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Saints, Unexpected

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  52 ratings  ·  18 reviews
A nimble debut novel featuring a magical Niche and a motley cast of neighbourhood misfits.

When fifteen-year-old Mutton is robbed at gunpoint while working in her mother's Hamilton thrift store, the thief makes off with an item that she knows isn't meant for him, hurling Mutton and her family into a summer of remarkable and heartbreaking events. From fighting unscrupulous d
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 15th 2016 by Invisible Publishing
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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 ·  52 ratings  ·  18 reviews

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Brent van Staalduinen's first novel is set in downtown Hamilton, Ontario. The protagonist, a teenage girl with the unlikely name of Mutton, narrates a series of events and presents a cast of characters almost Dickensian in their vividness and eccentricity. In many ways the story is tough and gritty, but this serves to bring Mutton toward maturity and shows how the community, full of unexpectedly sympathetic characters, rallies around her and her family when tragedy strikes them. Time and again, ...more
May 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, 5-stars, library, own, signed
I went into Saints, Unexpected without knowing what to expect. The premise drew me in immediately - I love coming-of-age books about teenagers - but I normally read the fluffier, YA versions of these books. And though it took a bit to get used to the writing style, like the quotation dashes, it wasn't very long at all until I was completely immersed.

I loved this book. I loved Mutton and her too-real family, loved all the secondary characters. I loved the setting, my hometown, and how it almo
Steven Buechler
Jun 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An important element in this book is the setting. Mutton’s home town is Hamilton, Ontario and van Staaldulnen has documented the city well through her eyes. Hamilton is a unique city and Mutton’s experiences with both the positive and the negative elements of the city give the story a realistic feel to it.
Corinne Wasilewski
Jun 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is hard for me to pin down. In many ways it reminds me of "The Town that Drowned" by Riel Nason. Both stories have a teen-age girl with a special needs younger brother as a protagonist. Both girls have strong characters with supportive families; both hang tough in adversity. Both stories have strong ties to place and include everything a coming-of-age novel should: first love--check; mystery/suspense--check; tragedy/grief -- check; the supernatu ...more
Chris Godwaldt
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cdn-fiction, fiction
One of those books you pick up, and quickly become so engrossed in the story, that it's finished before you know where the time went.

Beautifully told, skillfully crafted, "Saints, Unexpected" tells the story of hard work, of city living, of developing love, of close-knit family, of tragic loss and of an ethereal beauty that ties it all together all based in the downtown core of Hamilton, Ontario.

I found myself grinning at times at the awkwardness of teenage years, and weeping at times due to s
Jane Mulkewich
Jun 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have been reading all the novels I can find which are set in Hamilton, and this is the latest, published in 2016. Set in the heart of downtown, in one of the old buildings facing Gore park, featuring a teen-aged girl and her brothers and her parents who she describes as hippies (although her dad became a lawyer) - if not hippies, certainly eccentric, after all, they named their three children Leich, Mutton and Wu. Great characters and a great sense of place in this book, but some of the myster ...more
Jen Jones
Apr 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.25 stars. I couldn't put this novel down once I started it. Van Staalduinen has captured downtown Hamilton in a detailed microcosm, down to the smell and the particulars of the pavement. The characters were engaging; the settings were, too. There was both beauty and humour in the novel. But by the end, I had a tear in my eye. A winning first novel from a talented author. ...more
Christina Farley
Apr 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An amazing read. This well-crafted and thought-provoking novel shows Mutton undergoing heartbreak and yet surviving in the world around her. I loved the uniqueness of the author's voice as well as the unobstructed view of life through Mutton's teenage eyes. Looking forward to reading more from this author! ...more
I loved this book. It's quirky, a wonderful coming of age book. about family & learning to figure out boys while the family deals with some dramatic events during 1 summer in Hamilton 20 years ago. There is humour and fantasy as well! ...more
Keith Bell
May 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Coming of age story in the Canadian tradition of Alistair MacLeod's "No Great Mischief" but closer yet to Morley Torgov's, "A Good Place to Come From". A few areas of blurring of era's but captures the tumultuous events of a teen growing up in Hamilton, Ontario. Looking forward to more!! ...more
Jul 25, 2016 rated it liked it
So interesting to read a coming of age story that takes place in a city I know as well as Hamilton. Having been to many of the places mentioned and used in the novel was such a unique experience - now I can't see Gore Park without thinking of Wu. ...more
Sep 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Pretty quirky (in a good way). Wish the supernatural aspect had been explored/developed more.
Nov 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Greg Sennema
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
many good elements of character development, equal number of confusing additions to the story that made it unclear what was they were supposed to mean
Norman Feliks Jezioranski
You can read my review on the Broken Pencil website. ...more
Sep 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, library
Saints, Unexpected by Brent van Staalduinen is a well-received novel set in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, the city where I was born and still live. Most of the book takes place in the downtown Hamilton of 20 years ago, which was 10 years before I moved there from the suburbs up the mountain. Many specifics of place were unknown to me, but the overall picture was true. The author brings the city to life and stays faithful to its difficult character.

The narrator is a 15 year old girl, who tells her
Sep 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Van Staalduinen has crafted a warm-hearted novel that succeeds both as an empathetic portrait of a fictional family and as a stirring tribute to Hamilton, Ontario, the real-life city in which their story is set. You can read my full review here: ...more
Nathan Adler
Jul 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I really like the the premise for this book with the "Niche" items, the element of magic/realism and there are some very memorable characters. Mutton and her family and the events that take place over the course of one summer in their second-hand shop--It was an enjoyable read! ...more
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Christina Brooks
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Brent van Staalduinen is the author of the novels BOY, NOTHING BUT LIFE, and SAINTS, UNEXPECTED, as well as the forthcoming short story collection CUT ROAD. His award-winning short fiction can be found in notable publications on both sides of the Atlantic. Find out more at ...more

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