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All Saints

3.11 of 5 stars 3.11  ·  rating details  ·  214 ratings  ·  67 reviews
The acclaimed author of The Cloud Atlas returns with a wondrous second novel. Set in a small beachfront Catholic high school, narrated by a beautifully complex heroine–theology teacher Emily Hamilton–All Saints is at once a mystery, a love story, and a powerful rumination on secrets, temptation, and faith.

By life’s midpoint Emily has seen three husbands, dozens of friends
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 25th 2008 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published 2007)
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Feb 12, 2008 Diane rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I wouldn't recommend it
Recommended to Diane by: Heard/met author at a Reader's event
I really wanted to like this book because Liam Callanan is such an entertaining speaker and a Wisconsin (local) author. But. I had trouble making myself finish it and found myself wanting to grab the main character by the shoulders and shriek "Snap out of it!" So, if Callanan was trying to evoke strong emotion, he succeeded.

Pace was slow, excrutiatingly so for me. The story thread about the three students had promise and though that promise remained unfulfilled, Paul's character/story were enoug
The story of how a neurotic woman teaching at a Catholic high school assumes everything is always about her.

Okay, I'm exaggerating. This is the story of Emily Hamilton, a woman who is constantly restating her name, as well as the pronoun "I," throughout this story of her romantic entanglements with students and a dying priest. I initially thought the approach would be satirical - Emily's propensity for saying clearly ridiculous things like "when I am - finally - elected president or pope" don't
The syntax of this novel is obtuse. It is very difficult to differentiate between the narrator's internal dialogues and actual conversations in the book. It is also extremely hard to identify what happens in plot and what is imagined by the narrator.

While reading it you don't develop any connections to the characters so you don't care what happens to them, even when you can figure it out.

The info provided on some of the saints is mildly interesting but the same information, plus more, could ce
Sep 11, 2007 Linda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who love character depth and can handle heavy topics.
I REALLY liked this book; not everyone would, however. It has few joyful parts to it. Rather, there is one crisis (or weird incident), after another. In the same fashion as Wally Lamb in SHE'S COME UNDONE, we have a male author taking a female point of view. Calanan writes beautifully and captures Emily's slightly injured, slightly vulnerable, quite cynical characterization perfectly. ALL SAINTS refers to the name of the Catholic high school. I enjoyed the saints' stories intermixed with the plo ...more
Both frustrating and beautiful this is one of the more powerful books that I've read in a long time. It's not often that I would want to both hurl a book against the wall for not telling me something, and then moments later make me pause and think for 10 minutes. Better to read with less distractions, where you can really take some time with it.
Catholic theology? An illicit affair between a teacher and a student? A very sarcastic narrator? What's not to love here?
Set in a small beachfront Catholic high school, narrated by a beautifully complex heroine–theology teacher Emily Hamilton–All Saints is at once a mystery, a love story, and a powerful rumination on secrets, temptation, and faith.

By life’s midpoint Emily has seen three husbands, dozens of friends, and hundreds of students come and go. And now her classroom, long her refuge, is proving to be
anything but.

Though her popular, occasionally irreverent church history course is rich with stories of lo
Pauline Harder
Apparently a pullitzer prize short lister, but deliberately tries to be vague and obscure. Characters never say anything they are thinking out loud - and never even let us know what they are thinking but just hint at it as if if we were more perceptive readers we'd surely know. But we're too damned dumb - or the author is just so subtle and esoteric... Almost can't picture any of the characters - no real sense of who they are. Seems pretentious.
I don't know what to think about this one. At first I really disliked it--the narrator seemed so irritatingly self-absorbed (yeah, I know, if you're the narrator, it really is all about you), and it jumps around in time constantly. Some lines are very clever and some are annoyingly too clever. There are moments of beauty and some parts that seem profound, but I'm sort of mixed up about how it all comes together--or does it come together? I went looking for a professional review to see if someone ...more
I enjoyed this book. It was a truly different character study of a fascinating complex woman -- I laughed out loud a few times, was captivated by the insightful observations at others, yet could not help noticing that some of the details just did not hold together. Perhaps my problem with this book is that it represents the postmodern constructivist view of identity and I favor the idea that, at least mentally, people are driven to create coherent narratives that explain themselves. I so wanted, ...more
Mai Ling
I want to give this five stars, but the end was so sad that I think I have to leave it at four. The characters in this book are so rich -- so rich that I almost wish I was Catholic. Just kidding!

