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Saints for All Occasions

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3.89  ·  Rating details ·  20,054 ratings  ·  2,388 reviews
A sweeping, unforgettable novel from The New York Times best-selling author of Maine, about the hope, sacrifice, and love between two sisters and the secret that drives them apart.

Nora and Theresa Flynn are twenty-one and seventeen when they leave their small village in Ireland and journey to America.

Nora is the responsible sister; she’s shy and serious and engaged to a
...more
Hardcover, 335 pages
Published May 9th 2017 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Susan Nora definitely had that Irish thing where they bury their feelings because they don't think any good can come of it. This made her seem cold and…moreNora definitely had that Irish thing where they bury their feelings because they don't think any good can come of it. This made her seem cold and unfeeling at times. But I didn't see her as selfish. She lived a life of tradition and obligation because she knew no other way. Ironically, I think Theresa was far happier and more in touch with the outside world than Nora ever was. (less)
Suzanne Lisanti Part of it has to do with how Rory the politician was made to seem such a great person in the news article which Patrick's brother John was…morePart of it has to do with how Rory the politician was made to seem such a great person in the news article which Patrick's brother John was instrumental in having published. Patrick knew that Rory was one of the people attacking his friend, and thus not a nice person at all... which is why Patrick had to fight them all off his friend with the broomstick anyway. So many things Patrick had to hold inside (the evil priest at his school, being expelled, the boys attacking his friend and his retaliation) all building up inside him and this newspaper article was a reminder. (less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  20,054 ratings  ·  2,388 reviews


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Diane S ☔
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5. I has been quite a while since I have read a family generational novel, a family drama if you will, though in this the drama is kept to a minimum, at least in the telling. Two sisters, Nora 21 and Theresa arrive from Ireland, they have traveled alone so that Nora can marry her boyfriend who had arrived previously. Let's just say that things do not work out as planned and the two sisters will take different paths, but always connected by a secret.

I loved the way this story was told, so
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Always Pouting
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nora is Theresa's older sister and constantly worries about Theresa, especially since their mother died. Nora feels like it is her responsibility to take care of Theresa and so when Nora's fiance moves to the US Nora asks him to send for both her and Theresa. Charlie, Nora's fiance, eventually saves up enough for both sisters to come over from Ireland and the two journey out together. Theresa is excited for all the opportunities available to her and begins to pursue her education, meanwhile Nora ...more
Dem
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Every now and then a book comes along that is so good you think the author must have written it "with just ME in Mind" Well I think courtney Sullivan wrote this book just for me as I loved every moment spent with this novel and I am starting to miss the characters already.
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The Story of Irish Immigration is always close to my heart and I never tire of Non fiction accounts or Historical fiction done well and not too IRISHED up. I think Courtney Sullivan gets it right, this was Ireland of the
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Elyse  Walters
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Death reunites Irish Immigrants.....and not without a complicated story!

Since I’m Jewish - I had to work harder in trying to understand the title of this book.
For one thing - I wasn’t sure what “Saints” were referring to. Seems to me - with so many disheartening unhappy characters - these Iris Catholics - might have wished personal visits from their holy-saints!

DEATH .....of *Patrick*- first born child - was considered Nora’s FAVORITE child. We are told towards the start of this novel. Red
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Karen
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 for this Irish Catholic family drama. Nora and her sister Theresa are very young and are coming over to America from Ireland, Nora on the promise of marriage to a childhood friend and Theresa to hopefully become a teacher.
Things don't go smoothly and we see such sacrifice, and learn about the unbreakable bonds of family.
Cheri
4.5 Stars

Love, dreams, sacrifice and family are the themes at the core of Courtney Sullivan’s latest novel, ” Saints for All Occasions,” a story of two families from the small village of Miltown Malbay in Ireland, whose children leave their village for the hopes and dreams associated with a new life in America. One family sends their son ahead to set his new life in motion, so that when his bride-to-be and her sister arrive, everything will be easier for them. Beginning in the year 1957, this
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JanB
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
4+ stars!

A multi-generational family saga that follows two Irish sisters, Nora and Theresa, who immigrate to the U.S. from Ireland at a young age. One sister, the quiet, responsible one, arrives to wed through a pre-arranged marriage, while the other sister is a free spirit. Not surprisingly they take different paths in life, some quite surprising. Decisions are made and secrets are kept that have a life-long impact and threaten family bonds.

I love the way the author writes, in a quiet,
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Margitte
Somewhere between Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín and Did You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg, The Saints for All Occasions nestles comfortably into the family drama genre.

Nora and Theresa Flynn left Miltown Malbay in Ireland for Boston, America. Nora, the serious, responsible, shy twenty-one year old girl, promised to marry Charles Rafferty upon her arrival, but insisted on taking her seventeen-year-old sister with her since she promised her mother to take care of her siblings when the
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Brandice
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Like J. Courtney Sullivan's other three novels, I really, really liked Saints for All Occasions.

