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All the Crooked Saints
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Book Discussions - 2018 > Final Thoughts - May

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Leander Public Library | 155 comments Mod
Our book for May 2018 was All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater. There are major spoilers ahead!

Please feel free to post any thoughts, opinions, or observations you had on this book, as well as any questions of your own!

The below questions are only prompts. We are offering them to get the ball rolling, but please don't feel as though you are required to answer them. If you'd like to talk about one or more, though, we'd love for you to do so!

This month the questions were written by one of our very own staff members!

1. The novel primarily focuses on three teenage cousins: Daniel, Beatriz, and Joaquin. What did you think about them? Did you have a favorite of the three?

2.What did you think of the style of this book? What type of feeling do you get from this novel?

3. At one point, it is revealed that the Soria family was much closer in the past than they are in the story. What do you think caused them to drift apart from one another? Do you think there are still good relationships between the family members?

4. The Sorias have enacted rules to keep them apart from the pilgrims in Bicho Raro because they fear their own darkness. Because of this, there is a strong divide between the pilgrims and the Sorias. Do you think this dichotomy affects whether the pilgrims are able to create their own second miracles? Why or why not?

5. There are strong images of owls, black roses, and the desert. Do you think these images are supposed to mean anything to the characters? Do they mean anything to you?

6. The darkness of the Soria family is said to be more complicated than the average darkness. When Daniel causes his own darkness to manifest by helping Marisita, he immediately realizes that he is losing his sight. What do you think the darkness of the Sorias’ is? What were your thoughts on how it was solved?

We're looking forward to what you have to say about this book!


message 2: by Kristen (last edited May 12, 2018 02:00PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Kristen | 145 comments Okay, so, I totally didn't like this book. In all honesty, I'm willing to try almost anything - including books that don't sound like they're up my alley. All the Crooked Saints was definitely one of these, but I tried and was only slightly surprised to find that I didn't like it.

However, I think it was a decent pick for a book club; a lot of the book sort of feels like it's all up to the readers' interpretation, so I'm interested to see what you guys have to say about it.

Side note: I love having the prompts, otherwise I'd sit here flailing while trying to figure out what to say!

1. The novel primarily focuses on three teenage cousins: Daniel, Beatriz, and Joaquin. What did you think about them? Did you have a favorite of the three?
One of my personal issues with this book was the characters; I didn't feel particularly connected to any of them. I found them to be too out-there for me to understand. That being said, I probably liked Beatriz's parts of the story these best, probably because it felt like her portions were more focused on telling us what was happening around her.

2.What did you think of the style of this book? What type of feeling do you get from this novel?
The writing style was the main reason that I didn't like this novel. I tend to like more direct prose, at least in the majority of the book. I liked well-formed worlds and deep, dynamic characters. I don't like to have to sit back and say, "What is the author trying to say?" when it comes to something as simple as a character description. In my opinion, I'd rather put my energy into understanding the characters and finding the deeper message, if there is one.

Of course, I don't shy completely away from purple prose. Sometimes it's wonderful and beautiful and so imaginative that I can't help but be awed. I just prefer it in moderation. So while there were some sentences that I found to be absolutely lovely, their weight was dashed by having the grand majority of the book written in such a flowery style.

3. At one point, it is revealed that the Soria family was much closer in the past than they are in the story. What do you think caused them to drift apart from one another? Do you think there are still good relationships between the family members?
I read the book a while ago (last month, I think?) so my memory of it is a bit shaky. What I do remember is that the discord in the family was relatively recent, stemming from the tragic deaths of some family members. The usual explanation for why people drift away from each other is that they're protecting themselves from being hurt by the other party, and I think that this might be the case here. You can't be absolutely crushed if you didn't give your entire heart and soul.

But then again, some of the relationships remain rather strong, though I think they are more generational. The cousins have pretty strong ties to each other, but not to their parents or aunts and uncles. Daniel was probably the only one that really seemed to transcend these generational gaps; he seemed to care for everyone, no matter who they were. Unfortunately, it was this very characteristic that got him into trouble in the first place.

