A funny and illuminating debut novel about family, music, and second chances, from folk-rock star Suzzy Roche.
Mary Saint, the rule-breaking, troubled former lead singer of the almost-famous band Sliced Ham, has pretty much given up on music after the trauma of her band member and lover Garbagio's death seven years earlier. Instead, with the help of her best friend Thaddeus, a six-foot black transvestite with a troubled past of his own, Mary is trying her hand at making mochaccinos at the Crumb Bunny in San Francisco.
Back on the East Coast, in the tiny town of Swallow, New York, her mother, Jean Saint, struggles with her own ghosts. Both are startled when Mary is invited to give a concert at her old school, Swallow High. Mary seizes on the chance to perform again and to see her mom. Jean, of course, is thrilled to have Mary come home for the first time since she ran off at seventeen, though she's definitely worried about what Father Benedict and her neighbors will think of songs such as "Sewer Flower" and "You're a Pig." But when even her arch nemesis Adele from the Silver Tray Bakery takes notice of the upcoming concert, Jean realizes this is going to be a bigger event with bigger complications than she anticipated.
Rich with wild and quirky characters, Wayward Saints is a tender, emotionally complex, and hilarious look at how the past always bumps up against the present. Punctuated by insider pokes at the music business (written by someone who's been there), as well as loving flourishes about family, faith, and the unpredictability of talent, the novel touches on the very deep pain of loss, and the possibilities of the miraculous.
"Roche's empathy for these broken souls allows readers to feel the depth of their pain and savor the novel's happier twists." - Publishers Weekly
"A great read for fans of The Roches; there are definite allusions to and pokes at the music industry here, from an insider's perspective... A well-done first outing; Roche handles sticky topics with grace." - Library Journal
"Not every dazzling musician has a novel in her, but Suzzy Roche, among all her other gifts, is a novelist, the genuine article. Wayward Saints is funny, smart, poignant, the prose so clear, so direct, so true. This book is a joy." - Jane Hamilton
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Rated of 5
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.
Rated of 5
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.
Rated of 5
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.
Rated of 5
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.
Rated of 5
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.
Rated of 5
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.
Along with her sisters, Maggie and Terre, Suzzy Roche is a founding member of the singing group the Roches, whose debut recording was named Album of the Year by the New York Times in 1979. She has been touring for over 30 years, appeared on SNL, the Late Show with David Letterman, and the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The Roches have collaborated with Paul Simon, The Indigo Girls, Philip Glass, and Laurie Anderson. She recently teamed up with Meg Wolitzer to co-host "A Love Affair Between Words and Music" for WNYC at Symphony Space in New York, and is the creator of "Zero Church," a performance piece that has been performed all over the United States. In 2013, her first children's book will be published by Random House. Visit her website at www.roches.com.
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