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

by Ann Patchett

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1,791523,909 (3.74)92
Member:jotarp
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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Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
I liked this story of religious "calling", or finding your purpose in life: the writing was beautiful, but the overall experience of this book was somewhat unsatisfying.

Rose has trouble with intimacy, and with staying in one place. She marries Thomas, thinking this is God's plan for her life, but soon runs away and spends almost 20 years at a home for unwed mothers as their cook. I couldn't understand Rose's motivations...especially at the end when her past life seems ready to catch up with her. I also felt that the author missed an opportunity to better resolve the issues.

The voice changes from Rose's to Son's to Cecilia's. While this is common in today's fiction, in this case, I found it somewhat jarring and I think it contributed to my challenges in understanding what was motivating Rose. ( )
  LynnB | Apr 1, 2015 |
"There was a weight to missing. It was as heavy as a child."

Rose never stays anywhere for long. First she marries suddenly, then she spends days and weeks driving around California, then she runs away to Kentucky. She settles and brings up her child in the strange surrounds of nuns and pregnant girls at a home for unwed mothers.

Rose is a surprisingly unsympathetic character with a lack of motive for being so - it's never really explained. Nevertheless, her reluctance to invest emotionally in other people makes for an interesting counterpoint to the warmth of the characters around her, especially Son, who is so caring and gentle. She constantly pushes everybody else away, and Cecilia is the only one we see really examine that.

I guess there's a recurring theme here of religion and vocation - Rose marries her first husband feeling that it's her vocation, then that she must have been wrong. She stays at St Elizabeth's for years, cooking three meals a day for twenty years - clearly she feels some kind of vocation to be there. The assorted religious attitudes of the nuns at the home, of the girls in their varying states of faith... it wasn't until I finished the book that it hit me that this was a theme. It didn't really seem to go anywhere though - just a thread through every character.

There's no denying Patchett writes beautifully. I read this 400 page novel in a day with no trouble at all. While I never felt totally sucked into the plot, the writing is smooth enough that you just keep turning the pages without noticing. I liked the way this book moved from one narrative point to the next about every hundred pages - from an initial third person narrator in Habit, to Rose to Son to Cecilia. It dealt with the passage of time neatly and gave us the chance to move through different characters without having that irritating back-and-forth that plagues the modern crime novel.

The setting (and I'll ignore anything that's not Habit, Kentucky, because that's where 90% of the book is set) is evocatively enough written without ever becoming a character of its own. The huge hotel could easily have become a character of its own (as the house does in The Thirteenth Tale), and we feel Cecilia's frustration through the long, hot summers, the pitchers of iced tea, the swimming hole, without ever really having a strong sense of place.

This lost 2 points out of 10 from me - one for the fact that it was good but didn't reach out of the page and grab you by the throat (the way that Bel Canto did) and one for the ending. I won't say much for fear of spoilers, but a deeply difficult and uncomfortable situation is engineered, without any kind of resolution. After 380 pages of stunning writing, this was so dissatisfying I didn't know whether to think the book was 20 pages too long (i.e. it should have ended before the twist) or 40 pages too short (the twist was unresolved - particularly with Cecilia having stumbled onto a big clue shortly before the end).

One other thing - I've never heard of Mariner Books, the publisher, before... just looked them up and it seems to be an imprint of Houghton Miffler Harcourt. But worth a mention, because this was a really beautiful edition, considering it was just a standard paperback; there was something about the softness of the cover, the type of paper used for the pages... I don't know what it was. It was nice not to have to break the spine to lay it flat on the table while I ate my slow cooker beef stroganoff (yum). ( )
  readingwithtea | Dec 24, 2014 |
One of my favorite authors! ( )
  ShiraR | Nov 6, 2014 |
I’ve read almost all of Patchett’s fiction and nonfiction now, and I liked this, her debut novel from back in 1992, second only to her fabulous Bel Canto.

The premise here is of a pregnant woman heading to a home for unwed mothers run by nuns. These homes were typically sources for infant adoption, and Patchett's narrative gives voice to all three parties -- birth mothers, children and adoptive parents. I pulled it from the TBRs after having read the excellent nonfiction social history of that topic, The Girls Who Went Away, and it was a worthy follow-up that then blossomed into its own story. ( )
  DetailMuse | Aug 10, 2014 |
Patchett’s first book introduces us to Rose, a married woman who decides she’s never loved her husband and she wants out. She’s pregnant, but still decides to leave her life in California behind. She takes off and ends up at St. Elizabeth's, a Catholic home for unwed mothers in Kentucky.

Rose is a cold character and the first section of the book was hard for me to get into. About 1/3 of the way in we switch to a different point of view, that of the home’s handyman Son, and after that things clicked for me. By the end of the book we rotate perspective once more, seeing the world through Rose’s daughter Cecelia’s eyes. These alternative POVs made things work so much better because Rose is such an intentionally hard character to connect with. Since we started from Rose’s POV I should have understood her character better, but she kept the reader at such a distance.

I loved the interaction of the women at St. Elizabeth’s. There’s such an intense bond of shared experience, almost like a summer camp on steroids. I was reminded a little bit of the scene from When She Woke in the women’s home. The women form friendships quickly because they are all pregnant and alone in the world in some way.
I think what I loved about the book was the quiet rhythm that you get into without even realizing it. Not much happens, but there’s a steady flow of time, women come and go with the years and all the while Rose is a steady force, never changing. I also loved the character of Sister Evangeline, an older nun who is the only one who seems to understand Rose.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s an extremely good first novel. Patchett’s gift for storytelling has clearly improved with time, but I still enjoyed this one. I also love being able to compare her early work to her later work. ( )
1 vote bookworm12 | Jul 31, 2014 |
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This book is for my parents, Frank Patchett and Jeanne Wilkinson Ray, and my grandmother, Eve Wilkinson.
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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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Wikipedia in English (1)

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)

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