Liars and Saints is an utterly compelling portrait of a family, the twists and turns of their lives unravelled with sensitivity and understanding. By turns laugh aloud funny and unbearably moving, this is a story that lasts beyond its final pages. Set in California, the narrative follows four generations of the Santerre family from World War II to the present, as they navigate a succession of life-changing events. With wonderful characters and a strong emotional heart, Liars and Saints has a huge potential market in paperback.
Opening with a wedding and ending with a funeral, Liars and Saints is stuffed to bursting point, yet manages to maintain a cool, elegant prose style throughout. Liars and Saints, Meloy's debut novel, following her story collection Half in Love, chronicles the life of the Santerre family, who sin with the gusto of true Catholics. Written in a series of short story-like vignettes, the family's saga is told in turn by every member, from Yvette the matriarch down to TJ, her great-grandson. We start out with a relatively run of the mill family secret, when in the 1950s Yvette sends daughter Margot off to a French convent for the duration of her teenage pregnancy. As the decades pass, the transgressions become wilder and more melodramatic, as if the Santerres are trying to keep up with the times by way of their naughty acts. What makes the novel work is that, all the while, Meloy maintains a quiet, slightly wry tone: illicit lovemaking and Bloody Mary mixing are recounted with the same equanimity. She also gets just right the tone of each era. When Yvette's other daughter Clarissa marries a jolly lawyer in the early 60s, he sends a telegram to Yvette: "HITCHED. THANKS FOR BEAUTIFUL DAUGHER. PROGENY PROMISED TO POPE." Similarly, in the 1970s the characters talk just groovily enough, and those of the 80s have a wised-up ring to their conversation. Most multi-generational sagas are dull forays into sentimentalism, but in the aptly titled Liars and Saints, Meloy has written a corker. --Claire Dederer, Amazon.com