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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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About this Book

Print Excerpt

As his second day at Indigo Bay unfolds and he grows accustomed to the resort's beauty, to the bushes everywhere weeping pink blooms and the brazen teal water, he begins to perceive a new set of information. He notices, for instance, that the milk at the breakfast buffet in the open-air pavilion is ever so slightly sour, leaving an unpleasant aftertaste on his tongue. He does not say anything about this. He does not ask the woman who greeted his family so warmly at the pavilion's entrance to rectify the situation. He simply registers it. He also registers that in a few places at the resort he routinely catches the whiff of certain unmistakable odors. At the far side of the swimming pool, warm garbage. At the turn in the gravel path that leads from their room to the beach, sewage. He would never dream of complaining about such things, as other guests might. He likes to think he wears his affluence tastefully. He does not move through the world expecting things to be perfect. He tries to like everything and everybody as much as he can. Even this orientation toward the world he recognizes as a benefit of the position he occupies. It is easy to make allowances when you live a fortunate life.

Only now it is all a bit spoiled, isn't it? This same disappointment every year; childish, he concedes, but there it is: he still hasn't found paradise, not quite. Because, like everywhere else, when you get down to it, it is all just bodies and their manifold wastes and where to put it all, it is all just disorder two days from taking over. The week before he flew down here, a blizzard had prevented trash pickup in Manhattan for a few days. On his walk from Grand Central to the office, the sidewalks were piled five feet high with black trash bags. At street corners, the garbage pails were overflowing, the pavement around them littered with chicken bones, half-eaten hot dogs, diapers, frozen rivers of old coffee. He saw a little terrier in a red sweater urinate at the base of a pile of trash bags; he saw a thick beige puddle beside another pile, and stared at it curiously for a moment before the smell hit him and he realized it was vomit. As he walked past all of this he had fixed an image of a tropical beach in his mind and thought, Thank god I'm getting out of here. But now that he is out, now that he is here, he cannot help but wonder whether the only damned difference is the bougainvillea, whether this place is nothing but the same old ugliness, spackled with an unconvincing veneer of beauty.

* * *

A YELLOW rubber ball rises high in the air. A dozen children dash across the sand to catch it. It is ten in the morning, the start of the resort's daily hour of children's games and relays. While the children play, their parents use the free time. At the moment the yellow ball reaches its apex, a mother shudders with the force of her first orgasm in a month. Another mother is getting close and hoping ferociously that her husband lasts. A husband and wife who fully intended on sex snore in bed. Couples drink tequila sunrises in the hot tub, read on the beach, pound away side by side on treadmills in the fitness center. A wife poses for her husband in front of the ocean, trying her best to hide her soft thighs. For a moment their children slip from view. Briefly, they seem not to exist at all.

* * *

CLAIRE IS no good at games. She falls during the crab walk. "Come onnn," her partner urges during the three-legged race. Two strides into the egg-and-spoon relay the egg rolls off her spoon and cracks on her foot. But most of all she is no good at the mysterious process by which children sift out into pairs and clusters, securing their buddies for the week. Even Axel from Belgium, who doesn't speak English, slips right in with another rowdy boy. They kindle friendship so quickly it leaves her dizzy, as if she's been spinning; when she stops, the world tilts back into place and the business of making friends is done, settled, without her.

* * *

THE FAT one brings the family's lunch. They watch him come up the beach, the heavy tray balanced on his shoulder. He stumbles. French fries rain onto the sand.

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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