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Saint Training by Elizabeth Fixmer

Saint Training

by Elizabeth Fixmer

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695271,380 (3.55)1
During the turbulent 1960s, sixth-grader Mary Clare O'Brian makes a deal with God: she will try to become a saint if He provides for her large, cash-strapped family.



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Though I am not at all Catholic, I wanted to read this book about a young, conflicted Catholic girl because my husband is very much an adult, conflicted, Catholic male. The main character in "Saint Training" is a sixth grader who starts the book wanted to become a nun, goes to a Catholic school, and helps take care of her large family. It's a short book, filled with all the heartbreak any kid goes through. I read it in one sitting, and my heart aches for Mary Clare & what she goes through with her family, from her confusion with religion, to liking boys & struggling to help with family responsibilities while trying to be a kid. I think anyone who was raised a Catholic should read this book! ( )
  anastaciaknits | Oct 29, 2016 |
Adult Reader Reaction: As a Catholic who grew up after Vatican II, this was an enjoyable, humorous book to read. Mary Clare is a girl that many a teen can relate to.

Pros: With Mary Clare as narrator, the story has a Are You There God, it's Me Margaret feel to it. Teen girls can experience life as a teen in the 1960s walking in her shoes. At the same time, they can see themselves and the timelessness of certain teen worries.

To read our full review, go to The Reading Tub®.
  TheReadingTub | Jul 3, 2014 |
Mary Clare O'Brian is a fresh voice in fiction, very realistic: sometimes self-assured and confident, sometimes full of doubt, worrying over everything from family financial woes to the situation in Vietnam. She is a typical young teen suspended between childhood and adult concerns, forced to grow up quickly as the oldest girl in her large traditional Catholic family. She is forced to assume a lot of responsibility and often resents it, but Fixmer is fair and balanced about this, with Mary Clare being grateful that the responsibilities allow her to spend more time with her mother, for instance: it's not a diatribe against the life Mary Clare is leading.

It is a search for Mary Clare to find herself-- to literally find her own voice, as represented through a school essay-writing contest-- in the upheaval of the 1960s. Everything is changing, within her own household, within her church, in the world without. These changes are reflected even on the level of how her friends treat her; nothing is untouched. We see how a generation was unable to bundle themselves away from change, how there was no refuge, whether in family, friends, or religion. With a mother turning to Betty Friedan and nuns taking up new habits, Mary Clare cannot expect anything to be the same from one day to the next. Like the strong character she is, Mary Clare attempts to negotiate these changes and to incorporate these changes into her worldview.

It is not until the last two pages of the novel that we get a declaration from Mary Clare herself about who she has discovered herself to be. The only complaint I would have here is that after so much build-up to Mary Clare's character formation, the revelation of "who she is" seems rather rushed, and it is a little unsatisfying to not have any idea of the reprecussions of her declaration of independence.

The other concern I would have would be for the targeted age group of readers. References to CO status, running away to Canada, the church's involvement in antiwar protests, The Feminine Mystique, and more abound. There is not much to contextualize these references, and I would be concerned that young readers would not recognize, for example, what a CO was without some explanation. A little context might help young readers feel less adrift.

All in all, a strong debut with an immensely likeable main character and a colorful supporting cast. ( )
1 vote ijustgetbored | Feb 10, 2011 |
First time author Elizabeth Fixmer pens a work of fiction that is more autobiographical by her own admission with a touch of history in it. The main character, Mary Claire, is set on becoming not just a nun, but a Mother Superior, but in her journey, finds herself conflicted with the issues of the time (1960's) such as the Vietnam war, civil rights and womens rights among others. I found the book inspirational and quirky fun. ( )
  bdouglas97 | Jan 3, 2011 |
During the turbulent 1960s, sixth-grader Mary Clare O'Brian makes a deal with God: she will try to become a saint if He provides for her large, cash-strapped family. ( )
  prkcs | Dec 11, 2010 |
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Dear Reverend Mother, My name is Mary Clare O’Brian.
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