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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

"What are the sisters planning the rest of the day?" he asks.

"We're going to build a castle, right, Clairey?" Alison says.

"Did you know I was this year's Carnival Sandcastle Competition champion?"

"Is that so?" Alison sweeps her hair off her neck and gathers it into a ponytail.

"For true. Well, honorable mention." He grins. "If you girls need any consultation on your design, just let me know."

"We like to build our sandcastles solo, thank you very much," Alison says with a fetching smirk.

Edwin squats in front of Claire. "And you, little miss? Do you, too, prefer to build your sandcastle solo?" He smiles at her.

Claire nods rigidly.

He laughs. "Okay, little miss." He tousles her hair. "See you later, sisters."

As he heads off down the beach, the mother notices that her daughter has her eyes on him, watching him go.

* * *

THE SKINNY one is the prince of the sand. The social hierarchy of the guests flows through him. Those he anoints with his gregarious approval seem to possess an invisible status. It is true he takes a lot of breaks and his tendency to stop and chat slows down service on the beach, but this is forgiven, even embraced. What's the rush? They're on island time. He is adored, too, by the young children, who follow him around like a fan club.

Then there is the fat one, Gogo, clumsy in the sand, clumsy with a tray of cocktails on his shoulder, clumsy adjusting the umbrellas to keep up with the movement of the sun, his voice rarely rising above a mumble. But he is Edwin's friend. The closeness between the skinny one and the fat one is clear. When they pass each other on the sand they exchange high fives and chummy insults. Often, Edwin returns from his break with a grease-spotted paper bag in hand—lunch for Gogo.

When a guest asks Clive about their friendship, he says simply, "We're best mates."

"Me and the Goges?" Edwin says, asked the same question. "We come up together from small. Me and he go back to primary. Who you think it was named he Gogo? I'd tell you why but he'd kill me."

One sundown, the man with the dolphin swim trunks is jogging down the beach when he sees Edwin struggling to drag a stack of chairs across the sand. Clive hurries over and, without a word, lifts the load from him. The man feels something crack in him. He loves his wife, don't get him wrong, but somehow he had forgotten until this moment—maybe he has forced himself to forget—the sweetness of friendship.

* * *

THE SISTERS do many things together. They collect seashells. They trade underwater messages in the pool: "Mayonnaise is gross." "Fluffernutter is the world's best dog." In the ocean, Alison scoops Claire into her arms and Claire wraps her arms around her sister's neck.

"Our ship sank and Mom and Dad and everybody else is dead," Claire says. "We're in the middle of the ocean."

"See that island out there?" Alison says, pointing to Faraway Cay. "We're going to have to swim for it. It's our only chance. Can you make it?"

Claire nods, sober and brave.

They build castles, Claire happily submitting to her sister's vision and management. She fetches buckets of water and collects twigs and pebbles, while Alison carves bridges and archways and spiral staircases to the sky.

Edwin comes by and appraises their progress. "Look at your bridge there caved in. Guess you girls aren't having much luck building solo after all." He grins.

"It's a ruin," Alison replies. "We're building something ancient."

A ruin, Claire whispers to herself as she fetches more water. A ruin. A ruin.

* * *

A CELEBRITY has arrived at Indigo Bay. He is an actor, a man in late middle age known for playing offbeat characters, mostly sidekicks, with a signature misanthropy. He has brought with him a supple young girlfriend, black-haired and splayfooted.

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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