Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Patron Saint of Liars


I took a break from all of the English history and historical fiction to read The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett. I absolutely loved it. The story was unique and intriguing - it centers around a home for unwed mothers to live in until they deliver their babies and give them up for adoption. It starts in the 1960s, when having a baby out of wedlock wasn't as common as it is today. But the twist (this is on the back of the book so I'm not giving anything away) is that the main character is married. The book unravels why she's there, why she's giving the baby away, if she goes through with it, and carries through until about 15 years later.

Patchett does a great job at character development. So good that it's very disruptive when the point of view suddenly switches to another character, and then to another. The first switch doesn't happen until close to halfway through the book, so I wasn't expecting it. Both of the other two characters still focus on the first character, but it was still jolting for me. I don't know that she really could have written it in another way, but it took me a while to get used to and I didn't like that you never came back to the point of view of the first character. It made me feel like I was left hanging, like there wasn't really a resolution. That's actually appropriate for this book though, and I still enjoyed it.

The other thing I really liked about this book is the title. That's what drew it to me at the book sale where I bought it. (Sidenote: I love when I find things like this for $.50 at library book sales!) It's striking and memorable. It also fit the book really well. The book is full of liars. All of the girls tell lies when they arrive at the home. Each one of them says they had a husband, but he died tragically in the war or a car accident and that's why they had to come to the home. A lot of the characters lie to themselves. And that patron saint part ties to the home being a Catholic home. That was also interesting, because it addressed how most southerners are good 'ole Baptists, and those two don't normally get along real well. Baptists do have a tendency to regard most things Catholics do as suspect and vice versa. I can say that because I'm a Baptist and have seen that happen. And do that myself on occasion. Although my Southern Baptist grandmother has buddied up to some nuns - they're her gambling buddies. :)(I'm so not kidding. They also actually blessed her so that it would be okay for her to gamble. So she says it's okay in the eyes of God now.) Anyway, she did a good job of capturing that element.

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