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Liars and Saints [Hardcover]

Maile Meloy
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 1 2005
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 insight -- into an extraordinary American family and into the nature of human love.
--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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From Amazon

Opening with a wedding and ending with a funeral, Maile Meloy stuffs everything imaginable in between, and manages to maintain a cool, elegant prose style throughout. Liars and Saints, Meloy's debut novel, following her story collection Half in Love, chronicles the life of the Santerre family, who sin with the gusto of true Catholics. Written in a series of short story-like vignettes, the family's saga is told in turn by every member, from Yvette the matriarch down to T.J., her great-grandson. We start out with a relatively run of the mill family secret, when in the 1950s Yvette sends daughter Margot off to a French convent for the duration of her teenage pregnancy. As the decades pass, the transgressions become wilder and more melodramatic, as if the Santerres are trying to keep up with the times by way of their naughty acts. What makes the novel work is that all the while, Meloy maintains a quiet, slightly wry tone: illicit lovemaking and bloody mary mixing are recounted with the same equanimity. She also gets just right the tone of each era. When Yvette's other daughter Clarissa marries a jolly lawyer in the early 60s, he sends a telegram to Yvette: "HITCHED. THANKS FOR BEAUTIFUL DAUGHER. PROGENY PROMISED TO POPE." Likewise, in the 1970s the characters talk just groovy enough, and the 80s have a wised-up ring to them. Most multi-generational sagas are dull forays into sentimentalism, but in the aptly titled Liars and Saints, Meloy has written a corker. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The consolations of ardent faith, as well as the harsh demands of religious dogma, supply the leitmotifs of this dazzling novel of a Catholic family's life over five decades. Meloy, whose collection of short fiction, Half in Love, earned rave reviews last year, writes with wisdom and compassion about the secret guilt that shadows three generations of the Santerre family. Yvette Grenier and Teddy Santerre marry in California in 1945, just before Teddy ships out to the Pacific. Their wartime separation sparks Teddy's fears of Yvette's infidelity, and when naive Yvette is moved to confess an experience of sexual temptation to her priest, his strict penalty for her "sin of omission" creates enduring tension in the marriage. When one of their daughters gives birth at age 16, Yvette contrives to pass off the baby boy as her own son, convinced that God has chosen her to bear this burden. The strict injunctions of Catholic doctrine and the well-meaning deceit that follows trigger an intricate chain of events that finds history repeating itself in the next generation, bringing heartbreaking sacrifice and spiritual reconciliation. Meloy's unerring mastery of narrative is remarkable. The disciplined economy and resonant clarity of her prose allow her to present a complex story in swift, lean chapters. The alternating points of view of eight main characters shine with authenticity and illuminate the moral complexities felt by each generation. The rich emotional chiarascuro and fine psychological insight of this haunting novel mark Meloy as a writer of extraordinary talent.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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THEY WERE MARRIED during the war, in Santa Barbara, after Mass one morning in the old Mission church. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lots of Promise But No Substance July 8 2004
Format:Paperback
I truly WANTED to like this novel more. The idea was compelling: several generations of Catholic guilt and a snapshot of the changing times. But I felt as if I were quickly turning the pages of a photo album without lingering too long on any one photo. Here's Abby: she's born, she's pregnant, she dies. But who IS Abby? What is her essence? Just when I began to become acquainted with a character, he or she was thrust into the background as another one appeared. The result: I never became emotionally invested in any of them. There's promise here, but not enough substance.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly unusual May 26 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
What struck me first about this riveting novel was its form. Few will notice or care about this, simply looking for a "good story." But Maile Meloy has really done something remarkable with regards to the "layout" of the book. Starting with a wedding, and ending with a funeral, the tone is set for . . . well . . . life--everything in between. The sheer beauty of this idea reminded me of a book by J.T. McCrae--The Bark of the Dogwood--where form is also a key to the progression of events and characters. More attention should be paid to this sort of thing, for it really separates the men from the boys when it comes to building a great work of fiction such as "Liars and Saints."
Writing about family sagas and family secrets is nothing new, but the masterful telling and again "form" of this book really made it stand out for me from the other mediocre reads that pepper the lists. With each new decade, Meloy manages to paint a different portrait of the family, building to a wonderful crescendo and satisfying conclusion. And if you think that's par for the course, you haven't read much, for many authors today simply ingore the rules of good writing. Meloy is, in a sense, old-fashioned in that the treatment of the plot, characters, and settings, is all interwoven. And while this may sound academic, it's not. Few authors, whether trained or not, achieve this level of reader satisfaction.
With its rich textures of myriad lives over vast periods of time and the excellent writing, this book will surely become one of the bestsellers.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading--twice April 3 2004
Format:Hardcover
I read this novel when it first came out and was favorably reviewed in the New Yorker as a "short." (The author's stories have appeared in the New Yorker). Recently, less than a year later, I picked it up again. I had only vague memories of the characters and story, as if I'd dreamed it. This makes me wonder about the strength of the character portrayal and the narrative (not, of course, about my memory). Although each character is interesting, none are very endearing, except perhaps for the young man, Jamie, who is, at least, funny and articulate. Part of the problem is that we aren't allowed much "time" with each character, as the narrative speeds through several generations, leaping from point of view to point of view. The writing, although flawless and strong, fails to create a sense of place or to paint a picture of any of the participants. It's more like a a fictional breeze through a family's generational history.
