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The Patron Saint of Liars Paperback – April 19, 2011
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From Library Journal
Unanticipated pregnancy makes liars out of young women, this thoughtful first novel shows, as they try to rationalize, explain, and accept what is happening to them. When she arrives at St. Elizabeth's, a home for pregnant girls in Habit, Kentucky, Rose Clinton seems as evasive and deceptive as the other unwed mothers. But Rose is different: she has a husband whom she has deserted. Unlike most St. Elizabeth's visitors, she neither gives up her baby nor leaves the home, staying on as cook while her daughter grows up among expectant mothers fantasizing that they, too, might keep their infants. The reader learns from Rose how she came to St. Elizabeth's, but it is her doting husband and rebellious daughter who reveal her motives and helpless need for freedom. Together, the three create a complex character study of a woman driven by forces she can neither understand nor control.
- Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ. at Carbondale Lib.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Kirkus Reviews
Patchett's first novel, set in rural Kentucky in a castle-like home for unwed mothers--where a good woman finds she cannot lie her way beyond love--has a quiet summer-morning sensibility that reminds one of the early work of Anne Tyler. Within the security of everydayness, minds and hearts take grievous risks. ``Maybe I was born to lie,'' thinks Rose, who, after a three- year marriage to nice Tom Clinton, realizes that she's misread the sign from God pointing to the wedding: she married a man she didn't love. From San Diego, then, Rose drives--``nothing behind me and nothing ahead of me''--all the way to Kentucky and St. Elizabeth's home for unwed mothers, where she plans to have the baby Tom will never know about, and to give it clean away. But in the home, once a grand hotel, Rose keeps her baby, Cecilia; marries ``Son,'' the handyman (``God was right after all...I was supposed to live a small life with a man I didn't love''); and becomes the cook after briefly assisting that terrible cook, sage/seeress, and font of love, Sister Evangeline. The next narrative belongs to Son, a huge man originally from Tennessee--like Rose, gone forever from home- -who recounts the last moments of his fiance's life long ago (Sister Evangeline absolves him of responsibility) and who loves Rose. The last narrator is teenaged Cecilia, struggling to find her elusive mother within the competent Rose, who's moved into her own house away from husband and daughter. Like Rose years before, her daughter considers the benefits of not knowing ``what was going on''...as the recent visitor--small, sad Tom Clinton--drives off, and Cecilia knows that Rose, who left before he came, will never return. In an assured, warm, and graceful style, a moving novel that touches on the healing powers of chance sanctuaries of love and fancy in the acrid realities of living. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
At any rate, I enjoyed the book despite the central character being my least favorite type of character, a woman who seems to be "half a bubble off of plumb" who, upon discovering she is pregnant decides to ditch her loving husband in Marina Del Ray, California, jump in the car and take off for who knows where. She ends up in a home for unwed mothers (formerly a luxury hotel set up to take advantage of the local springs) in Kentucky run by a group of nuns. I won't spoil the plot details but she ends up staying beyond the target date for some rather interesting reasons. (Reminds me in a way of the Cheryl Strayed character who bails on her husband when her mother dies as feels the solution to her problems is to hike the Cascade Trail despite no experience or training. Brings up the line "I know two ways to deal with women. Neither works."
But I digress, despite the inexplicable (to me, at least) premise, I enjoyed the story and the characters. Those who have not been exposed to Ann's writing might find this an interesting start. And ladies, before you dump on me, read the story and see if you can 'splain the reason she bailed on her first husband! Probably great grist for a book club discussion.
Bel Canto and State of Wonder take place in South America, the former in an Vice President's house in the capital city and the latter in the deepest, darkest, Amazon jungle. Patron Saint of Liars takes place in ordinary neighborhoods in the USA, one that you or I could have come from and yet Ann Patchett spins a fascinating and original story.
Sister Bernadette, the nun who could predict the sex of a child or foresee the future is an endearing character just as Mother Corinne is strict and unloving. Blind Sister Evangeline - who worked in the kitchen where Rose finds a calmness and a love of cooking - is actually a lousy cook but a wonderful friend. Ann Patchett has certainly rubbed shoulders with nuns and one writes what one knows.
Its easy to lose sympathy for Rose but actually she is a sad case. She runs from her unhappiness and cant find a way to deal with it. In doing so she makes others very unhappy. Well, 'nuff said. I recommend you read it and find our for yourself.