4. The Sorias have enacted rules to keep them apart from the pilgrims in Bicho Raro because they fear their own darkness. Because of this, there is a strong divide between the pilgrims and the Sorias. Do you think this dichotomy affects whether the pilgrims are able to create their own second miracles? Why or why not?
Honestly, I thought it was a little bit cruel that the Sorias would bring forth the physical manifestation of someone's darkness and then leave them out in the cold to figure it out on their own. I understand it, kind of, because facing your own fears is more terrifying that watching someone struggle with theirs.

But surely, the fact that the Sorias knew what people needed to move on, yet stayed apart from them, seemed counter intuitive to me. Personally, I tend to think that by helping others through their troubles, you not only gain experience for certain situations, but perhaps you're able to learn a little bit about yourself in the process. Humans are a social species, we're not meant to be alone, and that means helping others and receiving help in return.

5. There are strong images of owls, black roses, and the desert. Do you think these images are supposed to mean anything to the characters? Do they mean anything to you?
Imagery was never one of my favorite things to talk about in school. So much of it is up to interpretation, and I'm one of those people that hate being "wrong."

To me, all these images represent very different things. I found owls to be creatures of intelligence and wisdom. At the same time, they are creatures of the night. They are not as commonly seen as a songbird. They are deadly and unique. Of course, black roses generally give off the idea of "death." And I find the desert to be simply lonely.

I think some of these things could be what the characters felt of them, too. But I do know that in many countries and cultures, owls are considered a bad omen. They may bring bad luck, or they may be messengers of death. So while I personally adore owls, I think that the idea that they are mysterious, supernatural creatures would be more in line with the story itself.

Though, fun fact, apparently New Mexico in particular has the superstition that hooting owls warn that witches are coming. Colorado isn't too far from NM, so I wonder if Stiefvater knew of that and decided to use it in her story.

6. The darkness of the Soria family is said to be more complicated than the average darkness. When Daniel causes his own darkness to manifest by helping Marisita, he immediately realizes that he is losing his sight. What do you think the darkness of the Sorias’ is? What were your thoughts on how it was solved?
I totally couldn't figure out what the Soria darkness was supposed to be. Maybe, since he's going blind, it's supposed to be the literal loss of sight? Like how all the Sorias are capable of seeing and bringing to life other people's miracles, but if they loose their sight they are unable to perform such tasks.

Honestly, the whole "Soria darkness" thing was something that left me very confused; why was the Soria family the only one where all members shared this darkness, why was it deadly to them, why did it pass from one to the other when that didn't happen to anyone else?

My opinion on how it was solved: too simple. I found it to be a long, long buildup with very little reward at the end.

So, obviously, All the Crooked Saints was not much fun for me. But I'm kind of picky about what I like and don't like, and seeing that it has a lot of super high ratings puts me solidly into the "unpopular opinion" corner. Even so, I'm super excited to see what other people have to say about this!

I don't have my library copy anymore and (unfortunately) I didn't think ahead and threw away the quotes that I marked. Would anyone be interested in sharing some of the quotes they liked?


message 3: by Christine (last edited May 19, 2018 03:02PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Christine | 130 comments I personally did not like this book. I struggled with it from the very beginning and almost did not finish it, but wanted to be able to contribute to this discussion. However, there is a lot in this book, so am interested in our discussion on here. Thank you to the staff member who wrote the questions; I really like them.

Also, Kristen, I tried to include a few quotes in my discussion post. I also noticed a bunch on the right side of the book's GoodReads page. There were a lot of great quotes in this book.

1. The novel primarily focuses on three teenage cousins: Daniel, Beatriz, and Joaquin. What did you think about them? Did you have a favorite of the three?
I did not like any of the teenage cousins. I thought Beatriz was weird with her whistling language and how she thinks she does not have feelings when she does. I do not know how she can go through life for 18 years believing this falsehood.
If only Beatriz believed her strangely shaped feelings existed, she would have seen it, too. ... Pete, she thought, was merely proving how he was an emotional being and unable to see her for how she truly was, unable to understand what she was unable to give him.

The omnipresent narrative style detached me from the characters. There were too many of them and I did not care for any of them. If I had to choose one of the cousins as my favorite, I would say Joaquin. I like how he made something of himself with the radio business.

