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The Patron Saint of Liars: A Novel [Paperback]

Ann Patchett
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 19 2011
Since her first publication in 1992, celebrated novelist Ann Patchett has crafted a number of elegant novels, garnering accolades and awards along the way. Now comes a reissue of the best-selling debut novel that launched her remarkable career.

St. Elizabeth’s, a home for unwed mothers in Habit, Kentucky, usually harbors its residents for only a little while. Not so Rose Clinton, a beautiful, mysterious woman who comes to the home pregnant but not unwed, and stays. She plans to give up her child, thinking she cannot be the mother it needs. But when Cecilia is born, Rose makes a place for herself and her daughter amid St. Elizabeth’s extended family of nuns and an ever-changing collection of pregnant teenage girls. Rose’s past won’t be kept away, though, even by St. Elizabeth’s; she cannot remain untouched by what she has left behind, even as she cannot change who she has become in the leaving.


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Product Description

From Library Journal

Unanticipated pregnancy makes liars out of young women, this thoughtful first novel shows, as they try to rationalize, explain, and accept what is happening to them. When she arrives at St. Elizabeth's, a home for pregnant girls in Habit, Kentucky, Rose Clinton seems as evasive and deceptive as the other unwed mothers. But Rose is different: she has a husband whom she has deserted. Unlike most St. Elizabeth's visitors, she neither gives up her baby nor leaves the home, staying on as cook while her daughter grows up among expectant mothers fantasizing that they, too, might keep their infants. The reader learns from Rose how she came to St. Elizabeth's, but it is her doting husband and rebellious daughter who reveal her motives and helpless need for freedom. Together, the three create a complex character study of a woman driven by forces she can neither understand nor control.
- Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ. at Carbondale Lib.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Patchett's first novel, set in rural Kentucky in a castle-like home for unwed mothers--where a good woman finds she cannot lie her way beyond love--has a quiet summer-morning sensibility that reminds one of the early work of Anne Tyler. Within the security of everydayness, minds and hearts take grievous risks. ``Maybe I was born to lie,'' thinks Rose, who, after a three- year marriage to nice Tom Clinton, realizes that she's misread the sign from God pointing to the wedding: she married a man she didn't love. From San Diego, then, Rose drives--``nothing behind me and nothing ahead of me''--all the way to Kentucky and St. Elizabeth's home for unwed mothers, where she plans to have the baby Tom will never know about, and to give it clean away. But in the home, once a grand hotel, Rose keeps her baby, Cecilia; marries ``Son,'' the handyman (``God was right after all...I was supposed to live a small life with a man I didn't love''); and becomes the cook after briefly assisting that terrible cook, sage/seeress, and font of love, Sister Evangeline. The next narrative belongs to Son, a huge man originally from Tennessee--like Rose, gone forever from home- -who recounts the last moments of his fianc‚e's life long ago (Sister Evangeline absolves him of responsibility) and who loves Rose. The last narrator is teenaged Cecilia, struggling to find her elusive mother within the competent Rose, who's moved into her own house away from husband and daughter. Like Rose years before, her daughter considers the benefits of not knowing ``what was going on''...as the recent visitor--small, sad Tom Clinton--drives off, and Cecilia knows that Rose, who left before he came, will never return. In an assured, warm, and graceful style, a moving novel that touches on the healing powers of chance sanctuaries of love and fancy in the acrid realities of living. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
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. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Stupid and Corny April 13 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Rose, the protagonist of "The Patron Saint of Liars" seems to have an answer for all of life's problems and it always seems to be the same...running away. Rose seems to think that out of sight is definitely out of mind.
When we meet Rose, she is a very confused, Catholic woman who realizes after some years of marriage (and despite the fact that she's pregnant), that she simply doesn't love her husband anymore. Perhaps she never did. Rather than getting help from her local priest or even a marriage counselor and, even short of confiding in her husband (about her lack of love for him or her pregnancy), Rose does what Rose does best...she simply leaves.
With no destination in mind and no money (Rose's preferred method of travel), Rose ends up in a home for unwed mothers in Kentucky. She lies to the nuns about her family and eventually meets Son, the handsome, charismatic handyman at the home. All the pregnant girls are in love with Son, but of course, it is Rose who ends up snaring him...and marrying him. The fact that Rose already has a husband is simply glossed over. This is a woman who doesn't want to be bothered with details.
Fifteen years later, Son is a good father to Cecilia, the daughter that isn't really his...at least in a biological sense. Whether Rose is a good (second) wife and mother, is a more subjection question.
Rose and Son have inherited the mansion belonging to the founder of the home and while both Son and Cecilia are happy to live there, Rose chooses instead to live in Son's small cabin. It seems, for reasons not made completely clear, that this woman simply can't bear life in a mansion with her gorgeous husband and daughter. Strange? Maybe for you and I, but definitely not for our Rose.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Almost Wonderful Book Jan. 13 2002
