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Saints for All Occasions
Cover of Saints for All Occasions
Saints for All Occasions
A novel
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A NATIONAL BESTSELLER A New York Times Critics’ Top Book of 2017 "This year’s best book about family." —Ron Charles, The Washington PostA sweeping, unforgettable novel...
A NATIONAL BESTSELLER A New York Times Critics’ Top Book of 2017 "This year’s best book about family." —Ron Charles, The Washington PostA sweeping, unforgettable novel...
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  • A NATIONAL BESTSELLER
    A New York Times Critics’ Top Book of 2017 
    "This year’s best book about family." —Ron Charles, The Washington Post
    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 man she isn't sure that she loves. Theresa is gregarious; she is thrilled by their new life in Boston and besotted with the fashionable dresses and dance halls on Dudley Street. But when Theresa ends up pregnant, Nora is forced to come up with a plan—a decision with repercussions they are both far too young to understand. Fifty years later, Nora is the matriarch of a big Catholic family with four grown children: John, a successful, if opportunistic, political consultant; Bridget, quietly preparing to have a baby with her girlfriend; Brian, at loose ends after a failed baseball career; and Patrick, Nora's favorite, the beautiful boy who gives her no end of heartache. Estranged from her sister, Theresa is a cloistered nun, living in an abbey in rural Vermont. Until, after decades of silence, a sudden death forces Nora and Theresa to confront the choices they made so long ago. A graceful, supremely moving novel from one of our most beloved writers, Saints for All Occasions explores the fascinating, funny, and sometimes achingly sad ways a secret at the heart of one family both breaks them and binds them together.

Excerpts-

  • From the cover 1

    In the car on the way to the hospital, Nora remembered how, when Patrick was small, she would wake up suddenly, gripped by some terrible fear—­that he had stopped breathing, or spiked a deadly fever. That he had been taken from her.

    She had to see him to be sure. They lived then on the top floor of the three-­decker on Crescent Avenue. She would practically sleepwalk through the kitchen and past Bridget’s door, and then down the hall to the boys’ room, her nightgown skimming the cold hardwood, the muffled sound of Mr. Sheehan’s radio murmuring up from downstairs.

    The fear returned the summer Patrick was sixteen, when they moved to the big house in Hull. Nora would awaken, heart pounding, thinking of him, and of her sister, images past and present wound up in one another. She worried about the crowd he ran with, about his anger and his moods, about things he had done that could never be undone.

    She met her worries in the same old way. Whatever the hour, she would rise to her feet and climb the attic stairs to Patrick’s bedroom, so that she might lay eyes on him. This was a bargain she struck, a ritual to guarantee safety. Nothing truly bad could happen if she was expecting it.

    Over the years, there were times when one of her other three consumed her thoughts. As they got older, Nora knew them better. That was something no one ever told you. That you would have to get to know your own children. John wanted too much to please her. Bridget was a hopeless tomboy. They had carried these traits along with them into adulthood. When Brian, her baby, moved away, Nora worried. She worried ever more so when he moved back in.

    But it was Patrick who weighed most on her mind. He was fifty now. For the past several months, the old fear had returned. Ever since John kicked things up again. Things she had long considered safely in the past. Unable to check on Patrick on those nights when the feeling arose, Nora would switch on the lamp and shuffle through her prayer cards until she came to Saint Monica, patron saint of mothers with difficult children. She slept with the card faceup on Charlie’s empty pillow.

    Tonight, for once, she hadn’t been thinking of Patrick. Of all things, she was thinking about the boiler down cellar. It had been clanging since just after supper. Adjusting the temperature didn’t help. Nora thought she might have to bleed the pipes. As a last resort, she tried saying a rosary to make it stop. When this seemed to do the trick, she went to bed with a fat grin on her face, thus assured of her own powers.

    She was awakened not long after by the ringing of the telephone, a stranger’s voice saying there had been an accident, she should come right away. By the time she reached the emergency room, pink flannel pajamas under her winter coat, Patrick was already gone.

    The ambulance had taken him to the Carney.

    It took Nora forty-­five minutes to get from home to the old neighborhood.

    They were waiting for her by the door: a doctor and a nurse and a priest about her age. The presence of the priest made it clear. She thought of how they left Dorchester all those years ago for Patrick’s sake, but as soon as he was old enough he came right back. This would be where his life had started, and where it came to an end.

    They took her to a windowless office. She wanted to tell them she wouldn’t go in. But she followed right along and sat down. The doctor looked terribly young for such a job, but then a lot of people were starting to look terribly young to her. He wanted Nora to know that they had tried to revive her son for close to...

About the Author-

  • J. COURTNEY SULLIVAN is the New York Times best-selling author of the novels The Engagements, Maine, and Commencement. Maine was named a 2011 Time magazine Best Book of the Year and a Washington Post Notable Book. The Engagements was one of People Magazine's Top Ten Books of 2013 and an Irish Times Best Book of the Year, and has been translated into seventeen languages. She has contributed to The New York Times Book Review, the Chicago Tribune, New York magazine, Elle, Glamour, Allure, Real Simple, and O: The Oprah Magazine, among many other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 27, 2017
    Sullivan’s (The Engagements) latest is the story of Rafferty family matriarch Nora, her estranged sister, Theresa, and the secrets that an Irish Catholic upbringing led them to keep from their children. After leaving Ireland for Boston in the late ’50s, the effervescent Theresa finds herself pregnant by a married man. Dour Nora agrees to care for baby Patrick as her own. Theresa moves to New York and pursues a career as a teacher before going into convent life, eventually becoming Mother Cecilia. Charismatic Patrick dies in 2009 after a life of drinking and letting his temper get the best of him. His overachieving brother John is agonizing about whether he’s somehow responsible for Patrick’s death after a revelation about the role of the politician John works for in an incident from Patrick’s childhood. Their sister, Bridget, is resentful that Nora refuses to acknowledge her relationship with girlfriend Natalie, who will soon have a baby. Brian, the youngest, is living with Nora after a failed career in baseball. Patrick’s funeral leads to a surprise visit from Theresa, much to Nora’s chagrin. Sullivan has a gift for capturing complicated sibling dynamics, especially in a family ruled by Catholic repression. Nora is imprisoned by the need to avoid shame and being the subject of gossip. In contrast, Theresa allows her religion to free her by letting it influence her life. Nora’s need for secrecy builds walls between John and Patrick, though Theresa’s presence might finally reveal all. Sullivan’s quiet ending is a satisfying conclusion to this rich, well-crafted story. 75,000-copy announced first printing.

  • AudioFile Magazine Narrator Susan Denaker creates an unforgettable experience that reflects the intensity of a family's emotions as she alternates between past and present. In 1957, sisters Nora and Theresa journeyed from Ireland to Boston, seeking opportunity. The choices they made led to heartbreaking consequences. Their adult children, unaware of this past, harbor disappointments and ambitions of their own. Denaker exudes Nora's pragmatism, infusing her Irish accent with firm tones. Theresa transforms from a vivacious young woman into a mature, cloistered nun. Sons John and Brian embody the New World with Boston accents. Daughter Bridget suppresses her Dorchester cadence as she makes a life in New York City. Denaker's sympathetic performance complements Sullivan's storytelling to reveal complex family dynamics and the power of identity. J.R.T. � AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine

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Saints for All Occasions
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J. Courtney Sullivan
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