We are proud to announce that BookBrowse has won Platinum in the 2024 Modern Library Awards.

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

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Saint X

by Alexis Schaitkin

Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin X
Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2020, 352 pages

    May 2021, 368 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

"I apologize," he says when he reaches them. "I'll bring you more chips."

"Oh, don't bother. There's still plenty," the mother says encouragingly. "Clairey, sweetheart, no writing."

The little girl freezes, caught with her index finger in midair. The word she had been writing was chips. She was up to p. She shoves her hand down at her side. She can feel her finger itching with the half-finished p and the s. She will have to finish later.

"Leave her alone," Alison snaps at her mother. She takes Claire's hand, raises it to her lips, and gives it a peck.

The mother sighs. This habit of her younger daughter's emerged a few months ago, her index finger wiggling and looping through the air. "I'm writing," Claire had mumbled when the mother asked what was going on. They'd met with the school psychologist, a mistake—after that Claire got furtive about it, sneaky, only doing it when she thought no one was paying attention. It is a constant struggle for the mothers: How do you know what is merely odd and what is worrisome? How much damage can you inflict upon your child if you treat something like it is one when it is really the other?

After Clive sets out their food on the low tables between their chairs, he takes a small towel from his pocket and wipes the sweat from his brow.

"Must be hot out here in long pants," the father says.

Alison shoots him a disapproving look, which he ignores. If fathers only said things their teenage daughters approved of, they would never speak at all. The mother and father exchange glances. A change has come over their daughter. Lately, her teenage moodiness carries a whiff of moral judgment. Newer still is this sighing dismissiveness, as if they are hardly even worth the effort of her judgment. Make no mistake, she's a college girl now.

"It's not so bad," the fat one mumbles. "Are you having a cold winter at home?"

"Brutal," the father says. "It's been snowing nonstop. I envy you, waking up to this every day."

"We do have our hurricanes," the fat one says.

"You had a bad one this season, right? José?"


The father claps his hands together. "Luis! That's the one."

"We had six hundred homes and many of our schools destroyed."

"How awful," the mother says.

The father cannot comprehend how people can be willing to live in a place where something like this can happen. He decides that a sense of the perpetual potential for destruction, for incurring a total loss, must be baked into people's temperaments here from birth, so that living like this is easier for them than it would be for him. Which is not a deficit in his character, for presumably if he had been born here he, too, would be such a person, able to bear unpredictability with stoic equanimity. He pauses to imagine himself as such a person—a pleasurable leaving-behind of himself as he enters a self more connected to and at peace with the planetary vicissitudes.

"Tell me something," the father says. "Where do you recommend for some local food? You know, something authentic."

The fat one gives him the name of a restaurant in town. His friend works there; his friend gives tours of the island and the cays, too, "At a good price." The mother and father smile and thank him, but something silent is exchanged between them: they enjoy receiving local knowledge, but they are also on guard for local slipperiness.

Up and down the beach, fathers sign bills for lunches and drinks. They try not to think about the numbers. Five bucks for their kid's Orangina, eighteen for their wife's goat cheese salad. They do not want to linger on the ways they are being nickel-and-dimed in paradise. Besides, what price can one put on such moments? Here is the sea, the blue water and the milky froth. Here is the soft, sun-warmed sand. The grains of sand on earth, a father read somewhere, are fewer than the stars in the universe. How unlikely, then, what an unbelievable stroke of luck, his family on this beach.

* * *

SOME TIME later, the skinny one comes to clear the family's plates.

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.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Atlas of Us
    The Atlas of Us
    by Kristin Dwyer
    Despite her name, Atlas James feels like she lacks a road map for her future. In the months since ...
  • Book Jacket: One Hour of Fervor
    One Hour of Fervor
    by Muriel Barbery
    Set during multiple decades across the turn of the 21st century, One Hour of Fervor follows Haru, a ...
  • Book Jacket: The Ascent
    The Ascent
    by Adam Plantinga
    Adam Plantinga's brilliant debut novel, The Ascent, introduces readers to former Detroit police ...
  • Book Jacket: The Curse of Pietro Houdini
    The Curse of Pietro Houdini
    by Derek B. Miller
    Derek B. Miller's sixth novel, The Curse of Pietro Houdini, opens in the town of Cassino, Italy, in ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
by Costanza Casati
A feminist Greek retelling about the most notorious heroine of the ancient world and the events that forged her into a legendary queen.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Strong Passions
    by Barbara Weisberg

    Shocking revelations of a wife's adultery in 19th New York explode in an incendiary trial exposing the upper-crust and its secrets.

  • Book Jacket

    Help Wanted
    by Adelle Waldman

    From the best-selling author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. comes a funny, eye-opening tale of work in contemporary America.

Win This Book
Win The Cleaner

The Cleaner
by Brandi Wells

Rarely has cubicle culture been depicted in such griminess or with such glee."
PW (starred review)



Solve this clue:

M T G Before I S

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.