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Liars and Saints

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  2,382 Ratings  ·  310 Reviews
A richly textured novel tells a story of sex and longing, love and loss, and of the deceit that can lie at the heart of family relationships. “Each chapter…has the seductive aura of a finely crafted story. Liars and Saints is instructive and bittersweet and yet somehow never nostalgic” (Los Angeles Times).

Set in California, Liars and Saints follows four generations of the
ebook, 272 pages
Published November 1st 2007 by Scribner (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

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Ben 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
Lew Watts
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 01, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 23, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Saleh MoonWalker
Maile Meloy has written one of the most tender and heart-wrenching novels about the American family I have ever read. The story of Liars and Saints focuses on the Santerre family, an average middle-class, Catholic family living in California for several generations. Father Teddy is a hero of both Korea and WWII; mom Yvette is his long passionate and pious wife. Their children, Margot, a prim and proper Catholic girl, Clarissa, a free spirit, and Jamie, the rebellious and troubled boy, provide th ...more
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 18, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nicole Harkin
Jul 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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Nov 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Kerry O'Grady
Mar 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved the writing style. Love the several generational family story.
Sep 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This debut novel, written in 2003, shares the complicated story spanning many decades of four generations of the Santerra family, moving from southern California to Louisiana and back west again. Their lives lived ethically, purposefully…or not…with suspicion, compassion, love and lust was made all the more compelling by Meloy’s juxtaposition of characters’ religious beliefs.

Filled with characters with deep commitments to a belief in God and to a Catholic faith as well as those firmly holding ag
Mar 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book came to me from a friend, who had been a school mate of the author in Helena. Simply put, this short novel is the story of several generations of a family, and their relationships with each other, with their love interests, and with God (or faith). What I really liked about this novel is that the story is told in chapters, AS chapters of the characters' lives as perceived by each character. The stories are interwoven, sometimes giving the same episode but told slightly differently by a ...more
Oct 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Charles Gates
I didn't know the work of Maile Meloy until I read "Madame Lazarus," a story published in The New Yorker (June 23, 2014). The story was great, so I had high hopes for this novel (published much earlier, in 2003). I didn't care for it, I'm sad to say. It's a family saga -- or, I should say, the chronicle of a family over several generations ("saga" suggests an intensity of drama and emotion which this book doesn't have). The writing itself is good, but the plot seemed contrived, the characters cu ...more
Jul 25, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Having previously read Meloy's short stories, I had high expectations of this novel that were disappointed. I enjoy Meloy's stark but engaging style, and her short stories always hit me hard.
The novel seemed promising at first, but by the end of the book, the plot had become totally ridiculous. Every few pages revealed a new melodramatic twist that was extreme and laughable. I didn't really relish the weird and constant invocation of Catholicism. I was raised Catholic and now consider myself an
Emily Freeman
Feb 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an incredibly well-written book. Maile Maloy wrote short fiction before this, and it shows, so if you are not a fan of short stories, this probably isn't for you.

The novel is written as a series of short vignettes from alternating POV of each family member in the story. Through They are strung chronologically across six decades and tied together by themes of loyalty, guilt, and the search for acceptance - of ourselves and those who have hurt us the most - of our choices and our fates.

Erin Quinney
Maile Meloy knows how to tell a story. There's nothing especially unique in her style, but I think that's why her writing is so appealing. I appreciate inventive storytelling and experimental novels, but sometimes I want a straightforward novel in plain language, nicely arranged. Meloy satisfies that need. However, this novel's plot borders on melodrama. I get families are dysfunctional but at some point, too much dysfunction becomes ridiculous. Yet, I didn't hate the novel and that has everythi ...more
Jo Case
Mar 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
This is one of my favourite books (and authors). Maile Meloy is a gorgeous writer; every sentence is beautifully constructed, every image beautifully assembled. But she also creates wonderful characters - you care about their fates intensely.

I discovered Liars and Saints when I was working in a bookshop where we could import interesting-looking books from the US if not published locally. This had me scouring the review pages of US publications online during quiet moments, looking for new books a
Jason Furman
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, novel
An historical novel (with a man going off to fight in World War II and then Korea, the 1960s, and beyond). A Catholic novel (with generations of a family struggling with their relationship to Catholicism, falling in and out of observance). A trashy soap opera (with teenage pregnancies, concealed births, and incest). A dysfunctional family account (see the previous). And, mostly importantly, much for than the sum of its parts--Liars and Saints chronicles five generations of the Santerre, moving q ...more
I've still not made my mind up exactly on how I feel about this book.
It's well written - the author is talented. AFter reading several romance novels in a row it was a joy to read denser sentences and less obvious plot turns. At the end of the book, though, part of me wondered "ultimately, what was this book trying to say?" IT's one of those cases where I wonder - am I not smart enough to get it, or am I looking for something that is not there.

The book follows a French Catholic family from Can
Aug 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, 2013
On the one hand this is a beach-read book about a family and their history, except that beach-reads tend not to involve incest [which is not as awful as it sounds and the narrative is very clear about its repercussions and the ripple effect]. It's not staggeringly special, it is slightly predictable in parts and not very much happens. But, on the other hand, it's actually a very precise and well-depicted portrait of a family in the middle of a series of crises because nothing gets resolved gener ...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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