Saint Monkey
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Saint Monkey

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  106 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Fourteen-year-old Audrey Martin, with her Poindexter glasses and her head humming the 3/4 meter of gospel music, knows she ll never get out of Kentucky but when her fingers touch the piano keys, the whole church trembles. Her best friend, Caroline, daydreams about Hollywood stardom, but both girls feel destined to languish in a slow-moving stopover town in Montgomery Count...more
Hardcover, 350 pages
Published February 24th 2014 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Jason Diamond
I liked this book. I wrote about it at Flavorwire:
Angie Hickman
I first began reading the print version of this novel. I found the poetic language in the first few pages so dense and rich (like the best flourless cake) that I was unable to consume it in very large bites. When the audio version became available, I was able to let the words wash over me while I washed produce and dishes and countertops.

It's as though Jacinda Townsend's story pulled out the part of my brain that I call "my guts," rearranged things a bit, then put it all back in, in the way that...more
Good writers keep coming from everywhere with all sorts of stories. It's a wonderful thing to experience. Ms. Townsend has burst onto this scene with a crafty literary novel for her maiden voyage.

Essentially a coming of age story focused on the lives of Audrey and Caroline aka Pookie. The novel takes turns alternating between these two voices. Despite starting the girls' narrative at an early age the skillful writing helps to avoid that young adult feel. Her writing is engaging and she has some...more
Gritty luscious novel on par with Hurston and Morrison. I loved it and can't wait to read more of Jacinda Townsend's work.
Andrew Clem.
This novel provides excellent character development of the two central characters and a strong sense of place both the black community in small town Kentucky and the Harlem music scene. The plot pacing is uneven with the last sections seeming rushed resulting in a less than satisfying ending. There are similarities to Toni Morrison's Sula, two friends in a small town in the Kentucky/Southern Ohio region, their struggles and desires to escape the confines of race and geography, their relationship...more
It took me longer than it should've to get through this novel and I skimmed full sections of it after awhile, but I also admire the relationship at the core of it. Caroline and Audrey's friendship feels fairly toxic but the venom that seems to course between them after a time wouldn't be potent if they'd never known a deep love for one another. The book resembles Sula in that way, except Caroline and Audrey's abandonments and betrayals if one another seem far more drastic and are never forgiven....more
Saint Monkey, started out slow for me. But as I started reading more about Caroline and Audrey I couldn't put it down. Caroline and Audrey are two young Black girls growing up poor in Kentucky. They call themselves friends. But, their friendship is really based on loss. Audrey's father dies in the war. Caroline's mother is killed by her father. They are very different. Caroline is reckless. She has the responsibility of taking care of her young sister and her grandmother after her father murders...more
Denise Billings
Good literature. Set in 1957. I thought it was just another coming of age story until I got to page 26. I related to so much of what the characters endured.

Here's and example: On page 82 Caroline thinks Audrey acts like a white girl, "like she ain't got the White Kids' used school-books just like the rest of us, handed down to the Montgomery Colored (school) with 'Nigger, can you red this?' written across all the pages in red ink pen." Ouch. Townsend is really good at describing pain.

