In a family driven by jealousy and propriety as much as by love, an unspoken tradition of deceit is passed from generation to generation. These fiercely protected secrets gradually drive the Santerres apart; it will take astonishing courage and compassion to bring them back together.
With her 2002 debut story collection, Half in Love, prizewinning author Maile Meloy drew acclaim from readers and reviewers across the country. "Here is an author who knows how to jump-start the reader's interest," raved The New York Times. "Wonderfully wise beyond the author's years," said the Chicago Tribune. "What distinguishes Meloy is her insistence on old-fashioned plot and sensibility ... Maile Meloy is a truly compelling discovery."
With her first novel, Liars and Saints, Meloy more than delivers on the promise of her earlier work. This richly textured, emotionally charged novel tells a story of sex and longing, love and loss, and of the deceits that can lie at the heart of family relationships.
Set in California, Liars and Saints follows four generations of the Catholic Santerre family from World War II to the present, as they navigate a succession of life-altering events through the submerged emotion of the fifties, the recklessness and excess of the sixties and seventies, and the reckonings of the eighties and nineties. In a family driven by jealousy and propriety as much as by love, an unspoken tradition of deceit is passed from generation to generation, and fiercely protected secrets gradually drive the Santerres apart. When tragedy shatters their precarious domestic lives, it takes astonishing courage and compassion to bring them back together.
By turns funny and disturbing, irreverent and profound, Liars and Saints is a masterful display of Maile Meloy's prodigious gifts, and of her penetrating insightinto an extraordinary American family and into the nature of human love.
They were married during the war, in Santa Barbara, after Mass one morning in the old Mission church. Teddy was solemn; he took the Mass very seriously. Yvette, in a veiled hat and an ivory dress that wasn't a gown, was distracted by the idea that she was in California, without her father there to give her away, and she was about to change her life and her name. "I, Yvette Grenier, take you, Theodore Santerre..." It all sounded formal and strange, as if someone else were saying the words, until she realized with surprise that it was her.
It was a quick wedding so Teddy could ship out, but they went two days later to a dance at the beach club, where she met Teddy's commanding officer at the bar.
"You can't leave this girl so soon," the officer said, looking at Yvette. She was wearing the ivory dress she was married in, because it had taken a long time to make it, and she wasn't going to wear it just once. It suited her, she knewit set off her...
This first novel packs quite a punch. In less than 300 pages Maile Meloy paints a picture of 50 years in the life of one Californian family from World War II to the present. It seemed that the less words Maile used to describe a scene, or the feelings of a character, the more vividly you relate to that person or situation. It takes great skill to hone one's words to this degree, instead of simply expanding them!
If you liked Liars and Saints, try these:
Filled with unforgettable characters, settings, and action, The Irresistible Henry House portrays the cultural tumult of the mid-twentieth century even as it explores the inner tumult of a young man trying to transcend a damaged childhood.
'This big, enthralling novel recaptures the gift for Dreiserian realism that distinguishes such Oates triumphs as What I Lived For, and We Were the Mulvaneys. It's her best ever, and a masterpiece.' Kirkus Reviews.
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