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Summary and book reviews of Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin

Saint X

by Alexis Schaitkin

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

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Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
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About this Book

Book Summary

Hailed as a "marvel of a book" and "brilliant and unflinching," Alexis Schaitkin's stunning debut, Saint X, is a haunting portrait of grief, obsession, and the bond between two sisters never truly given the chance to know one another.

Claire is only seven years old when her college-age sister, Alison, disappears on the last night of their family vacation at a resort on the Caribbean island of Saint X. Several days later, Alison's body is found in a remote spot on a nearby cay, and two local men - employees at the resort - are arrested. But the evidence is slim, the timeline against it, and the men are soon released. The story turns into national tabloid news, a lurid mystery that will go unsolved. For Claire and her parents, there is only the return home to broken lives.

Years later, Claire is living and working in New York City when a brief but fateful encounter brings her together with Clive Richardson, one of the men originally suspected of murdering her sister. It is a moment that sets Claire on an obsessive pursuit of the truth - not only to find out what happened the night of Alison's death but also to answer the elusive question: Who exactly was her sister? At seven, Claire had been barely old enough to know her: a beautiful, changeable, provocative girl of eighteen at a turbulent moment of identity formation.

As Claire doggedly shadows Clive, hoping to gain his trust, waiting for the slip that will reveal the truth, an unlikely attachment develops between them, two people whose lives were forever marked by the same tragedy.

For readers of Emma Cline's The Girls and Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies, Saint X is a flawlessly drawn and deeply moving story that culminates in an emotionally powerful ending.

INDIGO BAY

BEGIN WITH AN AERIAL VIEW. Slip beneath the clouds and there it is, that first glimpse of the archipelago—a moment, a vista, a spectacle of color so sudden and intense it delivers a feeling like plunging a cube of ice in warm water and watching it shatter: the azure sea, the emerald islands ringed with snow-white sand; perhaps, on this day, a crimson tanker at the edge of the tableau.

Come down a bit lower and the islands reveal their topographies, valleys and flatlands and the conic peaks of volcanoes, some of them still active. There is Mount Scenery on Saba, Mount Liamugia on Saint Kitts, Mount Pelée on Martinique, the Quill on Saint Eustatius, La Soufrière on Saint Lucia and also on Saint Vincent, La Grande Soufrière on Guadeloupe's Basse-Terre, Soufrière Hills on Montserrat, and Grande Soufrière Hills on tiny Dominica, which is beset by no fewer than nine volcanoes. The volcanoes yield an uneasy sense of juxtaposition—the dailiness ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Saint X is not a traditional mystery in the sense that the novel is driven less by the crime and more by its aftermath. It's a book that gathers steam as it goes, with themes that gradually reveal themselves to be more complex and multifaceted than they first appear. Schaitkin raises questions about privilege, obsession, guilt and grief that Claire grapples with alongside the reader, right up to the book's thrilling conclusion...continued

Full Review (555 words).

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(Reviewed by Rachel Hullett).

Media Reviews

Washington Post
The effect of race pervades this story — white privilege is examined through the wealthy tourists lolling on island beaches while people of color satisfy their thirst for tropical drinks and a need to feel special. You can feel the wait staff cringe as the tourists strive to show how egalitarian they are. All these weighty issues serve to buoy this novel rather than weigh it down. We’re invited to meditate on pressing social problems even as we enjoy the intriguing drama surrounding Alison’s short life.

New York Times
All these sub-narratives dedicated to minor and major characters, chapters that do little to move the plot along, could easily have resulted in a novel that buckled under the weight of its structural ambitions, but Schaitkin pulls it off without a hitch...Saint X is hypnotic, delivering acute social commentary on everything from class and race to familial bonds and community, and yet its weblike nature never confuses, or fails to captivate.

Publishers Weekly
his is a smart page-turner, both thought-provoking and effortlessly entertaining.

Library Journal
Questions of race and privilege deepen the impact of the characters' struggle, emphasizing the societal norms each individual and every nation must address for equity to become more than a mission statement or campaign slogan. Readers who enjoy a mystery with emotional depth will find this a compelling and impressive debut.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
This killer debut is both a thriller with a vivid setting and an insightful study of race, class, and obsession.

Author Blurb Christopher Tilghman, author of Thomas and Beal in the Midi
Saint X is slightly miraculous. Funny, chilling, moving, and throughout, deeply intelligent. We follow Emily into the depths of her obsessive quest with fascination and, in the end, rise with her as she moves on. This is an utterly original and engrossing novel written with the surest possible hand.

Author Blurb Chang-rae Lee, author of On Such A Full Sea
Here is a marvel of a book, a kaleidoscopic examination of race and privilege, family and self, told with the propulsive, kinetic focus of a crime thriller. Brilliant and unflinching, Saint X marks the debut of a stunningly gifted writer. I simply couldn't stop reading.

Reader Reviews

Victoria

Thought- provoking debut
Thanks to Celadon Books and Edelweiss for the advance copy. The novel appears to be inspired by the Natalee Holloway case with many similarities to the facts there. You could term this a mystery, as the final resolution doesn’t come until the end of ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Caribbean Immigration to the United States

Graph showing increase in Caribbean immigration to US from 1980 to 2017In Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin, one of the main characters is a Caribbean immigrant working as a taxi driver in New York City. While the island depicted in the novel is fictional, people hailing from the Caribbean make up a large portion of the immigrant population in the U.S.

The individual islands in the Caribbean are all distinct in terms of culture, climate, history and dialect, but many of these nations share patterns when it comes to immigration. According to a Pew Research study from 2017, Caribbean people make up 10% of America's immigrant population. Looking at Caribbean immigrants as a group, the largest populations come from Cuba (29%), then the Dominican Republic (26%), Jamaica (16%), and Haiti (15%), according to the ...

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