2. What did you think of the style of this book? What type of feeling do you get from this novel?
My main feeling from the novel is confusion. I struggled with the novel's style from page one. The prose was so flowery that I had trouble understanding what the author was trying to say. This felt like the kind of book I read in school where I had to dissect the author's hidden meaning. I prefer a more direct style where I know what the author is trying to tell me without having to guess. As previously stated, I also did not like the omnipresent narrative style.

3. At one point, it is revealed that the Soria family was much closer in the past than they are in the story. What do you think caused them to drift apart from one another? Do you think there are still good relationships between the family members?
The Soria family was deeply affected by the tragic deaths of some family members years ago. I think this directly caused them to drift apart. The novel states that experiencing the events directly caused Antonia's constant anger, and impacted the other family members differently. Some of the family members still had good relationship though. The teenage cousins were close, especially Beatriz and Daniel.

4. The Sorias have enacted rules to keep them apart from the pilgrims in Bicho Raro because they fear their own darkness. Because of this, there is a strong divide between the pilgrims and the Sorias. Do you think this dichotomy affects whether the pilgrims are able to create their own second miracles? Why or why not?
I do think the dichotomy affects whether the pilgrims are able to create their own second miracles. I had difficulty finding textual evidence that there is a causal relationship, but the two events are certainly correlated. I don't know why all contact needed to be avoided, such as eating the same food. I also did not consider all of the Sorias' to be that intuitive. I wonder if the pilgrims tried to help each other solve their problems. When Daniel begins to lose his sight, he talks about how an outsider may be able to understand his darkness, like he understands some of theirs.
This meant that Daniel's narrowing vision was supposed to teach him something, but he did not know what it might be. He thought he knew himself pretty well, and yet meaning eluded him ... Possibly an outsider might might have been able to immediately identify the truth of it, just as the meaning of Tony's darkness was obvious to Daniel. But there was no one else to observe Daniel, and he meant to keep it that way.


5. There are strong images of owls, black roses, and the desert. Do you think these images are supposed to mean anything to the characters? Do they mean anything to you?
I think the black roses represent death and sorrow. After the death of his relatives, Francisco began using fewer and fewer words each year. Maybe his obsession with the roses was how he processed his grief. I mean, the novel directly states he has wanted to breed a black rose since his childhood obsession with the Fibonacci spiral. Maybe it's also that he is grieving.

The desert symbolizes obstacles that get in the way of people reaching their dreams/receiving miracles. Bicho Raro was located in the desert because pilgrims had to overcome the physical obstacle of reaching the destination. After the first miracle, the pilgrims also had to overcome obstacles in the desert while at Bicho Raro, such as dealing with being a giant or repeating everything people say to you. Deserts can also represent a lack of emotional growth. After the first miracle, the pilgrims felt stagnant - unable to leave the desert of Bicho Raro and unable to accomplish the second miracle on themselves.

6. The darkness of the Soria family is said to be more complicated than the average darkness. When Daniel causes his own darkness to manifest by helping Marisita, he immediately realizes that he is losing his sight. What do you think the darkness of the Sorias’ is? What were your thoughts on how it was solved?
Since this novel is full of symbolism, I looked up the meaning of blindness as a symbol. Physical blindness often symbolizes being in possession of insight or wisdom that others aren't. I thought about how the Soria family possesses the insight to act as saints and perform miracles that others do not have. Maybe their role as saints is what makes their darkness more complicated. Figurative blindness often stands for not being aware of a fault within one's self. Maybe their darkness is pride, like they think that their status as saints is above the status of the pilgrims?


Mallory 1. The novel primarily focuses on three teenage cousins: Daniel, Beatriz, and Joaquin. What did you think about them? Did you have a favorite of the three?
Daniel is definitely my favorite. I enjoyed reading about his transformation from hellion to saint. I loved the story of the hail and the fact that it left a permanent mark. While Daniel is my favorite, I also really like Beatriz. Her journey was another one I enjoyed – and was actually more frustrating because it felt more real; but frustrating in a good way, like ‘is this girl EVER going figure it out?!’ So it made for good reading.