On the other hand, I enjoyed it both times I read it. I think, therefore, that this novel should be read more as a narrative poem, and really a rather lovely one.
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4.0 out of 5 stars most are a little of both Feb. 22 2004
Format:Hardcover
_Liars and Saints_ by Maile Meloy is the multi-generational saga of a Catholic family. This short description may call to mind a very long book, entrenched in the lives of each character, filled with description of each era and bogged down by characterization, but unlike most stories of this type, Meloy's novel is a quick read with relatively short chapters, easy to delve into and difficult to put down.
Each chapter is told by the point of view of a different character, with frequent years-long skips ahead in time. The story begins with the marriage of Yvette and Teddy Santerre during WWII, his overseas fighting, the births of their daughters (Margot and Clarissa), and Teddy's jealousy. The secrets begin almost immediately as Yvette confesses a small one to her husband (at the recommendation of her priest) only to have it be a mistake to have told him; she never faces truth easily again. The birth of the family's third child, Jamie, is cloaked in subterfuge as only Yvette and her oldest daughter know that this boy is really Yvette and Teddy's GRANDCHILD, not their son, as everyone will believe until Jamie is well into adulthood.
The family's transgressions, secrets, and tribulations continue from there, becoming more outlandish as the reader is fully immersed in the novel, truly cares about the characters, and is therefore able to suspend some disbelief. Meloy's writing style is to treat the most serious matters very lightly, which some may consider a flaw, but I actually found that it made the events easier to digest somehow.
The progeny of the Santerres, Yvette and Teddy's great-grandchild, is another birth of mysterious parentage and also of tragedy, but little T.J.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Religion is always present and influential Oct. 17 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
In the novel Liars and Saints, Meloy is saying some interesting things about the influence that religion has on people's lives. Catholicism frustrates and prevents Santerre family from fully accepting, and accommodating each other's decisions as they go through life. Margot, Clarissa and Jamie, as they grow older and make their own choices about how they want to live their lives, seem to absent themselves from the traditional beliefs of their parents, Teddy and Yvette. Times change, and society changes, as the traditional values of the postwar nineteen fifties, are replaced by the freethinking sixties, the rebelliousness of the seventies, and the realism and hard choices of the nineties. In Meloy's story Catholicism is always there, subconsciously influencing each generation of the Santerre family one way or another, whether they like it or not.
Meloy certainly set herself a challenging task of telling a sweeping multi-generational story in just over two hundred and fifty pages. And her stark, almost severe style lends itself quite well to telling this story concisely and quickly. In fact, at times her story seems almost two hurried - I wanted her to slow down and not be in such a rush to tell the tale. There's also a tendency for Meloy's style to be almost under-developed. Multi-generational stories can be difficult to do - the structure has to be exact; Michael Cunningham did a good job at it with Flesh and Blood, and with Liars and Saints, Meloy employs similar techniques. Each chapter is told from a different point of view with each family member recording their feelings and motivations about the similar events in each of their lives. This effect works quite well in moving the story along and creating believable characters that have to face hard choices in life.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great seller!
Great communication, good shipping time, would definitely purchase from this seller again in the future. Very happy with my purchase. Read more
Published 15 months ago by kikiken
5.0 out of 5 stars A Catholic Dr. Phil kind of Family on Steroids and Viagra
C'est la vie say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell.
Starting with a tempestuous World War II wedding of Canadian Acadian French Yvette to Teddy Santerre, and... Read more
Published on June 29 2004 by TundraVision
2.0 out of 5 stars Promising writer, not yet a novelist
Four generations of a family in only 250 pages just doesn't work. The characters and the plot had tremendous but unrealized potential; the author just didn't flesh them out enough... Read more
Published on June 28 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars More promising than genuinely good
LIARS AND SAINTS shows growth in comparison to Maile Meloy's relentlessly bleak debut collection HALF IN LOVE, with much more humor and a better ear for dialogue. Read more
Published on June 14 2004 by Esther Rabinowitz
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional read
An American friend sent me a copy of LIARS AND SAINTS and I was completely captivated and read it in one sitting. Read more
Published on May 20 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Nothing Special
I found it impossible to get involved with the two-dimensional characters. This book went, unfinished, back to the library. I'm glad I didn't buy it.
Published on May 12 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Unfulfilled possibility
I purchased this book after reading some of Meloy's short stories. Needless to say I was greatly disappointed. Read more
Published on Feb. 17 2004 by Janine Memon
3.0 out of 5 stars A little too wierd for me-
Just finished Liars and Saints from Maile Meloy- I give it three stars.
The story is about a family that has two girls and one of them gets pregnant and the mother raises the... Read more
Published on Jan. 23 2004 by Ellen
1.0 out of 5 stars Barely a star
I had the great misfortune of choosing Liars and Saints for a discussion and was the first to echo our group's great disappointment in this book. The prose is poorly articulated. Read more
Published on Jan. 1 2004
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