BOOK REVIEW: Liars and Saints by Maile Meloy

Liars and Saints by Maile MeloyLiars and Saints
By Maile Meloy
Completed July 3, 2012

In her debut novel, Liars and Saints, Maile Meloy explores family relationships, deceit, truth and religion through the Santerre family. Spanning over four generations, each chapter is told from a member of the Santerre family – some get more of a voice than others, but each person is enveloped in the conflicts that rock the family.

The story opens with Yvette and Teddy Santerre during World War II. We learn that the couple are deeply in love, but their young marriage isn’t without struggles, compounded by Teddy’s deployment to the Pacific theater. Teddy is insecure and jealous of his beautiful wife, and Yvette wrestles with her roles as wife and mother. The couple have two daughters, Margot and Clarissa, and the story moves quickly to when the girls become teenagers, and a particular night that would change the family forever.

At the surface, the issues facing the Santerre family are the stuff of daytime soap operas, but Meloy writes so eloquently, you hardly notice. The family members individually grapple with truth versus deceit. Is it better to spill the beans or keep things discreet? Sometimes, the choices the family made were ones they want to hide (even from each other), while others need to be aired out. True to life, you don’t know if it is a good idea to disclose a secret until after it’s done. Hindsight is always 20/20.

Liars and Saints is a solid debut, and I am not surprised to find it on the Orange Prize short list (2005). It’s not without flaws, but its pace and story development are spot on. I look forward to more stories by Maile Meloy. (  )


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dee Ingram
    Jul 04, 2012 @ 22:37:35

    This one’s been at the bottom of my To Read mountain for years now.Thanks for helping to nudge it up, Jill. I’d forgotten it was an orange!


  2. Buried In Print
    Jul 06, 2012 @ 07:32:52

    I read this on the advice of a friend some years ago and, for about the first half or a little more, I was thinking “yah, it’s okay”, and then it all crept up on me, and I realized just how invested I had become in the characters. It was one of my favourites in that reading year and MM immediately earned a spot on my list of writers to watch. Thanks for reminding me that I’ve yet to get to her stories. So well done!


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