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Living with Saints by Mary O'Connell

Living with Saints

by Mary O'Connell

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444379,278 (3.75)None
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    The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show: A Novel by Ariel Gore (betsytacy)
    betsytacy: Both books have a quirky yet still reverent take on religious subjects such as saints and stigmata.

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Toujours le problème des recueils de nouvelles: elles sont inégales! J'ai beaucoup aimé "Sainte Marthe", très originale, mais d'autres sont plutôt dérangeantes, et manquent de coeur (par exemple "Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux"). Dommage! ( )
  CathCD | Jan 16, 2016 |
Some stories send you to another place, paint a world of mystery and magic, create a world so euphoric you never want to leave. Not this book. The stories Mary O’Connell writes begin as dirty secrets, rumors, and evolve into something so evocative you can almost feel the triangular ruler hitting cracking your knuckles as a nun looks down on you in disappointment. Sorry yes, I went to Catholic school.
Mary O’Connell possesses an uncanny ability to balance a series of heartbreaking anecdotes with just the right amount of sardonic humor to keep you enthralled till the end, forsaking both jobs and social lives. The book is a short story collection, each chapter named after a different saint. The reader then finds out through their first person perspective, these are not saints, they are normal people who are suffering and stumbling their way through dysfunctional circumstances and hardships. Like
O’Connell presents her characters and arcs much in the way of a Louise Erdrich, bit by bit, so that the reader needs to take a moment to mentally add the block they’ve just acquired to the whole landscape of her world. Graphic instances of rape and incest are poetically woven in a Dorothy Allison way, so that afterwards you’re shaking your head at the ease in which you’ve just experienced what could be termed a horrific moment. Intermingled with the tragic are awkward moments such as first sexual encounters and unwanted pregnancies, subjects especially difficult for characters in such an unforgiving religious setting.
O’Connell reveals a great many Catholic secrets and sheds light on some lesser known details of Catholic light, all with a cynical humor that would keep even a non-Catholic interested. More importantly, the author refrains from Catholic bashing that so many authors have taken to indulging in recently. The setting of the story is the Catholic ethos, but is not the driving force behind the arc - it is simply a piece of the puzzle. All of these themes are presented with a beautiful sardonic wit that keeps the story from becoming overly harsh or worse yet, a “poor me” story.
I would have liked to see more of this world, or learn the outcomes of more of its characters. The arc could have worked as one continuous novel instead of pieces, but maybe I feel that way because O’Connell generated such a curiosity about their well being, while in actuality their stories cannot be tied up neatly in a precious little bow. ( )
  BrianHoff | Jul 24, 2010 |
I am an atheist and still immensely enjoyed this heartful, sensitive series of short stories. I would recommend it without reservation to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. O'Connell reviews some of Catholicism's early saints and martyrs and respins their tales in a modern context. The stories deal with women's issues from breast cancer to teenage pregnancy, and I found myself sending copies to many of my girlfriends after reading it. ( )
  purplestoregirl | Jul 3, 2006 |
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Für meine Eltern, Michael und Patricia O'Connell, die Schutzheiligen der Güte, der Intelligenz und des Humors.
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Ach du liebe Scheiße, dachte Dymphna - die Frauenstation ist von der Mun-Sekte infiltriert worden.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802139264, Paperback)

Mary O'Connell's wonderfully inventive debut collection takes dusty icons down from the shelf and sets their spirits loose in the modern world. The result is nothing less than "an extended hagiography of the everyday ... where the sacred and secular blur gloriously into one another" (Los Angeles Times). Praised for her "gift for mordant wit, which at its best is reminiscent of Lorrie Moore" (The New York Times Book Review), O'Connell draws upon the lives of the saints to show the divine at work in even the most mundane lives. Saint Anne, patron saint of mothers, sits on the corner of a bed offering words of wisdom while a woman, driven to desperate measures to avoid leaving her baby in day care, has sex with her reptilian boss in exchange for time off. A woman left by her glam-rock musician boyfriend tosses and turns in her bed one night only to find that her pillow, stained with his mascara, has become a modern Turin shroud. From the ineffable bonds between fellow sufferers of grave illness, to the mystery of an immaculate pregnancy, to the more quotidian heartbreak of balancing work and motherhood, O'Connell's stories tackle complicated themes with humor that is "biting but never malicious" (Library Journal ). Readers of all faiths (or none) will be delighted by these savvy and highly original modern visitations. "It isn't necessary to be Catholic, religious, or even a woman to enjoy these stories." -- The Hartford Courant "Living with Saints is funny, shocking, and inspirational-a regular book of revelations." -- Time Out New York "Clever, confident and witty." -- Chicago Tribune

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:43 -0400)

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