The story is focused around two sisters, Nora and Theresa, and the decisions they make that shape the rest of their lives, including other family members as they get older and the family grows. The story alternates between the past and the present and this is executed very well. It was easy to imagine and sympathize with the conflicting feelings from both sisters and their alternative points of view
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Holly
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the kind of book you will either love or hate. You'll love it because it's like stepping into a real-life family where you get to see all their faults and yet still the ties that still hold them all together. Or you'll hate it because you keep waiting for a plot to go somewhere, for something dramatic to happen, for some kind of revelation. Looking at my rating, I obviously fell into the 'love it' end of the spectrum.

If there are two 'weaknesses' I have when it comes to books, it would
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Diane Barnes
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have a thing about nuns. I love them. I'm not Catholic, I don't know any nuns personally, but, unlike fictional priests, who are usually portrayed as evil men corrupted by their power, nuns are always good. They are the helpers, sweet and kind. Even as a child, it sounded great to me to leave the world behind and go live in a monastery. The only thing holding me back was that religious requirement.

I also wanted to be Irish when I was a kid. Big families, lots of laughing, vivacious,
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Britany
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars

Technically, I finished this book in 3 days. BUT, I had already started it and didn't want to bring a halfway finished book on my 2 week vacation (booknerd problems?).

I do not remember this author's writing holding this much clout, but man was I wrong. I was hesitant to add this one to my list, as when I read Maine I wasn't overly impressed. This book brings us to the shores of Ireland when sisters- Theresa & Nora Flynn grow up, make mistakes, and decide to immigrate over to
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Jessica Jeffers
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
On paper, this book is about a group of people whose lives are phenomenally different from my own. And maybe it was just because of some conversations I’ve had recently, but their experiences and psychological development so weirdly mirrored by own that I often thought I was reading about my own family. J. Courtney Sullivan burrowed into a very tiny place in my heart with this book. Reading it had a profound effect on me and reminded me why I love reading so effing much.

There are many elements
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Lori
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed! I loved both Nora and Theresa. Their rocky relationship was heartbreaking, but understandable given the circumstances. I do sympathize greatly with both women’s positions. This novel is most importantly about family and the sacrifices made that are sometimes never realized. It is funny how no matter how old you are, when you’re back with the people & places from your youth you are immediately transported back to the person you felt you were then. I’m not sure that I’m completely ...more
KC
Mar 18, 2017 rated it liked it
I would like to thank Edelweiss, Knopf Publishing, and J. Courtney Sullivan for the advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review. 1950's Ireland where teenagers Nora and her sister Theresa, embark on a journey to Boston, seeking a better life. Nora reluctantly accepts her boyfriends marriage proposal only after she discovers her younger sister pregnant, with the intention of adopting Theresa's baby. This tale spans multiple decades, covering the life choices that each of these women ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Mar 22, 2017 rated it liked it
The first seventy or so pages of this Irish family saga is concise, droll, tough, and tender, and introduces us to immigrants Nora Flynn and younger sister Theresa, who moved from Ireland to Boston (Dorchester) in the mid-1950s. Nora, 21 and four years older than Theresa, has been very protective of her younger sister since their mother died. They leave their widowed father and brother behind, promising to return to the country they love once they find jobs and raise enough money. But over fifty ...more
Susan Johnson
Mar 27, 2017 rated it liked it

A family saga novel about two Irish sisters who travel to America to make a new life. Nora's fiancé is already there and pays for them to come and join him. Her sister, Theresa, joyfully starts a new life but Nora is homesick and hesitant. Nora and Charlie go on to have four children and Theresa surprisingly becomes a cloistered nun. They go their separate ways.

At 50, Nora's oldest son, Patrick is killed and the family reunites for his wake and funeral. It is this gathering that the book
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Petra
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I listened to the audio version of this book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Family drama, secrets, relationships.....how they all form us, especially the secrets we don't even know.
I like an immigration story. Within the family story, is the story of making a new life in a strange & new land. The difficulties and joys of this are blended with the difficulties and joys of raising a family, finding a source of contentment, finding a purpose in Life.
This family is full of interesting, delighful
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Jackie Ullerich
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sullivan brings to life the Irish Catholic world. She starts out in 2009 and takes us back to the late 1950s and what Irish immigrants experienced coming to the United States. An amazing portrayal of women. Such a fascinating look into the past. The story is complex, interesting, filled with culture and religion, including the journey of becoming a nun. Family relationships are an integral part of this novel—their dynamics and complexity intertwined in Catholicism. I learned a lot.