This is the story of two young girls dealing with the pain of loss. They hold petty jealousies against one another and the fragile friendship falls apart. Both girls behave cruelly to one another in ways the other will never know of by withholding memories and belongings from each other. This book is rich in narrative and setting; the author's language and observations are beautifully wrought. I look forward to more stories by Ms. Townshend.
A first novel, and in some places the writing somewhat overwhelms the clarity of what the author is trying to convey. Two girls grow up together in the same small Eastern Kentucky town. Both dream of being loved and somehow escaping the limitations of their town and their family. The relationship between the two, I couldn't call it friendship, is complex and full of both jealousy, bitterness and attraction.
Michael Delaware
I won this book with a Goodreads giveaway. I found the story to be interesting, and the style of writing to be challenging as a reader. The author does a great job with the writing style from the viewpoint of the characters, and captures the flavor of the period. However, as I continued to read I found myself as a reader somewhat disappointed with the pace of the story and the ultimate end. Written in a style that could be compared to a cross between 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee and 'So...more
Ivy Pittman
It was a difficult start due to the vernacular which Townsend begins the story of Caroline aka Pookie and Audrey. But Saint Monkey gets a kick start once Audrey's piano playing career takes her to Harlem, while her salty friend, Caroline is left behind to find her way.
"no one will ever look up and see us; it's not in most people's natures to look beyond what they think they should see." I tried to describe this book to a friend and struggled. I enjoyed it, and would definitely recommend it, but I'm not sure why even. None of the individual components are all that memorable, but the overall whole is compelling.
Carolyn Hanson
Rich, colorful writing, great contrasting characters & interesting plot. The final few chapters were a little disappointing, but probably just because i was hoping for more happiness & connection. Glad to have met Audrey & Caroline; look forward to future novels from Jacinda Townsend~
Jennifer Ochoa
Beautifully written but sad tale of two friends, Audrey and Caroline, who grow apart. The book is written in first person, alternating between the perspectives of each young woman, so that you can see their failures in understanding each other's intentions. While it took me a couple chapters to get into the rhythm of the dialogue and narrative (not a negative), I really enjoyed what emerged. The characters, both primary and secondary, were complex and lifelike. There were a lot of rich literary...more
This is a dark novel. It's really depressing and it's hard to connect to such unlikeable characters. The writing is poetic at times and the storyline is's just too sad.
Victoria Law
Townsend re-creates growing up black and female in late 1950s Kentucky (and being black and female in NYC) so well that it hurts to read.
I gave it a chance based on Goodreads reviews but after 1/3 of the book, I put it down. I just could not get into it.
Molly Michelle Gunter
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Patricia Eichenlaub
This is a haunting book! Two young black girls are growing up in Kentucky in the 1950's. Nothing about their life is easy. But they have each other, sort of, until they part ways. There are two major voices. Each one helps us to see the other character in clearer relief. The story is told beautifully with startling images and with their perspectives which are honest and innocent. There are many books about growing up but few are as hard on their characters and their readers as this one. Thanks f...more
Connie Klever
Liked it, especially jazz era element.
Liza Ferguson
This was a Good Reads First Reads Giveaway book. The time frame, characters, and locations were perfect choices for this story. However, it was at times hard to follow. It bounces back and forth as a 1st person from one character's perspective to another character's. This made it harder for me to stay interested in the book. At key points in the book, it always seemed that I was getting the perspective from the wrong character. It would have been so much better had it not been written this way.
Very well written- but slice of life. You have to be willing to spend a lot of time in this sleepy daydream.
Julie Lemieux
Many of the debut novels are very good, and this is no exception.
This is a great book about 2 black girls growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. They live in a rural Kentucky town during one of the most turbulent times in this country. What I loved about this book was that the things that happened during this time are a side show to the two girls, and what it meant to grow up black in rural Kentucky, they don't take center stage. In the end you really feel for both girls for their lost dreams.
Linnet Tse
Fascinating story of two black girls growing up in a forsaken town in Kentucky. The writing started off very strong, but loss momentum for me once Audrey moved to NYC. The story is told from the two girls' points of view, alternating back and forth, very effectively. Will be interesting to follow this debut author.
A very easy book to pick up & get lost in. The central story (two friends grow up together but have very different life paths) is an old familiar one but the characters & settings are ones you don't see often, at least not in such a complex and multidimensional way as she writes them.
Beautifully written with an interesting narrative structure, in which two "friends" tell the stories of their lives in the late 50s and early 60s. I especially enjoyed the rich descriptions of Harlem and life as a musician at the Apollo.
I won this book through goodreads first reads for free.

The setting and writing had put my mind in the far past. I think the overall concept, is a point made, and I felt that this was a justifiable read.
Loved this book. Some of the most beautiful writing I've read in a long time. Deserves 4.5 stars.
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Mansfield Public ...: The"Saint Monkey" review by Angela Coye- Smith 1 2 Jul 12, 2014 11:52AM  
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Jacinda Townsend grew up in Southcentral Kentucky. She studied at Harvard University and Duke University Law School before receiving her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Since receiving her MFA she has been a Fulbright fellow to Côte d’Ivoire, a Carol Houck Smith fiction fellow at the University of Wisconsin, and a Hurston-Wright Award finalist. She lives in Bloomington, Indiana and teaches cr...more
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