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Liars and Saints

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  2,806 ratings  ·  357 reviews
With her first novel, Liars and Saints, award-winning author Maile Meloy more than delivers on the promise of her highly acclaimed debut story collection, Half in Love. This novel tells a story of sex and longing, love and loss, and of the deceit that can lie at the heart of family relationships. Set in California, Liars and Saints follows four generations of the Catholic ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published July 13th 2004 by Scribner (first published 2003)
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Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,806 ratings  ·  357 reviews

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Lew Watts
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
A writer friend suggested I read this, and I'm glad she did. Her question to me was simple: how did Ms Meloy create her characters so effortlessly? Normally, I would shy away from any novel with religious overtones, particularly catholic (it's a long story...), but I entered this one with a set task, concentrating on technique, looking for "show, don't tell" and any subtleties around third person narrative. And do you know what?—I still can't figure out how the characters are made real.
Some rev
Kara Babcock
Ever anticipate a book, then sit down and read the first chapter and get a sinking feeling as you realize your expectations are most certainly going to be dashed? Yeah, that's how Liars and Saints made me feel. Although it was already on my to-read list, I bumped it to the top because I intended to read it and then give it to a friend for her birthday. I think I'll be revising that plan to "read and donate to the library."

To be fair, Maile Meloy is a good writer. Liars and Saints is wonderfully
Mar 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
What a beautiful book. Meloy writes the most unbelievable sentences; every thought is so well-crafted and simple that it makes you feel like you're breathing the story instead of actually reading a book. I really cannot begin to recommend this book highly enough and I'm not even sure why. Where else can you find a writer who can cover the entire childhood of a character in a single sentence and encapsulate that person's essence? It's BRILLIANT, is what it is, and I'm in awe of her. Absolutely in ...more
May 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Catholics, Californians
I really wanted to give this book another star -- it was a hypnotizing, deeply engrossing read that I kept thinking about long after I finished it -- but for such a lean, sprinting narrative, there were too many operatic twists to sustain credibility. While I welcomed these at the beginning (who isn't riveted by family dysfunction?), the rapid pile-up of surprises made an otherwise moody, contemplative narrative seem more and more convoluted. The final deus ex machina (literally!) pulled it do ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
‘Liars and Saints’ by Maile Meloy is excellent. The writing is superb, the characters are interesting. However, for me, it also was an intriguing study of a family. I felt like an anthropologist. I frequently feel like an anthropologist in reading domestic fiction about middle-class American families. My American underclass family was totally whack, so domestic fiction about regular normal families either bores me to death or fascinates me. ‘Liars and Saints’ fascinated me.

Four generations of re
Oct 23, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
Lairs and Saints is a cleverly written and poetically told novel about three generations of a Catholic family, stretching from World War 2 to the present day.

Oddly for a book that unravels for the reader so many stories about one family, I finished this book feeling distant from all of the characters. Although I was interested in them and enjoyed reading different chapters from different perspectives, I didn't love, like or even hate any of the characters. Some were better realised than others,
Jun 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Maile Meloy's Liars and Saints snuck up on me. It's not a brash book. It does not force you to love it. It sits quietly with its hands folded in contemplation and waits for you to find what it is within it that moves you. And when you are moved by this book,you are most certainly moved.

Told in three parts (Part I about temptation--both resisting and giving in to it, Part II about an attempt at redemption through service or sacrifice and Part III about homecoming), Liars and Saints follows the S
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
I had heard so many good things about Maile Meloy. I just finished Meloy's latest, Do Not Become Alarmed, wasn't satisfied, but I wanted to give her another chance and I checked this one out from the library. Well. This one was even worse and I am giving up on this author's work. Without giving too much away, this is a melodramatic story of a really messed up family. One crazy thing happens after another. There were too many "WTF" moments. I had to go back a few times to make sure I wasn't wrong ...more
Mar 18, 2008 rated it it was ok
It's like watching a soap opera. You can get involved in the story line, but actually loose brain cells while reading it. Bubble gum for the mind. ...more
Jul 29, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lighter
There's a kind of historical survey quality to this book -- it's not very long, yet tracks the members of a single family through 40 or 50 years. So "big" events are trotted out to mark the passage of time -- WWII, Kennedy's assassination, and so forth. Sometimes the narrative feels a little condensed because of that scope, but the real interest of the novel lies in the interplay between individual choices and the larger familial patterns. Around 2/3 of the way through, there were some real surp ...more
Nicole Harkin
Jul 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
So rushed out to our used bookstore to find the new book by Maile Meloy. Naturally they did not have the book, but they did have her first novel, Liars and Saints. The book is amazing. I read it in 24 hours, 8 of which I sleeping.

