The Book Project: The Patron Saint of Liars

Posted: 1 July 2008 in the book project, writing

What, Who, WhenThe Patron Saint of Liarsby Ann Patchett.  Published in 2003.

Why on Earth: My mother has been after me to read something by Ann Patchett for years.  It’s true, the “You should really read something by this Ann Patchett woman” refrain was a constant companion to our conversations, usually sung right after “Are you sure you should quit the Foreign Service?” and “Have you called your sister lately?”  Let it be said that when I finally did read something by that Patchett woman and told my mother about it, she said “Who?  I have no idea what you’re talking about really.  I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by her.”  This is one more brick in the crazy wall, people.

Well?: The Patron Saint of Liars stands on a tripod of perspectives.  A woman, her husband and her daughter take us in turns through a life built on the edges of a Catholic home for unwed pregnant girls that is outwardly quiet but inwardly broiling with restless energy and longing.  I echo so many of the sentiments of the lead character, her delight in driving as an escape, her restlessness, her focus on simplicity in order to distract from spilling, riotous emotion; yet, I don’t have the coldness and detachment she uses to temper her relationships. 

I do like the way each character seems to pick up the next third of the book rather than skipping from person to person.  The only book I’ve ever enjoyed that successfully skipped around was the Time Traveler’s Wife.  In this case, no perspective vertigo, only a simple snapshot of a family over a decade or so.  Mark one for that Patchett woman. 

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