight into the human mind and heart. As a writer of fiction myself I am in awe of her talent. Like all great novels, this one has the power to transform the way you look at the world.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Brett Benner VINE VOICE on August 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The title of my review is referencing Maile Meloy's ease at getting to the heart of an emotion without alot of wordy excess.
This is a multi-generational story of a Catholic family growing up between World War II, and present day. She jumps chapter to chapter from siblings to parents, to grandparents, and down to great grandchildren, each having their own impressively distinct voice and journey.
What's so great about this book is that it moves at such a wonderful pace leaving you with each character for just long enough, before shifting focus and making you want to find out even more about the person you just left. I just found them all fascinating and so interesting. Even the few that were slightly less developed Meloy still managed to make you feel empathically connected to. This is an emotionally honest novel with some surprising turns, and a satisfying conclusion.One of the better books I've read this year.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
With a matter-of-fact, curt style of writing, Maile Meloy succintly tells the story of four generations of a catholic family from California. Despite the brevity with which she writes the novel, Meloy still manages to explore the fears, thoughts, and emotions of her characters in an insightful and intelligent manner. By covering so many generations and telling the story from each person's perspective, she allows for the reader to gain an understanding of the overall dynamic between the characters. It is an extremely engaging, easy to read story that thoughtfully explores the lives of a superficially normal but deeply complex family.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Tracy Braga on September 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a devout Catholic, I was afraid I might be offended by this book. Let me say up front, I was not. There were one or two passages that could be offensive, but they were totally in character, so I was not offended. I found the book to be complex, engaging, entertaining and gratifying. I hope Malie Meloy will write another novel, because I will definitely be reading it. The writing is intelligent and interesting, but not so lofty and cerebral that you have to "work" to get to the end of the story. The characters were so interesting and so real, that I could completely understand their motivations. Though, the story covers fifty years in the life of one family, it goes by far too quickly.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
There is so much to admire and inspire in this delightful family drama. The construction is clever, the dramatic impetus original and the characters compelling. But after awhile, I tired of just what the author did so extraordinarily well - which was to compress lifetimes into paragraphs and epiphanal moments into phrases. Everything fit just so, there was nary a word out of place. For some, this would certainly be a virtue. For me, it lacked a certain quality of exploration and originality. And no character matched the depth and richness of the matriarch, Yvette.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer M on January 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
Although I appreciated Meloy's writing style in places, as a whole her cool style may have contributed to a sense of detachment I felt in reading this book. I simply didn't care much about the characters. I saw Margot as a contradictory character--I wanted to empathize with her but didn't. I didn't see Clarissa's relationship with Henry deteriorate--just got the divorce. So many characters were caricatures (Mr Tucker and his granddaughter) or partial sketches (the Jesuit and Margot's husband). I am not writing off Meloy, however, because she's clearly got stories to tell and her writing has promise.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. Goff on April 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
Growing up Catholic myself.......this book really spoke to me! After I read the book, I actually went back and read the first few chapters again...so that I knew I didn't miss anything about the characters. I feel in love with each character, even though they all have their own faults. The book is about about human nature and about family and how life works. There are a few twists and turns in the book but I loved each one. I was disappointed to see that Maile Meloy wrote a second book based on the characters of Liars and Saints, but that it's totally different...not a sequel to Liars and Saints.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Meri on July 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Liars and Saints is one of the best books I've read in a long time. With spare prose, Meloy beautifully tells the story of the multigenerational Santerre family. So much family drama is packed into a short, but hard-to-put-down book. Meloy characters are lovable and the drama is told without the angst of many other (slightly dysfunctional) family sagas. I'm almost finished with it and wish it was another 100 pages! I adore it and have recommended it to everyone this summer!!
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