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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
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 Great seller! May 14 2013
By kikiken
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Great communication, good shipping time, would definitely purchase from this seller again in the future. Very happy with my purchase.The product was listed as "Like New", but it looks more like it's brand new, I was pleasantly surprised. Thank you :-)
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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 ending an inbred 4th generation later, Maile Meloy's family saga is a rollicking, roiling ride through the USA in the 20th century - with a pilgrimage to the Vatican and audience with Pope. (Interesting sidebar learned while cruising with the familia Santerre: Teddy Kennedy received his First Communion from the Pope?)
Meloy could have drawn out this saga for hundreds of tear-jerking, soul-searching, Catholic- guilt- coated pages, but, thankfully, her style is brisk, bouncing chronologically one step forward and two steps back. It is a fine and gripping foray through many cultural taboos - sex, incest, religion and politics. /TundraVision, Amazon Reviewer
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2.0 out of 5 stars Promising writer, not yet a novelist June 29 2004
By A Customer
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 to make you care. I was sorry that I started the book. There were points to admire but they were completely overwhelmed and negated by the missed opportunities. This writer hasn't arrived yet and your time would be better spent elsewhere.
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3.0 out of 5 stars More promising than genuinely good June 14 2004
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. Unfortunately, silly melodramatic elements intrude on the book's final third, culminating in a scene that's supposed to be shocking in its senseless violence but reads more like Meloy thought, "Okay, let's wrap this up." Maile Meloy shows great promise as a novelist, but she's not there yet.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly unusual May 26 2004
By A Customer
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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5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional read May 20 2004
By A Customer
An American friend sent me a copy of LIARS AND SAINTS and I was completely captivated and read it in one sitting. It shows very movingly how the impact of a single action is felt through three generations of a family, sometimes even unconsciously. Although quite a broad sweep of time is covered (1950s - 1990s), the different decades are evoked very skilfully and each character is believably of their time. I think this novel brings together the very best aspects of short story and novel-writing: the characters leave wonderfully clear impressions without the reader being over-burdened with too much detail. The simplicity of Maile Meloy's writing should not be mistaken for a lack of complexity overall; this is a novel which satisfies on many levels and the combination of light prose and compelling plot are exactly what make it such a rewarding read.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Nothing Special May 12 2004
By A Customer
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.
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