2. What did you think of the style of this book? What type of feeling do you get from this novel?
I LOVED the style! The magical realism I think is well balanced and the story is full of quirks that just really speak my language. At first it seemed rather stark but slowly everything comes to life – even the inanimate – and it’s glorious. Usually I shy away from seemingly random descriptions of settings or past events, but I really appreciate the way the author pulls everything together in this story.

3. At one point, it is revealed that the Soria family was much closer in the past than they are in the story. What do you think caused them to drift apart from one another? Do you think there are still good relationships between the family members?
The Sorias lost faith in themselves and their abilities. They got so caught up in legend that they forgot who they were. They weren’t just afraid of the Pilgrims, they were afraid of themselves and that pushed them apart. There weren’t any rifts that couldn’t be healed, so ultimately I do think they still had good relationships, however they needed to rediscover how to understand themselves – face their ‘darkness’- and understand each other.

4. The Sorias have enacted rules to keep them apart from the pilgrims in Bicho Raro because they fear their own darkness. Because of this, there is a strong divide between the pilgrims and the Sorias. Do you think this dichotomy affects whether the pilgrims are able to create their own second miracles? Why or why not?
ABSOLUTELY. Lead by example, Saints! Even if the Sorias kept to their creed of not actively helping the Pilgrims, not being able to face their own darkness would still hinder those who came to them for help. Of course we read about the few examples of those who just nailed it and moved on, but when the Saints are building a lodge for the ever-growing number of half-healed Pilgrims in their midst – the problem isn’t the Pilgrims.

5. There are strong images of owls, black roses, and the desert. Do you think these images are supposed to mean anything to the characters? Do they mean anything to you?
For me, the owls are a physical manifestation of the spiritual – or otherworldly. They definitely sense things before the humans in the story and sometimes act as subtle guides – at least letting the humans know that something is coming if not directly guiding them to a specific conclusion or direction.

The black roses represent impossibility – they are also quite literally impossible – BUT on a symbolism level, I believe they represent the hopeless place the Sorias and the Pilgrims find themselves in at the beginning of the story. Francisco finally moving out of the greenhouse, which houses all that impossibility, toward the end of the story I think is a key catalyst to Beatriz also finally finding her way (and everyone else finding theirs too).

The desert is a character in itself – which I LOVE. It also serves as a direct reflection of the struggle of the human characters; it’s not an easy atmosphere to live in and the Sorias have created for themselves a difficult atmosphere socially, between family members and the unhealed Pilgrims. However the desert is resilient – everything living there is fully equipped to do so and in the end the Sorias find their own resilience, healing themselves and therefore better capable of leading the Pilgrims to their healing as well.

6. The darkness of the Soria family is said to be more complicated than the average darkness. When Daniel causes his own darkness to manifest by helping Marisita, he immediately realizes that he is losing his sight. What do you think the darkness of the Sorias’ is? What were your thoughts on how it was solved?
The darkness of the Sorias is that they stopped seeing themselves clearly. Or at all. They have become so bogged down with fear that they can’t help themselves or the Pilgrims that come to them. They needed to lose their physical sight in order to see inside themselves, finally figure themselves out, face their darkness, and move on.


Kristen | 145 comments Christine wrote: "Since this novel is full of symbolism, I looked up the meaning of blindness as a symbol. Physical blindness often symbolizes being in possession of insight or wisdom that others aren't.... Figurative blindness often stands for not being aware of a fault within one's self. Maybe their darkness is pride, like they think that their status as saints is above the status of the pilgrims? "

Ooh I like both of those explanations! I mean, the physical blindness part is totally on point; they're saints, and I do remember the book flat out saying that Daniel could always tell when someone searching for a miracle was coming their way. It makes me wonder if Daniel is actually really proud of his "sainthood," to the point where losing it really is his greatest fear.

