book review: liars and saints

by Maile Meloy

So rushed out to our used bookstore to find the new book by Maile Meloy. Naturally they did not have the book, but they did have her first novel, Liars and Saints. The book is amazing. I read it in 24 hours, 8 of which I sleeping.

My latest favorite quote defining writing is “Writing is answering questions.” I think maybe Meloy is trying to answer the question: What trajectory would the life and family of a woman born in the thirties, married a wonderful, human, and jealous husband traverse? Everyone in the family ends up lying, to protect one another.
One of the last conversations in the book goes:

“Why did I never know this?” she said. “Why do I never know anything?”

“Because you believe what everyone tells you,” he said. “Nothing wrong with that. It’s what they want.”

What do you know about your family? Or what do you know about your mother? Since Linda is dead, I think about this a lot. How would I go about imagining her life? She was both a liar and a saint. She got married at 30 and completely changed her life. I discovered pictures of her from her time flying in her desk once. They were small, square, and in color. She was at some ocean, I now imagine to be the coast of France. Linda came upon me looking at and sorting the pictures, and confiscated them. Erica keeps saying she has them, but I have seen no evidence of their continued existence. Did the pictures even exist? Did my mom really exist before me? Do I really exist without her?

I think truth is something that becomes less important, while understanding increases in importance as time goes on. And this book does a great job at showing the reader why that is true. Each chapter is told from the point of view from another member of the family’s point of view. We can see where their feelings might change if they knew the truth, or because they know the truth of something.

Maybe some of you will remember me reviewing The Stone Diaries, a book that chronicled the life of one woman. I wonder if Meloy consciously tried to imitate that book, but Liars and Saints definitely reminded of the book, because the book’s arch takes the form of the life of the mom, Yvette, similarly to The Stone Diaries story arch.

The bottom line: go buy the book. Look, I will send my book to the first person who reads the blog and wants it. In continue to be insanely jealous of Meloy, and all the while hope we will someday cross paths. (p.s. She is from Helena. p.p.s. The title in the UK was Love and Liars and Saints. I wonder which she preferred. I like the UK title more.)

1 comment:

SAHM said...

You know I will read it. I am always a sucker for a good book. I would be happy to return or pass on to the next reader. By the way, anyone else special you want the People of the Book passed along to?