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Excerpt from Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Saint X

by Alexis Schaitkin

Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin X
Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2020, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2021, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
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About this Book

Print Excerpt


"I'm going on a treasure hunt and I'm bringing a starfish, a dog, and a piccolo."

"A piccolo," Claire whispers. Her eyes widen with wonder.

The father flags down one of the men who work on the beach. There are two of them, both dark-skinned, in white slacks and white polos with the resort insignia embroidered on the breast pocket in gold thread. The skinny one and the fat one, in most of the guests' mental shorthand. The man who approaches the family now is the skinny one, Edwin.

When he reaches them, Alison sits up and smooths her hair.

"How are you all doing this morning?" he asks.

"Excellent," the mother says with a bright display of enthusiasm.

"First time to our island?"

"Yes," the father confirms. "Just flew in last night."

The family vacations at a different resort on a different island every winter, weeklong respites from their snowbound suburb that steel them for the remaining months of darkness and cold. They have seen palm trees bent to kiss the sand. They have seen water as pale as glaciers and walked on sand as soft as cream. They have watched the sun transform, at the end of the day, into a giant orange yolk that breaks and spills itself across the sea. They have seen the night sky overcome with fine blue stars.

"Look at our island pulling out she most beautiful day for you." He gestures generally with his skinny arm at the sky, the sea. "What can I be getting you this morning?"

"Two rum punches and two fruit punches," the father says.

Alison emits a small sigh.

The skinny one returns some time later. (Too long, the father thinks, as fathers all along this stretch of sand think; the skinny one is a chatterbox, and a dawdler.) He bears a tray of drinks garnished with maraschino cherries and hibiscus blossoms.

"We have a volleyball match this afternoon," he says. "We hope you will join us."

"Oh, honey, you would love that!" the mother says to Alison.

The girl turns to face her. Though she wears sunglasses, the mother has no doubt that behind them her daughter's gaze is withering.

The skinny one claps his hands together. "Excellent! May we count you in, miss?"

The girl adjusts her sunglasses. "Maybe." (She has developed a talent lately for delivering even the most innocuous words as thinly veiled innuendo. The mother has noticed this.)

"More of a sunbather, are we?" the man says.

Alison's face turns crimson.

The father reaches into his wallet and pulls a few singles from the thick stack he took out yesterday at the bank. (Was that really just yesterday? Already he can feel the island beginning to work its rejuvenating magic on him.)

"Thank you, sir." The skinny one tucks the money in his pocket and continues down the beach.

"Nice guy," the father says.

"Friendly," the mother agrees.

"Well?" the father says, and raises his glass.

The mother smiles. Clairey stares intently at her cherry. Alison swirls her fruit punch with practiced boredom.

"To paradise," the father says.

* * *

IN THE hot afternoon sun, the fat one makes his way down the beach, pausing at each cluster of chairs. "The volleyball match will begin in five minutes," he says softly. He nods uncomfortably, tugs at the collar of his shirt, and walks on. The guests watch as he passes. He is big, the kind of big that draws attention. This is Clive. Gogo, to those who know him.

"You best sell my game hard, man! We still four players short!" the skinny one shouts from the volleyball court, hands cupped around his mouth. "Volleyball of champions! Last call!"

People who were sleeping or reading shake their heads at his shouting and smile indulgently. They understand that the skinny one is an essential element of this place, granting the beach its energy, its sense of fun, its luscious, gummy vowels.

Alison takes off her headphones and stands. "Want to come watch me play, Clairey?" She reaches her hand out to her sister.

Excerpted from Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin. Copyright © 2020 by Alexis Schaitkin. Excerpted by permission of Celadon. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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