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Reviews of Saints of the Household by Ari Tison

Saints of the Household

by Ari Tison

Saints of the Household by Ari Tison X
Saints of the Household by Ari Tison
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Mar 2023, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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About this Book

Book Summary

Saints of the Household is a haunting contemporary YA about an act of violence in a small-town - beautifully told by a debut Indigenous Costa Rican-American writer - that will take your breath away.

Max and Jay have always depended on one another for their survival. Growing up with a physically abusive father, the two Bribri American brothers have learned that the only way to protect themselves and their mother is to stick to a schedule and keep their heads down.

But when they hear a classmate in trouble in the woods, instinct takes over and they intervene, breaking up a fight and beating their high school's star soccer player to a pulp. This act of violence threatens the brothers' dreams for the future and their beliefs about who they are. As the true details of that fateful afternoon unfold over the course of the novel, Max and Jay grapple with the weight of their actions, their shifting relationship as brothers, and the realization that they may be more like their father than they thought. They'll have to reach back to their Bribri roots to find their way forward.

Told in alternating points of view using vignettes and poems, debut author Ari Tison crafts an emotional, slow-burning drama about brotherhood, abuse, recovery, and doing the right thing.

COMMUNION


We hold deep dark cups, dark like the cloth they bring out on Maundy Thursday to place over the cross and the tables at Hope Oak Church. I keep crying at the time of reflection, asking God for forgiveness (for kicking the neighbor's dog, for shouting at the sky, for beating up that boy, and maybe even worse, for hurting Nicole). I can't stop thinking about it—before I am told to eat the cracker and drink the two-inch cup of black-red wine.

Hold the cup tight enough and you can see your heart beating in the surface even when you doubt it's there.


FIRST DAY BACK


People try not to look at us in the hallway. After we'd been suspended for two weeks, our classmates scatter like we might swallow them. Us, these angry brown boys ready to snap. What does it mean when we scare everyone—the good and the bad?

Maybe someday I will walk down the hall, and someone will see the human in me. It won't be just Mom, God, and Max. Is Nicole in that group? I haven't seen her since the woods...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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The brothers' Indigenous Costa Rican heritage is woven into the narrative through their close relationship with their grandfather, who shows them that, as descendants of the matriarchal Bribri on their mother's side, a different way of being than the one demonstrated by their father is achievable. They hold a deep respect for their grandfather. His calm, wise, loving, sensitive nature serves as a stark contrast to their father's anger and aggression, proving that a lineage of toxic masculinity is not inevitable. Though the focus on character and emotion over action is refreshing for a YA novel, it would have benefited from a greater sense of climax...continued

Full Review (565 words)

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(Reviewed by Callum McLaughlin).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
In this striking, assured debut exhibiting a measured pace and delicate writing, Tison probes the ties of adolescent brotherhood and ways the effects of violence can stall self-directed growth... Remarkably compelling.

School Library Journal (starred review)
A heartrending, contemporary debut novel about the repercussions of trauma and the healing power of family and art...Violence can be inherited but so can love and forgiveness. This vulnerable and magnetic tale of brotherhood belongs on every shelf.

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
Tison's writing is staggering... Structurally and substantively, this book is an elegiac triumph that puts the human heart in the reader's hands.

Booklist
The story itself is a quiet, soulful exploration of how young men process the often-stark realities they live in. The character notes are subtle and nuanced.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Bribri

Cocoa grove, with Bribri Usure (ceremonial lodge) visible in background, in Yorkin, Costa Rica, Talamanca Like brothers Max and Jay, the protagonists of her debut young adult novel Saints of the Household, author Ari Tison is Bribri American, descended from an Indigenous group native to the Talamanca region of Costa Rica. The characters' grandfather was raised among the Bribri people and their matriarchal society. His gentle, loving nature sits in stark contrast with the brothers' physically and emotionally abusive white American father. Though never heavy-handed, there is obvious commentary here on the idea that patriarchy fosters toxic masculinity, and that different social systems exist.

Though their numbers have declined over time, due to Spanish colonization and modern threats to their land such as commercial development, there are ...

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