Reviews for Liars and Saints : A Novel
Booklist Monthly Selections - # 1 May 2003
Meloy is an outstanding short story writer, as evident in her collection, Half in Love (2002), and her signature clarity and concreteness also grace her first novel, in which a series of episodic scenes forms a family album that documents not the usual gatherings and celebrations but, rather, covert moments of overwhelming lust, confusion, fear, and revelation. Indeed, the Santerres, starting with lovely Yvette and uptight Teddy, a World War II marine, are hardly a typical Catholic family. When their eldest daughter gets pregnant in high school, Yvette concocts an elaborate ruse and convinces Teddy that the baby is theirs. Similar secret begettings, concealed identities, and hidden anguish occur in each subsequent generation as Yvette becomes increasingly religious and Teddy struggles to love his rule-breaking progeny. As Meloy boldly dramatizes one family's labyrinthine lies and maneuverings, acts of generosity and forbearance, folly and tragedy, she deftly probes the parameters of faith and love. In its finer moments, Meloy's sexy, circular, five-decade-spanning tale transcends its soap-opera tendencies and calls to mind the work of Antonya Nelson and Andre Dubus. ((Reviewed May 1, 2003)) Copyright 2003 Booklist Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 2003 April #2
A multigenerational first novel told with remarkable compression and precision.Devoutly Catholic Yvette defies her family to marry Teddy shortly before he ships out as a WWII pilot. Although the Santerres' early happiness in California sours due to Teddy's inevitable jealousy-though always true to him, Yvette radiates sexuality-they do have two daughters. When adolescent Margot is seduced by a dance teacher, Yvette packs her off to relatives in France, tells Teddy she herself is the pregnant one, then decamps to a convent to cover her lie until the baby is born. Margot, who never acknowledges Jamie as her son, is later unable to bear the children she and her kindly if sketchily drawn husband desperately want. Meanwhile, Margot's rebellious younger sister Clarissa dotes on Jamie, whom she assumes is her baby brother, but then she runs away with a '60s-style idealistic, self-centered law student. Yvette's warning that he'll make Clarissa unhappy proves true, and when he puts his blossoming political career ahead of family, Clarissa divorces him. By now, Jamie, a troubled youth, has left Yvette and Teddy's home after a major blow-up. He moves in with Clarissa and helps raise her daughter Abby (who adores her uncle-really her cousin), until she leaves for college. A couple of years later, at a family reunion, Abby and Jamie have sex (while Clarissa begins a lesbian relationship). Abby gets pregnant and soon after is diagnosed with cancer. Although Clarissa and Jamie have both lapsed from their Catholic faith, Abby demands to be baptized. She dies soon after she gives birth, and Jamie, officially only the godfather, raises the child. The secrets the Santerres keep in failed attempts to protect each other gradually unravel even as some of them find private happiness. Finally, Yvette's murder draws the family together.Prizewinning storywriter Meloy (Half in Love, 2002) pushes every melodramatic hot button with disarming understatement. Copyright Kirkus 2003 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved
Library Journal Reviews 2003 May #1
Following last year's well-received short story collection Half in Love, Meloy shows how skillful she is at hurtling the reader into an intriguing story line. Yvette, a beautiful young French Canadian woman, goes against her father's wishes by marrying an American fighter pilot during World War II. Her life as a soldier's wife in sunny 1940s California is pleasant, but husband Teddy is called up again for the Korean War. When she admits to an innocent flirtation with a photographer while Teddy is overseas, he is overcome with jealousy. Yvette vows never to be so honest again, and thus starts a series of lies that both trouble and bind together the family for generations. Although devoutly Catholic, Yvette finds ways to justify her deceptions within her faith. She develops an elaborate ruse to cover her oldest daughter Margot's teenage pregnancy and pose as the mother of the baby, Jamie. Margot, the least realistic character, shows no love for her brother/son, but her sister Clarissa establishes a close, lifelong relationship. Later, Clarissa's daughter Abby becomes emotionally tangled with him. Meloy cleverly shows the family's interconnections from many viewpoints, but the novel's accelerated pace flattens the characters rather than defines them. Still, the unusual plot makes for a compelling read. Recommended for most collections.-Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ. Libs., Harrisonburg, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2003 April #4
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. (June) Forecast: Widespread review attention for this novel should also spur sales of Half in Love, out in paperback from Scribner in July. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.