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The Patron Saint of Liars: A Novel (P.S.) by…

The Patron Saint of Liars: A Novel (P.S.) (original 1992; edition 2007)

by Ann Patchett

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Title:The Patron Saint of Liars: A Novel (P.S.)
Authors:Ann Patchett
Info:Harper Perennial (2007), Paperback, 368 pages
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The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett (1992)



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In the 1960's we find St Elizabeth, a castle like former hotel, now a home for unwed mothers, in Habit Kentucky.

"Unanticipated pregnancy makes liars out of young women .... as they try to rationalize, explain, and accept what is happening to them.
The illusive Rose Clinton arrives.
She has deserted her husband in San Diego and plans to have the baby he'll never know about.
The child will then be adopted.
"... to punish herself, she will also give up the mother she adores, the one person she really loves."

Rose then decided to marry the groundskeeper and keep her daughter....beginning a simple life with the second man she doesn't love....simple bigamy.
Her daughter Sissy grows up among the nuns, unwed mothers, a doting father and an indifferent mother.

Patchett did a tremendous series of character studies in this her first novel.
In successive narratives by Rose, Son and Sissy, you have a very explicit picture of their everyday life.

There was a series of interwoven plots, and although there were a few questions (strange resolutions?), I thoroughly enjoyed the read.

Julia Gibson portrayed Rose with the sharpness and edge the character had.
The depiction of her indifference was striking....
( she truly lives a series of extraordinary lies)
Son and Sissy, the objects of her neglect and indifference, had extensive narratives.
I couldn't help but become emotionally involved with the characters.

For me, 4*
and a recommendation to read this 1960's rendition of a sliver of the reality of the times. ( )
  pennsylady | Jan 24, 2016 |
This was a pleasurable book to read. The writing was robust and clever. I can see why Patchett has so much buzz about her right now. I found the book to be easy to read and hard to put down.

However, keeping me from giving this one 5 looks was the character around whom all others revolved: Rose. I found her to be a bit shallow and one-dimensional. I don't think this was the intention at all, in that I believe Patchett intended this character to be complex, brooding and unpredictable. I found her to be just the opposite. Rose was fervent in her lack of feeling and emotion, running when she got the good chance, and you knew she was going to run. Toward the end of the book, I found myself wondering if perhaps the author meant to give the impression that Rose suffered from Schizoid Personality Disorder. I was never compassionate toward Rose, and perhaps that was not the point, but by the end of the book, I didn't care at all about her.

Son, Cecilia and Sister Evangeline saved the story. They were all very compelling, complete and full characters. I felt Son's trepidation, sorry and joy. I ached for Cecilia to find her own way, first at St. Elizabeth's, then a way out of the grand hotel. Sister Evangeline was the mother/grandmother/confidant we all wish to have. The way they all interacted with Rose and because of Rose was a good tale.

I liked this book, and will read more by this author.
( )
  CarmenMilligan | Jan 18, 2016 |
I really like Ann Patchett but this is probably my least favorite book of hers. Apparently this is her debut novel and that makes a lot of sense. There is a lot of promise here, but this reminds me too much of some of the Oprah Book Club books that my mom favors, books by people like Jane Hamilton, Elizabeth Berg and Anita Shreeve. Those are perfectly fine authors and I have books by all of them on my to read list, but they don’t hold a candle to Ann Patchett.The last Ann Patchett book I read was State of Wonder and I remember being so pulled into (and weirded out by) that world that I couldn’t sleep. The Patron Saint of Liars is a good book, it really is, I think my expectations were just too high. It’s basically about a girl who finds herself pregnant and ends up at a home for unwed mothers (it takes places in the 50s/60s obviously). The Patron Saint of Liars is a good book to read while in bed sick with a cold. It has a comfort that is missing from her other (better) books. Ann Patchett is an author worth being a completest of, and every author literally has to have a worst book. It speaks to Patchett’s talent that even this, her weakest, is still well worth the read. ( )
  KatieTF | Dec 31, 2015 |
The novel is the author’s debut work in 1992 and reveals the quality her later works will continue. It is the story of Rose, a young woman growing up in California with her single mom in the 1960’s. Rose is close to her mother and admires her beauty and style. She has little memory of her father who died in an auto accident when she was very young. She meets a young man, Thomas Clinton, who takes interest in her and whose devotion moves Rose into marrying him. Within a year, her life with him begins to seem flat and uninspiring; he isn’t unpleasant and they don’t quarrel but Rose realizes she doesn’t love him. Rose copes with her growing unease by driving on long trips around southern California, efforts to escape her feelings without taking any overt actions to address her unhappiness. Escaping from truth will become the hallmark of her later life.