My latest favorite quote defining writing is “Writing is answering questions.” I think maybe Meloy is trying to answer the question: What trajectory would the life and family of a woman born in the thirties, married a wonderful, human, and jealous husband traverse? Ever
Dec 06, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Yvette had an over-the-shoulder smile like a pinup girl, and when the smile caught him right, it made it hard for Teddy to breathe. She had a chipped tooth on the right, a tiny chip you only noticed up close, and Teddy loved it. Even more, he loved the smile that forgot the chip was there. He wanted to kiss her teeth when he thought of it."

"Her darling baby brother, the one who had taught her what love was, and he treated her like a prying grown-up, which she guessed she was."

" had no rig
Stacy S.
Feb 04, 2011 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading this book. The ending was a bit hokey (the christmas dinner part) and not what I would have liked to have seen for this story. It's a book that follows a family through the ages and it really was special in the way that you gain an understanding and compassion for each character. It almost feels like you are also in their family. I know the dysfunction of it all put some people off, but I believe that most families do have quite a bit of dysfunction and so to me, it made the bo ...more
Sep 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
This novel is the first work I have read by Maile Meloy, and after reading it, I am looking forward to her short story collection, "Both Ways is the Only Way I Want it." The novel follows five tumultuous generations of a 20th century Catholic family. Generally, I dislike multi-generational stories - I feel as if I can never get invested enough in one generation because it's on to the next. However, these generations are intermeshed in interesting ways. The characters are believable and dimension ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read this book twice. When it was first released and then now, 10/10. I have a clearer understanding the second time around. The deep religious undertones struck a chord w/me and took me back to my youth and memories of my own mother. ...more
Nov 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Meloy tells the complex story of the Santerre family over the course of about fifty years. She intricately weaves each character in and out of the story, seamlessly jumping from one family member to the next.
Ayelet Waldman
I liked this book very much, although as often happens with family sagas, I sort of resented being dragged out of one character's point of view and into her child's, and then into that of the next generation. ...more
Ellen Noonan
The plot goes too far in the direction of a Lifetime movie at points, but the characters are beautifully drawn and her exploration of how different family members experience Catholocism over the course of their lives is wonderful and moving. And it's her first novel! Jaysus. ...more
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
I thought this book was horrible. I loved the book "Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It". This book left me feeling sad and confused. ...more
Kerry O'Grady
Mar 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved the writing style. Love the several generational family story.
Benyakir Horowitz
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
So that break that I wrote about… it didn’t take me nearly as long to get through some things so I’m back to reading (at least temporarily). I’m also looking for comps, so I maybe shouldn’t have read a book from the early 2000s. Oh well, I’ll have to settle with having read a good book.

It is generally (not always true) that early (I’d say first, but this isn’t Meloy’s first) books by authors aren’t as good as later works, and I’ve found it true with David Mitchell (the author of Cloud Atlas), an
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
A multi-generational story of a family that seems pretty dysfunctional, but in the normal way that all families seem to look. Yvette and Teddy are young Catholics that marry and deal with him fighting in Korea and the birth of two daughters, then much a later a son. The daughters, Margot and Clarissa have turmoil with their own love lives and a distance between them as sisters. They struggle with their husbands or childlessness. As Jamie, the son, grows up a bit, some family secrets come to ligh ...more
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
this reminded me a lot of michael cunningham’s flesh and blood in that it follows a family through multiple generations. unlike cunningham’s book, though, this one zips by with sparse language. were there not another book, i would wish this one were longer. loved it!
Jan 21, 2018 rated it liked it
An easy read but the family dynamics felt a little contrived.
May 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kate Mcglashan
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Maile Meloy is one of my favorite authors, and this has her beautiful prose, flawed characters, and page-turning style. But it is a total downer. It doesn’t break any new ground thematically—if I’m going to read about Catholic sexual repression, I’d at least like to learn about 16th-century Venice or something. And there’s only so many tragedies and bad decisions I can take. This was sort of like Pachinko from the side that dropped the A-bomb: one well-written bummer after another.
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5/5 I really liked this novel. Meloy’s ability to say so
much with just the right words is remarkable. She perfectly captures each characters essence and beautifully hands it to the reader. 4 generations in 260 pages is definitely the work of a phenomenal writer
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
It took me a while to get used to the style of narration because each chapter is from a different character's perspective, and the setting changes frequently!The story spans generations in one family to look at lies and secrets, faith and love. I found myself emotionally drawn in and rooting for these people to find their way in the world. ...more
Sep 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
It can be difficult to create character voices that are easy to distinguish, and most authors limit themselves to two, maybe three points of view per book for that exact reason. Maile Meloy went all in with her debut novel: she has seven. Moreover, these seven characters grow and change as the story progresses, and their voices change with them, never losing their individuality. That was actually my favorite thing about this book, how well the author wrote her characters and their imperfections, ...more
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Maile Meloy is the author of the novels Liars and Saints and A Family Daughter, the story collections Half in Love and Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It (named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review), and the award-winning Apothecary trilogy for young readers. She has received the PEN/Malamud Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was chosen as one of Granta’s Be ...more

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