The Patron Saint of Liars

The Patron Saint of Liars

by Ann Patchett

Debbie Weiss (08/30/11): Anne has summarized the plot of this book in her review very well. It seems like nobody in this book feels a necessity of telling the truth to anyone else. First there is Rose, the main character in the book and an inveterate liar. She becomes pregnant and at first she decideds to give the baby up for adoption. She changes her mind, has the baby, but she never feels the necessity of telling her daughter, Cecelia, about her real father. Rose never feels the necessity of telling her second husband, Son, about her first husband back in California. And...Son never feels the necessity of telling Rose about what happened to his first love, Cecelia. The person who is harmed with all these hidden secrets is young Cecilia (named for Son's first love) who feels neglected by her mother and desperate to uncover the mysteries of her family. I really enjoyed the book and am rating it a 4. I think that Ann Patchett is a very good writer and I have enjoyed all of her books that I have read so far.
Rating:* ***

Anne Ferber: Caveat emptor: This is the debut novel of the author of Bel Canto, so the writing is there, but the characters and plot lines can use some filling in -- or out!

Rose Clinton, the main character and narrater of the first part of this book is a very confused and confusing young woman. She enters a loveless marriage at an early age and only enjoys herself when she is "driving" aimlessly from morning till night. Escape? to where?? Finally, upon realizing she is pregnant, she does escape to St. Elizabeth's Home for unwed mothers halfway across the country, and creates a strange destiny for herself. Realizing she wants to keep her child, she enters another loveless marriage with Son, a man 20 years her senior and names the child Cecelia, after his childhood sweetheart (the name is tattood on his arm).

So what we have here is lying galore! The girls who come to the Home all lie about thier "dead husbands", Rose lies about her past in order to stay at the home and raise her daughter. Son, a sweet man who adores Rose, promotes lying by not requiring any explanations for her bazarre behavior. He narrates the second part of the book detailing his own background which is also pretty sad.

The only person who tries to get to the bottom of Rose's secretive personality is Cecelia who narrates the third part of the book as a teenager. I found this part to be the most refreshing as it attempts, through Cecelia's adorable personality, to be saying: "Come on, let's help each other here!" I must say, the sweetest lie in this book is Cecelia's pride in seeing "HER" name tattood on her "father's" arm which she believes happened on the day of her birth. Ultimately, however, the truth be told, lying cannot sustain relationships and this is illustrated in the book's denouement.
Rating: ***

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