Saints for all occasions

J. Courtney Sullivan

Book - 2017

"A sweeping, unforgettable novel fromThe New York Timesbest-selling author ofMaine, about the hope, sacrifice, and love between two sisters and the secret that drives them apart. 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 besot...ted 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. A graceful, supremely moving novel from one of our most beloved writers,Saints for All Occasionsexplores the fascinating, funny, and sometimes achingly sad ways a secret at the heart of one family both breaks them and binds them together"--

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FICTION/Sullivan, J. Courtney
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Subjects
Genres
Domestic fiction
Published
New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2017.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
335 pages ; 25 cm
ISBN
9780307959577
0307959570
Main Author
J. Courtney Sullivan (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

On a terrible night in 2009, Nora Rafferty is woken with the news that her eldest son, Patrick, has died in a car crash, likely the result of his own drunken driving. In a haze of grief and rage, she telephones her long-estranged sister—a cloistered nun—and leaves a message informing her of his death. Sullivan's fourth novel is a quietly devastating look at the power a secret, in this case the secret of Patrick himself, can wield over an entire family for generations. The story jumps through time, from the 1957 arrival of sisters Nora and Theresa Flynn from Ireland to the present, each part narrated by a different member of the family, elegantly woven together to form a more complete, if not quite intact, picture of how the consequences of choices made by Nora and Theresa 50 years earlier came to define not only the two of them but each of Nora's now-grown children, who love and loathe their mother in equal measure. Sullivan once again expertly delivers a messy and complicated family story with sharp yet sympathetic writing. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

A New York Times best-selling author with best book nods for her three previous titles—The Engagements, Maine, and Commencement—Sullivan returns with a family saga starring two Irish sisters, responsible Nora and wild-hare Theresa. They've come to America with big dreams that get shifted when Nora must think up a plan to deal with Theresa's unexpected pregnancy. Decades later, Nora rules a bustling family, while Theresa is a cloistered nun. A big national tour. Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Patrick is dead, a victim of his own drunk driving. His mother, Nora, stoically delivers the bad news to Patrick's siblings and makes the arrangements for a traditional Irish wake and funeral. She also calls her sister, Theresa, a nun living in a convent in New Hampshire, and steels herself to reveal the family secret she has been hiding for 50 years. Then the story line jumps back to Nora's immigration with Theresa from Ireland to Boston in 1957. Nora is not sure she wants to continue with the plans that brought her to America, but the young and naïve Theresa is eager to start her new life. When Theresa discovers that she is pregnant, Nora devises a plan to save her reputation, with the consequences revealed in scenes that alternate between past and present. VERDICT Best-selling author Sullivan (Commencement) brings her characters to life, capturing the complexities and nuances of family, tradition, and kept secrets. For all fiction readers. [See Prepub Alert,1/4/17.]—Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Sullivan's (The Engagements) latest is the story of Rafferty family matriarch Nora, her estranged sister, Theresa, and the secrets that an Irish Catholic upbringing led them to keep from their children. After leaving Ireland for Boston in the late '50s, the effervescent Theresa finds herself pregnant by a married man. Dour Nora agrees to care for baby Patrick as her own. Theresa moves to New York and pursues a career as a teacher before going into convent life, eventually becoming Mother Cecilia. Charismatic Patrick dies in 2009 after a life of drinking and letting his temper get the best of him. His overachieving brother John is agonizing about whether he's somehow responsible for Patrick's death after a revelation about the role of the politician John works for in an incident from Patrick's childhood. Their sister, Bridget, is resentful that Nora refuses to acknowledge her relationship with girlfriend Natalie, who will soon have a baby. Brian, the youngest, is living with Nora after a failed career in baseball. Patrick's funeral leads to a surprise visit from Theresa, much to Nora's chagrin. Sullivan has a gift for capturing complicated sibling dynamics, especially in a family ruled by Catholic repression. Nora is imprisoned by the need to avoid shame and being the subject of gossip. In contrast, Theresa allows her religion to free her by letting it influence her life. Nora's need for secrecy builds walls between John and Patrick, though Theresa's presence might finally reveal all. Sullivan's quiet ending is a satisfying conclusion to this rich, well-crafted story. 75,000-copy announced first printing. (May) Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"A sweeping, unforgettable novel fromThe New York Timesbest-selling author ofMaine, about the hope, sacrifice, and love between two sisters and the secret that drives them apart. 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 fashionabledresses 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 familywith 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. A graceful, supremely moving novel from one of our most beloved writers,Saints for All Occasionsexplores the fascinating, funny, and sometimes achingly sad ways a secret at the heart of one family both breaks them and binds them together"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

After moving to America, a shy and responsible older sister and a gregarious young sister who thrives in their new Boston home endure the long-term repercussions of a fateful decision when the younger sister becomes pregnant.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Moving from Ireland to America upon coming of age, a shy and responsible older sister and a gregarious young sister who thrives in their new Boston home endure the long-term repercussions of a fateful decision when the younger sister becomes pregnant.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

"A sweeping novel about two sisters--one the matriarch of a boisterous Irish Catholic family, the other a cloistered nun, hidden from the world--and the secret that drove them apart"--

Review by Publisher Summary 5

A NATIONAL BESTSELLER A New York Times Critics’ Top Book of 2017 "This year’s best book about family." —Ron Charles, The Washington PostA sweeping, unforgettable novel from The New York Times best-selling author of Maine, about the hope, sacrifice, and love between two sisters and the secret that drives them apart.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, quietly 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, 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. A graceful, supremely moving novel from one of our most beloved writers, Saints for All Occasions explores the fascinating, funny, and sometimes achingly sad ways a secret at the heart of one family both breaks them and binds them together.