- 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: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,883,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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All Saints Hardcover – February 27, 2007
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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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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.
I intended a rating of Four stars and don't know how it wound up as only one. I haven't been able to correct the rating.
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.