Of course, the figurative blindness plays into this, too. Like, maybe Daniel would be worried that without his sainthood, he has nothing but a slightly rowdy childhood. He seems to think that his being a saint is part of his growth from the troubled boy to the mature and respectable young man, and maybe if his ability to create miracles was taken from him, he'll return to being the person he used to be, the person he's not all that proud of.


message 6: by Kristen (last edited May 23, 2018 01:54PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Kristen | 145 comments Mallory wrote: "The desert is a character in itself – which I LOVE. It also serves as a direct reflection of the struggle of the human characters; it’s not an easy atmosphere to live in and the Sorias have created for themselves a difficult atmosphere socially, between family members and the unhealed Pilgrims. However the desert is resilient – everything living there is fully equipped to do so and in the end the Sorias find their own resilience, healing themselves and therefore better capable of leading the Pilgrims to their healing as well."

Is it weird that I kinda love the fact that we're completely opposite on this? I mean, I saw the desert as something sad, and you see it as something strong, and honestly I think it make sense both ways and that's so cool.

Ahem.

I totally didn't see the desert as a character; I saw it only as a setting, so that's an interesting take on it. Plus, now that you've explained it, I totally see how the desert is a symbol of resilience -- of how the Sorias still survive, despite their own fears and hardships, and how the Pilgrims still search for their answers in spite of their troubles.

Side note: I totally think this quote conveys what you're saying, Mallory!
Pete fell deeply in love with it.
This strange cold desert does not care if you live or die in it, but he fell for it anyway. He had not known before then that a place could feel so raw and so close to the surface. His weak heart felt the danger but could not resist.
He fell in love so fiercely that the desert itself noticed.



Mallory Oh, man! The quote that made me start to think of the desert as a character is

The desert, which was not given to sympathy or sentiment, was nonetheless moved, and for the first time in a long time, it loved someone back.


The desert is more than a setting because it is described as having feelings and actually plays almost a deus ex machina kind of role in bringing about how the story ends.


Kristen | 145 comments Fair enough. I sort of glossed over that part, and figured that it was just Stiefvater's flowery writing. I didn't even think to take it literally, since it seemed (to me, at least) that the majority of the story was written with such purple prose that I started to skim it. I blame the fact that in school teachers make you put a secret meaning to every line, and I strongly disliked that.

However, I will concede that sometimes the quotes were actually kind of beautiful, and if I put my mind to it, I would at least guess at what they were saying. Are there any other quotes that really stood out to you?


message 9: by Mallory (last edited May 23, 2018 06:03PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mallory I don't agree with the purple prose sentiment but then I just really love symbolism, I think it's such an interesting lens through which to view stories, characters, settings, etc.

I have two favorite quotes that are tied for first (and neither one has to do with the desert!).

Firstly,

It is, after all, not the tasks people do but the things they do around the edges of them that reveal who they are.

because spot on.

And secondly,

Humans have always been fascinated with mirrors, after all. [He] had never seen from the outside how it looked to work constantly to avoid feeling, and he could not look away.


There are two parts to this quote that strike me:
Firstly, mirrors being fascinating to humans; we focus the most on those traits in others that we cannot face in ourselves - we all provide one another with mirrors of ourselves to a certain extent. I have always found that concept fascinating (and to be true).

Secondly, working to avoid feeling. I can personally attest to this coping mechanism! So it stood out to me that one man recognized it in the other and not only recognized it, but was so struck that he stopped working physically for a few solid moments in order to actually try to work something out psychologically (which was long overdue).


message 10: by Kristen (last edited May 24, 2018 03:17PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Kristen | 145 comments I like the first quote! I guess I tend to like ones that I feel are particularly introspective or philosophical in terms of who people are, which is kind of funny because I generally don't like heavily philosophical books. Apparently I'm a hypocrite when it comes to philosophy.

But now I have two questions for you, Mallory:

First, how do you differentiate between symbolism and imagery? Not definition wise, but more in terms of the literature. For instance, you see the desert as a character, I saw it as overzealous figurative language. Do you think that there's an obvious difference, or is it all intuition-based?

Like, is it meant to be vague in this context? I might be looking a little too hard, or else I'm starting to come off like an English teacher, but sometimes I think authors purposely write vaguely and give readers the ability to create their own outcomes. At the same time, I tend to think that there's nothing specifically meaningful behind certain lines, and think that they're just another layer of simple description.

And second, I'm just curious to know, if you like this writing style, are you a fan of books with "quirky" characters? For example, John Green and Krystal Sutherland write what I consider to be quirky books. Would that be in your wheelhouse, too?


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