Talk about a bizarre love traingle (it may have had five sides), of all places, at a Catholic high school (called All Saints) on the beach in L.A. I don't want to get into details, but the main character was quite a mess, and I love the way she told her story, picking pieces from the present and the past
Rarely do I stop a book before it is finished, but I just could NOT get into this book. The writing style was confusing and the characters did not grab me. Disappointing.
This was our latest book club pick, chosen by a woman who's good friends with the author's cousin. This was a intricate story, woven with tales of saints. I found Callanan's short, fractured sentences endearing, emphasizing the conversational nature of this story. Our group was intrigued at the prospect of reading this book written by a male author but told from the perspective of a woman. I'll admit, I had pictured a more masculine heroine until some of her physical details were revealed later ...more
I do like Callanan's conversational writing style, and this is an interesting story of faith, and the dysfunction it can sometimes cause. I did have a problem believing that this was a woman narrator, however, I felt the voice was very masculine. The ending, also seemed to come out of nowhere, and I had to reread it several times to understand what had happened. Overall, an enjoyable read nevertheless.
Beth Caruso
I don’t know how to review this book … the writing was in many ways interesting and creative. The story line made me crazy. The book took on a number of very serious story lines and tossed them around as if they were everyday occurrences. At times I wondered if I wasn’t following the story correctly – but I was. Most of the story was somewhat slow moving and then the last 50 pages were all action most of which didn’t add up to me. So why 3 stars instead of one or two … the writing and the fact t ...more
Dec 05, 2007 Ann rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the adventurous reader
Emily Hamilton seduces the reader the same way she draws people to her in real life. None of us escape unharmed. Emily is so sure she knows what other people are thinking that she never listens and by not listening she destroys other people's lives. Of course, all of us will recognize pieces of ourselves in the narrator and that in itself is a cautionary tale.

This is a very interesting and engaging novel. You may not ultimately like the book but it has a haunting quality that stays with the read
I hated the ending, but not because it was wrong or out of tone with the rest of the book. Otherwise, it was a rapturous reading experience and I was utterly charmed by the foul-mouthed, profane, irreverent, sarcastic Catholic school teacher with poor impulse control. If there were more people like this in it, I'd still be Catholic. I plucked this one at random off the library shelf for my Mom and then cracked it cautiously when she was done and my Tuesday night was totally hijacked.
Jun 15, 2008 Becca rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Becca by: Sara
Intriguing subject matter - scandal at a Catholic school- interspersed with histories of the lives of saints. I appreciated the unexpected turns of the story, the honesty with which the narrator, Emily, examines her ability to love, and the fresh conclusion she draws. Her story, however, pales next to that of my favorite character, Martin, the priest having a crisis of faith. Structurally, Emily interrupts herself and backtracks often, inhibiting the flow of the narrative.
Wonderfully surprised at how solid this book was. Not only was I engaged from the beginning to the end because of a well-planned plot, but the narrative voice was nuanced and authentic in an intriguing and artful way. And I can appreciate a piece of literature that is simply that -- a piece of literature. This book made no pretensions about changing lives or being the harbinger of a new moral code. It delivered a fine story and did it well.
Sheila Reno
Very interesting that a male author can be the voice of a 50 year old woman and make it work. It was hard to get the rhythm of his writing...a lot of not necessary by-the-ways...but refreshing in some ways as today's short novels are so succinct that it may spoil you for wordy prose. The plot was good and each of the characters had value and meaning. Good read. Looking forward to his "The Cloud Atlas." It sounds really exciting.
Server issues, Goodreads. Server issues. Before I start a rival website managed by my cat but still run better than yours.

Another man who doesn't know how to write a realistic woman. Another author who uses thousands of words and hundreds of commas to say absolutely NOTHING. This is a relatively short book that should have read very quickly and instead it just dragged, taking my will to live with it.
the cover of this book proclaims "the author of The Cloud Atlas"... oh that pesky "The". Thinking I was getting something by the author of Cloud Atlas I snatched it up. The whole time I was wondering how could he possibly have written Cloud Atlas AND this book. I finally realized it wasn't the same guy. I finished it nonetheless. Interesting in parts, but it never really pays off.

The tale is very engaging. The male author does an amazing job of developing the main character, a female. Complex syntax works to define the throught process of the characters. This story is not for everyone: the charaters are deeply flawed and sad, yet you continue to hope the best for them as they struggle and make repeated mistakes. Tragic, yet poignant.
I liked this book. I thought the teacher (main character) was awesome. I love how she mumble fumbled her way through a few life situations. I liked how the book was set up and how the author would take us through a few segues as the main character was working through an issue or explaining some idea to her class. loved loved the humor. and I liked the ending.
Precious but entertaining. As I am near the protagonist's age (50), its a little hard to feel sympathy for her as she succumbs to her fascination for a high school student. But I am fascinated by the intercession of the saints' lives with her narrative.

Just about the time the heroine started to get into the pants of one of her students I lost interest.
I loved being in workshop with GMU alum, Liam C, who is witty and friendly and gives insightful line by line critique. However, this book just didn't "do" it for me. Maybe I like my fiction too literarily dark and brooding, or complicated, but if you want a very voice driven, often funny and entertaining read (with lots of Catholic lore and history) go for it.
Didn't expect to like this with its fifty-year-old theology teacher narrator who claims to be named after virgins, but the voice is intriguing, the narrator and the plot are full of surprises, and the sympathy of the writing was incredibly refreshing. I'll be meeting the author on Monday-- wonder if that will dig up any new surprises.
I enjoyed the narrator's irreverent point of view and the writing style, but ultimately ding the story for predictability of plot points which are supposed to be surprising. Also, at the time I read it, the tragedy piled upon tragedy just wore me down. Maybe I needed to read an uplifting story about puppies rescuing children instead.
I really liked this book as I started it. I think my mood changed while I was reading it and it became somewhat unappealing as I moved along. However, I think that was more me than the book. I found the characters and their interactions interesting. The story was different and didn't necessarily take the easy way out.
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