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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

    May 2021, 368 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
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Print Excerpt

Someone has heard that the scuba excursion, to the site where a ship called the Lady Ann was wrecked in a hurricane fifty years ago, is not to be missed. Somebody else spent the morning golfing and can report that the course is top-notch. The wife of the man in the dolphin swim trunks has decided against the tour of the old sugar estate and rum distillery. Another husband from New York highly recommends the romantic picnic on Tamarind Island. The beach is exquisite. He and his wife had it all to themselves. He does not mention the fake rose petals he kept finding on the beach, half buried in the sand, remnants of other people's romantic picnic excursions on Tamarind Island, and how they have burrowed into his mind, souring his memory of an experience he knows was very nice.

The boys who followed Alison down the beach include a short, muscle-bound kid with a frayed braid of hemp around his neck; a boy who wears a T-shirt emblazoned with the Greek letters of his fraternity; and a tall blond boy who, when pressed, admits to attending Yale. There's a girl, too, a communications major. For a few minutes they run through the people they know at each other's schools, looking for connections. The ex-girlfriend of the boy with the hemp necklace is in Developmental Psych with the fraternity brother. The sleepaway camp bunkmate of the communications major is in orchestra with the blond boy from Yale. The blond boy plays the cello. He is going to Saint Petersburg on tour in March.

"Small world," the blond boy says when he puts together that a teammate from his high school soccer team is in Alison's dorm at Princeton.

"In the sense that our worlds are small," she retorts.

He laughs. "Good point, Ali."


"Good point, Alison."

The players serve and spike against a dichromatic backdrop of sand and sky. They clutch their knees and say, "Whew," after a particularly aerobic play. They watch Alison. She leaps and dives, flinging herself after the ball with abandon. Her body is lithe and athletic. Even when she's still, an energy simmers about her. When the wife of the man in the dolphin swim trunks catches him staring, he pretends to be extremely absorbed in the view of the ocean.

From her spot in the sand, Claire watches and wonders whether the sluicing beauty of her sister's movements will be hers, too, someday, when she grows up. She doubts it, but this doesn't really make her sad. It is enough to bask in the warmth of her sister's light.

When the game ends (defeat for the team of the overinvested man, who now declares the game to have been "all in good fun"), the blond boy approaches Alison. They talk a bit. The other boys eye him with annoyance and self-recrimination, then turn their attention to the communications major, reassessing. The blond boy touches Alison's shoulder, then trots off down the sand. When he's gone, she brings her hand to the spot he touched and brushes her fingertips against her own soft skin.

* * *

AS AFTERNOON slips into evening, the guests drift away from the beach. They spend the hours before dinner recovering from the day—the sun, the heat, the booze, beauty so vivid their eyes crave a rest from it. They shower. They check in with the office. (Their expertise is needed to resolve some particularly thorny issue, and they provide the solution with relief; or they are told to enjoy their vacation, things are chugging along just fine without them, and for the rest of the evening they are cranky and short-tempered.) They have sex in the fluffy white hotel beds. Afterward, they eat the mangoes from the welcome baskets, letting the creamy juice run down their hands. They investigate the small bottles in the minibars. They flip on televisions by force of habit, watch a few minutes of a news program from Saint Kitts, a Miami Vice rerun, a documentary about a reggae singer who is neither Bob Marley nor Jimmy Cliff. They sit on the balconies, smoke loose joints rolled with the mediocre grass they've managed to procure on the island, and watch the night begin: the sun go down, moths bloom from the darkness, the palms turn to shadowy windmills, the first faint stars pierce the sky.

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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