Apparently it’s baby season. A close friend had her adorable little boy a little over a week ago, another friend is pregnant and due in the spring, a family friend just felt her baby move for the first time over the weekend, and I get pictures from my cousin almost weekly of her adorable little boy. So many perfect little babies! Last week I bought a knitting for baby book so I can make little booties and hats and toys. And I just finished a book about dysfunctional mother and her baby. For someone who had never held a newborn until last week, this is all a little overwhelming!

 

The Patron Saint of Liars

Ann Patchett is one of my favorite authors, although I have only read three of her books. I fell in love with her after I read The Magician’s Assistant last year, which was quickly followed by Bel Canto. Finally, after being a fan of her work for a while now, I took the time to read her first novel: The Patron Saint of Liars.

 

The Patron Saint of Liars is about a Catholic home for unwed mothers, and the struggles of the women to go back into their normal life after giving up their child. The home, Saint Elizabeth’s, is located in a grand old hotel, which was built on the site of a mystical healing spring. When the spring dries up and people stop visiting the hotel, the church buys the run-down rural Kentucky building. In the mid 1960s, Rose leaves her husband in California after finding out she is pregnant and heads for Saint Elizabeth’s. Despite being married and financially able to start a family, Rose feels trapped in her marriage and leaves on her cross-country road trip without telling her husband that she is pregnant.

Once at Saint Elizabeth’s, life changes drastically for Rose. After helping another girl give birth at the home so she can spend a few hours with her newborn twins before giving them up for adoption, Rose decided to keep the child she does not love. In a panic to find a way to keep her baby, Rose marries the home’s handy man. Despite pressure from the nuns, Rose begins her new life with her second husband Son and her newborn daughter Cecilia.

The book is divided into three parts: the first is narrated by Rose, beginning with her childhood and going through her rushed second marriage. The second section of the book is narrated by Son, and along with his background story tells the trials of their first ten years of being a family. The last section of the book is narrated by Cecilia, now 15 years old and struggling to fit into her odd family and life at Saint Elizabeth’s.

I strongly disliked the character of Rose. She was selfish, angry, distant and uncaring. The choices in her life were made with no thought to what other people may want. While she tried to justify her actions by saying that it is just her nature to leave and travel constantly and that people (her unwanted daughter, unloved second husband) should just be happy that she is staying home at all. For all his patience and support, however, Son also drove me crazy. He loved Rose so much that he never questioned why she came to Saint Elizabeth’s, why she never shares anything about her past, or why she remains so distant from daughter and husband but spends all her time and energy helping the pregnant girls at the home. Cecilia was the only character I truly enjoyed!

Yet despite my anger at two of the three main characters, I liked this book. The conclusion and character development is not as great as in Patchett’s later works, but The Patron Saint of Liars is a good book. The characters are complex (although not always explained enough for my liking), and the storyline made the book nearly impossible to put down. A quick read that raises important questions about motherhood, family, and secrets, The Patron Saint of Liars is recommended for anyone who enjoys a good read and a complex storyline.

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