Format:Paperback
First, Patchett can write very well--she carries you right along on a beautiful stream of words--so she is a joy to read no matter what else you might say about her. What I would say however is that while this is a really good book, she gets better in later books. It is probably not fair to judge this book by what she accomplishes later--but ah, we are human - and so we do unfair things. Just like Patchett's characters. I like her characters...not personally but as literary devices. They are complex. They are not presented in neat little packages so that we, the readers, are given a complete overview of who they are and why they do what they do. They are often contradictory and we have to keep asking why are they doing this -or that. I think we look for characters that are easy to understand because we are so desperate to try and make sense out of the world-and we are hoping that literature will help us do that. But I think good literature helps us see how complicated it really is and that there are no simple answers about why people do what they do. So Patchett gives us characters that make us crazy based on the decisions they are making-but who are good people, regardless of their decisions. We realize in the process that people do not have to do specific things to be good people-and that we don't really know -and don't have to know why a person makes the decisions they do- you can still care about them. Why, for instance, would a married woman, with a husband who adores her abandon him and go to a home for unwed mothers. Why would a woman who adores her mother decide to never communicate with her mother again? You read along saying to yourself-no! Don't do that. Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars nothing here May 30 2003
Format:Paperback
Only being captive on a long Amtrak ride made me finish this book.
The main character isn't mysterious, as some have said, only implausible, dull and completely unsympathetic. Her departure from her husband at the beginning of her pregnancy seems to be more about a love of driving long distances at random than an escape from anything the reader can understand. Her deciding to take refuge in a home for unwed mothers made me more than annoyed--angry. The author makes a mockery of women (usually young girls) who, in pre-choice days were forced into such hideaways.
This author writes some pretty prose--too much of it in fact. That's unfortunate for readers, because it hides the nothing she has to say.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Regrettable Rose May 17 2004
Format:Paperback
The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett is well written, but not exactly exciting. The story line was inventive and seemed to have a lot going for it, but I kept expecting something to happen that would somehow complete it. Nonetheless, each of the characters in the novel, especially the ones who had a narrating section, was very well developed.
I think that the author had a way of connecting herself with each of the characters so that they seemed real. Even the characters that had relatively minor roles were very tangible, like someone that every reader would have met at some point in their life. The main character, Rose, however, somehow made the novel feel incomplete because of her emptiness as a person. The fact that she was such a secretive character, even up until the end, left me feeling unsatisfied. Her personality is sympathetic yet despicable at the same time. Overall, I feel that the novel was passable, granted that it was Patchett's first novel. I would recommend this book for a light read, but not if you want to get something lasting out of it.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Patchett's first novel
The setting for The Patron Saint of Liars is imaginative and the characters interesting but the story falls short of it's initial promise. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Frances J. Cholakis
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling read!
I loved this book! I have been trying to set aside time to "feast" on good fiction and this was a delicious find! Read more
Published on April 30 2007 by Kirsten Mcalpine
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative
I didn't want this book to end - I wanted to keep reading the inner monologues of Rose and Cecilia and Son. What better compliment or recomendation is there about a story? Read more
Published on July 6 2004 by Denise Sebesta Lanier
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Novel
This is the kind of contemporary novel I yearn for, yet seldom find. Everything that happens in this novel is unexpected and inexplicable, yet powerful and magical. Read more
Published on April 21 2004 by Kirie Pedersen
3.0 out of 5 stars Very good, but eventually disappointing.
I enjoyed all of the characters, Son, Rose, Sister Evangeline, etc. I loved the way the plot was moving and how the characters were developing, as well as how the author used the... Read more
Published on April 13 2004 by "rachaelliz7"
3.0 out of 5 stars entertaining
I really liked the book but wished the ending would have been different.
Published on March 23 2004 by T. Martinez
4.0 out of 5 stars Good discussion book
This book is well written and held my interest, but I must say up front that the overall air of the book is melancholy. Read more
Published on Dec 9 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely and lyrical
This is Patchett's first novel, and she's gotten better and better. If I hadn't read Bel Canto before this one, I'd have awarded 5 stars. Read more
Published on July 19 2003 by Peggy Vincent
5.0 out of 5 stars A sensitive, moving story
The Patron of Saints is a book chosen for our monthly book club meeting. I had never heard of the author before so knew not what to expect. Read more
Published on March 28 2002
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