Carole C. (Upper Marlboro, MD)
Oh, when the Saints come marching....
In the early pages of Wayward Saints, I thought the language harsh, the character Mary edgy, and the story dark. I almost put the book aside. I am grateful that I decided to read on. Mary Saint, an angry, defiant teenager, flees from her hometown of Swallow, New York, and from her family. She rises to near fame as an alternative rocker, but then descends into drink, drugs, and depression, deepened by the death of her fellow band member and boyfriend Garbargio. When author Suzzy Roche introduces the second Saint, Mary's mother Jean, the novel gains depth and complexity. Through the musings of this conservative, religious small-town mother, the reader gains insight into a family held in thrall by an abusive man, a town where little compassion or tolerance exists, and a gentle mother's heart that yearns for her daughter's love.
With such heavy themes it may be hard to believe that this is also a funny book. Roche's voice is true to her characters and the dire problems they face -- abuse, astraingment, dementia, and death --but she writes laugh-out-loud prose, as well. When Jean answers a student who asks about Mary's back tranvestite friend Thaddeus with the quip, "Oh, don't worry about him, he's a chocolate tranny." this reader did just that Throughout there are the themes of music, famly, friendship and spirituality, but above all this book is a warm and witty ode to tolerance and empathy.
Jan M. (Jenks, OK)
A Pleasant Surprise
I'm a senior reader who is not "in to" rock music, so I was prepared not to like this book. I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The author, quite skillfully, told the story of a mother and daughter's estrangement and some of the reasons behind their distant and difficult relationship. Mary Saint's rebellion against convention, and her mother's, "oh my, what will the neighbors think" attitude. As the story built toward Mary's coming home concert, I found myself hoping things would turn out well and unable to put down the book until the lovely ending.
I doubt that I will suggest it to my book club for I don't think it would generate much discussion, but it certainly was a pleasant read. It would probably appeal more to those who are not so far over the hill as this reader.
Diane W. (Lake Villa, IL)
Though I picked up and put down this book several times (a bit hard to get into the "voice")...I did end up enjoying the characters and their "quirkiness" more than I originally thought I would. I felt the book had a few editing issues that were overlooked that would have helped with the flow of the story. All in all, a story based on some real life experiences and a decent read.
Mary P. (Bellingham, WA)
I enjoyed Wayward Saints by Suzzy Roche, identifying with the daughter, Mary, who is trying to find her authentic voice, and her mother who is seeking to understand her daughter. Love is the thread that stitches the two together, in spite of their differences. A chain stitch, perhaps, that works for Mary and Jean, and the other relationships in the story. There is an obvious religious element in the story, not pontificating, but part of the personalities.
Perhaps someone with a firmer grounding than I would understand Jean, especially. That said Roche writes so that the reader can still feel how strongly Jean feels, and know that love is not judgmental.
Kate G. (City Island, NY)
Rock Star Returns Home
Not being familiar with Suzzy Roche's music, I had no idea what to expect going into this novel. Mary Saint was the front person for Sliced Ham, a band which played and wrote controversial songs, clearly meant for angry, young fans. She is now older and wiser and tring to decide what the next chapter of her life holds. I enjoyed the story line, as we see Mary re-enter the world, but the anger in her youth seemed self indulgent, as did her later fragility. Fans more familiar with Suzzy Roche will probably enjoy this book much more.
Marta M. (Santa Ana, CA)
What a fun novel!
I was excited about reading this book and I wasn't disappointed. I felt that the characters were very vivid and I felt for all of them. I especially liked the character of Thaddeus who came into Mary's life at the right time to help her through her life's journey. It just proves that angels come in all shapes and sizes and genders. Not a lot of action in this story but a lot of thought and feeling. The characters stayed with me for a long time after. Three cheers for Suzzy Roche and I hope to read more from her.
Selene M. (West Chicago, IL)
Mother Daughter Angst
I enjoyed this book on some level. The mother, Jean Saint, was wholly unsympathetic and I disliked the sections written about her. She was small-minded, petty, selfish and did not protect her daughter from child abuse. For someone who lived with spousal abuse until a much wanted daughter was born, she completely writes off her daughter for most of her adult life, because she fears what her hometown will think. The Mary Saint character on the other hand is well written and believable. I longed for her presence whenever Jean's life and choices were being examined. She is the true star of this novel.