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Saint Maybe Paperback – August 27, 1996

106 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Tyler makes things look so easy that she never gets enough credit, yet she portrays everyday Americans with such humor, grace and, ultimately, emotional force that her books are always deeply satisfying. In Saint Maybe her protagonist Ian Bedloe, stricken with guilt over the death of his older brother, raises three children unrelated to him by blood. He is strengthened in this Herculean task by the storefront Church of the Second Chance, to which he devotes himself with equal fervor. Someone once said all great writers are comic writers. Among living Americans, Tyler is exhibit A. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Although Tyler ( Breathing Lessons ; Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant ) is again writing about families--the way they cleave together in times of trouble and muddle through with stoic courage--her eminently satisfying new novel breaks her familiar mold, giving us ordinary, not eccentric characters who are shaped by disastrous events into quietly heroic behavior. The Bedloes are cheerful and count their blessings, even if they are far from rich and live on a slightly seedy street in Baltimore. But when 17-year-old Ian rashly informs his older brother Dan that the latter's wife was undoubtedly pregnant before their marriage, Dan commits suicide, and Ian is left with profound guilt--especially since Dan's wife dies soon after. Asking God's forgiveness, he receives spiritual guidance at the endearingly shabby Church of the Second Chance. He drops out of college, becomes a carpenter and helps his parents care for the three orphaned children; as the years pass, that burden falls primarily on Ian's shoulders. Wondering when God will signal that his atonement can end, Ian has an epiphany: "You could never call it a penance, to have to care for those three." Ian eventually does construct a life for himself, in one of Tyler's most appealing endings. The narrative also enjoys her whimsical humor (although the group role of the "foreigners" who live in the neighborhood verges on caricature). Since her characters' foibles never overwhelm their homespun simplicity, the reader is emotionally involved and touched as never before. 250,000 first printing; BOMC main selection; first serial to the New Yorker.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (August 27, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449911608
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449911600
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #349,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is her 17th novel. Her 11th, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. A member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, she lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 3, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I don't know how women can read books like this on a regular basis. I was sobbing like old yeller had been shot for about half the book. It may've been routine for the fairer sex, but for me it plumbed emotional depths and psychological pain I prefer to leave repressed. That said, it was more than just cathartic, it was a hopeful, warm, and even funny look at the simple-complex lives of a family, and at just how quickly life can change.

Without giving much away, a teenage boy feels compelled by a guilty conscience to become a guardian/father of some kids. I won't say whose, even though it occurs early in the book. The novel then follows the boy as he very quickly becomes a man, and a man so different from his peers that he quickly takes on almost alien qualities. The day by day payoff of such tragic sacrifice is the overriding strength of the story, and it is a payoff for the reader to watch not only his life, but the lives of his friends and family unfold. I never saw the movie made from the book; I hope it did it justice, because while it looks like about a million weepy romance novels, it reads like a modern classic.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By David Evans VINE VOICE on October 17, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A young man (Ian Bedloe) believes he has caused his brother to commit suicide, as a result of which his brother's wife also commits suicide. Weighed down by guilt, he encounters a little congregation, The Church of the Second Chance, which changes the whole trajectory of his life. If this book weren't by Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Tyler, the plot summary might fool us into believing this is inspirational Christian fiction: it's not. Tyler shies away from simple conclusions: the church certainly transforms Ian's life, but the end result is complex and fascinating.

Although the first part of the book is from Ian's perspective, Tyler eventually shifts and tells the story from the viewpoint of various key characters. I missed Ian's perspective further on, but we receive a rounded view of this fascinating family (Ian, his girlfriend, his parents, his brother's children). As Ian's family seeks to deal with his intense, newfound religiosity, I was reminded of Nick Hornby's How To Be Good (although Saint Maybe is much better), which explores the question of what it means to be good, just as Tyler here explores what it means to be forgiven.

Tyler does a wonderful job of capturing family life, interpersonal relationships, and internal struggle. The book took too long to get to the first pivotal event (the suicides), but after that, I couldn't put it down. Jay Parini, in his New York Times review, concluded with these remarks: "In many ways [Saint Maybe] is Anne Tyler's most sophisticated work, a realistic chronicle that celebrates family life without erasing the pain and boredom that families almost necessarily inflict upon their members. Ian Bedloe, for his part, sits near the top of Ms. Tyler's fine list of heroes.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Jennings on June 3, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is my all-time favorite book from my all-time favorite author. The ending of this book will stay with me forever--it captures so eloquently the precious fragility of life, of relationships, of family.

If you're looking for action packed melodrama, look elsewhere. But if you're looking for insight into the day-to-day details of what it is to be human, you've hit the jackpot here.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By cesar on June 9, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the first time for me to read Anne Tyler's book in English. I have read her three books in Japanese ("Breathing Lessons", "A Patchwork Planet", and "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant".), and it took just a half of a day to read one book each, as they are so gripping and I just could not put them down.
Then I purchased this book from amazon.com to see her original writing style in English, although I am not sure if I can read through this, because I am not a native speaker in English. It turned out that it took me just a week for finishing this book. Again, simply I cannot put it down.
This book provoked a mixture feeling, so I cannot describe this book just like "This is fun." or "This is depressing." or whatever you would like to say in a hurried manner.
What I liked very much is her description of children who still do not learn to speak very much, especially in the 2nd Chapter where Agatha tries to change Daphne's diaper, Thomas still attaches to his favorite doll, and Daphne only speaks "Oho! Oho!"(I do not know how to pronounce it, though). They are so lovable and cute. Anne Tyler effortlessly juggles those children who do not have any logic in their behaviours. Just amazing.
Also character development of Ian is almost magical. Some might find his life tragic, but I believe many do not. I am convinced that his life is what he chooses intrinsically. Of course, others might get another interpretation.
Interpretation is wide open.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Gertrude M. Ring on April 9, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Anne Tyler has written many excellent novels, but I think this is her masterpiece. It's an involving story, played out over many years, with appealing characters who grow and evolve. It also provokes thoughts about so many things: religion, redemption, the randomness of life, but above all, the nature of family. A tragedy shatters the traditional, nuclear, apple-pie-perfect Bedloe family, but the family rebuilds into a nontraditional grouping in which blood matters less than love--and love is not automatic but grows through years of familiarity. And the family-building is driven more by chance than choice--as, the characters learn, most of life is; very little turns out how they had planned, but they make the best of what they're dealt. For Ian, the "Saint Maybe" of the title, the driving force of life is the Church of the Second Chance, which shows him a way to channel his guilt over complicity in the family tragedy into a constructive effort: being the caring guardian of three children. The church could be deemed fundamentalist, but really it's a kinder, gentler fundamentalism: the minister doesn't preach hellfire and damnation to nonbelievers, but rather tells his flock to lead exemplary lives; doesn't rail against gays or feminists, but instead forbids members to consume caffeine or sugar. Tyler's treatment of religion is evenhanded; she presents Ian's piety (and his occasional frustration with all that's expected of him) seriously and respectfully, but also lets other characters voice skepticism.Read more ›
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