Novel of the week
Saints for All Occasions
J. Courtney Sullivan’s latest novel is “a quiet masterpiece,” said Ron Charles in The Washington Post. The story of an Irish Catholic family, it opens with the death of a 50-year-old Boston man whose mother, Nora Rafferty, has spent a lifetime trying to exert control over the people she loves. Before long, we know all those people, and thanks to Sullivan’s magic touch, “care about them as if they were our own family.” In a flashback to the 1950s, we see Nora leaving Ireland with her teenage sister, Theresa, neither suspecting that within a year, Theresa will have a baby and Nora and her new husband will adopt the boy as their own, thus establishing a pattern of well-intentioned but corrosive deception. Though the Raffertys are a loving clan, “misunderstandings ricochet through the family’s generations like so much shrapnel,” said Sarah Begley in Time.com. The reader can see how secrets are pulling the family apart, yet the novel celebrates them for their determination to lead saintly lives.
“They may fail, but they keep trying.” ■