Highly
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Kristy
Nora and Theresa Flynn are only twenty-one and seventeen when they leave their native Ireland and immigrate to the U.S. For her entire life, Nora has been the quintessential older sister, raising Theresa and their younger brother after the death of their mother. Now she's headed to Boston to be married to their former Irish neighbor, Charlie, whom Nora doesn't really even love. Theresa, meanwhile, is outgoing, beautiful, and intelligent. She loves the dances and social atmosphere in Boston, but ...more
Ron Charles
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“Saints for All Occasions,” the new novel by J. Courtney Sullivan, is so unassuming that its artistry looks practically invisible. In fact, from the outside, nothing about this story seems noteworthy: Irish Catholics settle in Boston; they drink too much; they struggle with the church; they gather for a loved one’s wake.

That sounds as fresh as a pint of last week’s Guinness.

Which makes this quiet masterpiece all the more impressive. In a simple style that never commits a flutter of extravagance,
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Kelly
Jul 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
3.5 *'s. This one started out great but then got really slow for me. I was left at the end thinking, "That's it?" It's a story about a family secret, hidden for many years. This is definitely my type of book and I enjoyed Sullivan's writing style as usual. It was just a little too quiet for me and I did not develop an attachment to the characters like I usually do.
Claudia Silk
Feb 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The best book J Courtney Sullivan has written and I really liked her previous books. It's the story of 2 sisters who come over from Ireland and settle in Boston. Such a great story and I didn't want it to end. Not coming out until the end of June but well worth the wait!
Ferdy
Not really a review, just a bitch session about the main character:

Oh wow, how I loathed Nora, she was seriously unlikable, which would have been okay if she had been even slightly interesting. She was a boring, cold hearted, hard faced, self pitying, obnoxious cow. The way she treated her family pissed me off so much, the blatant favouritism she showed her children was irritating, and she had a constantly bitchy attitude with almost everyone she came in contact with. Worst of all was how
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Jenny
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Great family drama! I liked how the author referenced the title throughout the book, which gave me a greater understanding of the meaning behind the title. The Catholic girl in me enjoyed the depiction of life within a convent and how that life has changed and evolved with the church. I'm not sure if I loved or disliked the ending. I think the only reason I may have disliked it is that I didn't want the book to end. Great read!
Rebecca
Having enjoyed Sullivan’s The Engagements, I was keen to try her new novel. It opens in 2009 with Nora Rafferty, a mother of four, rushing to the hospital after being informed of a death in the family. She reluctantly accepts that her next task will be to contact the abbey where her estranged sister Theresa, now known as Mother Cecilia, lives. From County Clare, the girls moved to Boston together in the late 1950s: Nora to join Charlie, the fiancé she didn’t really love, and Theresa to have a ...more
Robert Blumenthal
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a lovely, lovely novel. It is an Irish American tale, in the spirit of Coim Toiban or Alice McDermott. It involves two sisters from Ireland, Nora and Theresa, who were 21 and 17 respectively when they came to the US in the 1950s. They were very close and lived in Boston, until Theresa got pregnant, and their relationship was never the same again.

Nora is the practical and worldly one, Theresa is the dreamer. The story shifts back between 2009, where Nora's oldest and most beloved son
...more
nomadreader (Carrie D-L)
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's only May, but this is my favorite novel of the year, and I won't be surprised if it still is by the end of December.
Suzy
I really enjoyed this family saga of two young Irish women who immigrated to Boston in the 1950's. Nora, 21, is going to join and marry Charlie, a young man from her hometown in Ireland. Theresa, 17 . . . well, Theresa has always been in the care of Nora since their mother died when they were young children so it didn't seem like an option for her to stay in Ireland with her father and brother. Sullivan has written a touching (but never sappy) story of the fates of these sisters and their ...more
Dale Harcombe
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
The story opens in 2009 with Nora Rafferty on her way to the hospital where Patrick, viewed by his siblings as the favoured son, is in hospital. It then jumps back in time to 1957- 1958. Nora and Theresa leave their small village in Ireland for America. When she arrives, Nora is set to marry Charlie who had previously moved there. It is what everyone expects, though she is not sure love is involved, at least on her part. She is also trying to do the best for her younger sister. But not ...more
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J. Courtney Sullivan is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels Commencement, Maine and The Engagements. Maine was named a Best Book of the Year by Time magazine, and a Washington Post Notable Book for 2011. Courtney’s writing has also appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, New York magazine, Elle, Glamour, Allure, Men’s Vogue, and the New York Observer, among ...more
“One of life's contradictions: how human beings were at once entirely resilient and impossibly fragile. One decision could stay with you forever, and yet you could live through almost anything.” 6 likes
“It was amazing that you did not become your grief entirely, and walk around leaking it everywhere. It could lie dormant inside you for days, weeks, years. You could seem a perfectly whole person to everyone you met. Without warning, grief might poke you in the ribs, punch you in the gut, knock the wind out of you. But even then, you seemed just fine. The world went on and on.” 6 likes
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