Liars and Saints
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.
Read an Excerpt
They were married during the war, in Santa Barbara, after Mass one morning in the old Mission church. Teddy was solemn; he took the Mass very seriously. Yvette, in a veiled hat and an ivory dress that wasn't a gown, was distracted by the idea that she was in California, without her father there to give her away, and she was about to change her life and her name. "I, Yvette Grenier, take you, Theodore Santerre..." It all sounded formal and strange, as if someone else were saying the words, until she realized with surprise that it was her.
It was a quick wedding so Teddy could ship out, but they went two days later to a... see more
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Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Guide
1. How does the novel's unusual structure -- alternating chapters told from many points of view -- strengthen the story? Why is it so important for this particular novel that we read almost every character's point of view?
2. Do you think the novel has a main character? Is it Yvette, who hatches the plan that leads to so many family secrets? Is it Jamie, the root of his family's biggest secret? Is it Teddy, the Santerre family patriarch? Is there no main character?
3. When Yvette devises the plan to hide Margot's pregnancy, who or what do you think she is trying hardest to protect? Margot? Jamie? Teddy? Herself? Her family's reputation?
4. Discuss the importance of Catholicism in the Santerre family. Consider such things as Yvette's out-of-body experience at the convent, Abby's decision to be baptized when she learns she has cancer, T.J.'s stabbing Jamie during Mass, Jamie's and Yvette's relationship with Father Jack, and Yvette's last thoughts before she dies. How does religion positively and negatively affect the choices each character makes?
5. What is the significance of Abby's decision to be baptized in light of the role religion has played in her family's life? Discuss the parallels between her pregnancy and Margot's. How does their religion influence their situations and the way their pregnancies affect other family members?
6. Early in the novel, a priest convinces Yvette to see more