Friday Reads: Saints for All Occasions


“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.  Topics may be new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

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This week’s book is a novel I put on the Staff Picks shelf recently.  I don’t read fiction very often, (Okay, I admit to some fluffy escapist fiction occasionally.) but this novel had me hooked from the beginning.  It is deep, thought-provoking, well-crafted and spot on in describing a particular time, place and group of people.  I highly recommend Saints for All Occasions (2017) by J. Courtney Sullivan.

The publisher summarizes it thusly:

“Nora and Theresa Flynn are twenty-one and seventeen when they leave their small village in Ireland and journey to America. Nora is the responsible sister; she’s shy and serious and engaged to a man she isn’t sure that she loves. Theresa is gregarious; she is thrilled by their new life in Boston and besotted with the fashionable dresses and dance halls on Dudley Street. But when Theresa ends up pregnant, Nora is forced to come up with a plan–a decision with repercussions they are both far too young to understand. Fifty years later, Nora is the matriarch of a big Catholic family with four grown children: John, a successful, if opportunistic, political consultant; Bridget, privately preparing to have a baby with her girlfriend; Brian, at loose ends after a failed baseball career; and Patrick, Nora’s favorite, the beautiful boy who gives her no end of heartache. Estranged from her sister and cut off from the world, Theresa is a cloistered nun, living in an abbey in rural Vermont. Until, after decades of silence, a sudden death forces Nora and Theresa to confront the choices they made so long ago.”

Sullivan also wrote the novels Commencement (2009), The Engagements (2013) and Maine (2011) which was a New York Times best-seller, Time magazine best book of the year and a Washington Post Notable Book.

For readers who enjoyed My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott, The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, you are sure to enjoy Saints for All Occasions as well.   It makes a wonderful book club book as there is a lot to keep a discussion rolling.

You can find the regular print hardcover on the Staff Picks shelf.  It is also available on CD, in large print, e-audio and e-book.


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