Rose becomes pregnant. She cannot imagine staying with Thomas with a child entering their marriage relationship. She confides in a priest who tells her of a home for unwed mothers in Kentucky. Without telling Thomas or her mother she sets off on a cross-country road trip to St. Elizabeth’s Home for Unwed Mothers. St. Elizabeth’s has a somewhat remarkable history. In the 1920’s George Clatterbuck, a farmer, found that a natural spring had burst forth on his land. After noticing that illnesses in his stock were cured after they drank the spring water, he treated his daughter who had come down with a serious illness and said that by its power she was cured. Word spread of the water’s miraculous properties. A rich couple leased the land and built a resort spa hotel where people would come to bathe in its waters. After a time the spring dried up and the hotel fell out of fashion and closed. The property was acquired by a religious order who converted it to a home where unwed mothers came to have babies they put up for adoption. June, now an older woman, continued to live on the family homestead on the property.

Rose arrives at the home and gains admission telling a lie that the baby’s father died in an auto accident. She is assigned to work in the kitchen assisting the kindly Sister Evangeline with whom she becomes very close. She also is befriended by June and visits her often. As her pregnancy progresses she sees the pain when other girls have to give up their new born infants, and she decides she won’t do it. She has become friends with the home’s maintenance man – Son – and asks him to marry her. He agrees, not knowing that Rose is already married. Son has a tattoo on his shoulder with the name Cecilia and decides to give this name to her new-born girl. Son is uneasy about this and it is revealed in a sub-plot that a girl called Cecilia was Son’s first love who drowned in the early 1940’s.

Because she is now married and has been a blessing to the home’s kitchen operations Rose is allowed to stay on after the birth. She, Son and Cecilia move into a home on the grounds that Son has been fixing up. Of interest to her is the car she drove from California. While she doesn’t drive it anymore, she has kept it and has Son maintain it in working order. After some time goes by, June dies and leaves her home to Son and Rose. After a time, Rose decides that she will move alone into June’s house – just a stone’s throw from her home – and, while not alienating herself from Son – becomes distant from him. It is clear that she does not feel deeply attached to him and her response is to flee. As Cecilia grows into her teenage years the story shifts to her perspective and she resents her mother’s aloofness and appearance of not caring too much for her. It is interesting that while Rose is teaching Cecilia to drive she becomes much more open and communicative. Cecilia is very close to her father.

By means of some sleuthing Thomas finds out after the many years have passed that Rose is living at St. Elizabeth’s. He writes he is going to visit, but before he arrives the prospect of confronting her earlier life motivates Rose to take off again. She uses the car to embark on another flight from the circumstances she finds herself in. She has disappeared from the truth once again. Cecilia picks up clues that Son might not be her father, but she doesn’t reach a conclusion, almost seeming to avoid this truth.

This novel is as much about truth as it is about lies. Rose’s coping mechanism surely hurts others, but her story prompts us to consider how lying is related to truths held by the liar. Rose confronted truths about herself by lying to others, by running away. In a sense she seeks to be true to herself – to her disappointment in her marriage, to her desire not to give up her child – by acting dishonestly. While she might have chosen other means to deal with her unhappiness, would not denying these truths by not acting on them be, in a sense, lying to herself? How, then, should we judge the morality of lying as a means of dealing with truths about ourselves? How really is this uncommon in dealings with others? Morality aside, as a means to resolve her difficulties, lying and fleeing was not effective for Rose. By fleeing Rose does not find permanent resolution to her circumstances. Lies have consequences not only on those we lie to, but perhaps even more on the liar. ( )
  stevesmits | Nov 11, 2015 |
Good story, good writing and it takes place in Kentucky. What more could I ask for. ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
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This book is for my parents, Frank Patchett and Jeanne Wilkinson Ray, and my grandmother, Eve Wilkinson.
First words
Two O'clock in the morning, a Thursday morning, the first bit of water broke through the ground of George Clatterbuck's back pasture in Habit, Kentucky, and not a living soul saw it.
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Book description
In the Patron Saint of Liars, Rose is a young wife of three years who concludes she married by mistake, that she misinterpreted teenage lust as a sign from God. Newly pregnant and uanble to continue a life with a man she doesn't love, Rose decides to leave. She abandons her quiet, inoffensive husband and their life at the Southern California seaside of the 1960's. Most of the odd and troubled characters fascinate and confound us. In the end, Rose surprises us on more time, and Sissy grows up, showing herself neither a liar nor a "leaver."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061339210, Paperback)

St. Elizabeth's is a home for unwed mothers in the 1960s. Life there is not unpleasant, and for most, it is temporary. Not so for Rose, a beautiful, mysterious woman who comes to the home pregnant but not unwed. She plans to give up her baby because she knows she cannot be the mother it needs. But St. Elizabeth's is near a healing spring, and when Rose's time draws near, she cannot go through with her plans, not all of them. And she cannot remain forever untouched by what she has left behind . . . and who she has become in the leaving.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:06 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Pregnant and alone, Rose seeks sanctuary at St. Elizabeth's, a home for unwed mothers in Habit, Kentucky, where she at last finds a place to put down the roots she has never felt she had.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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