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, privately 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 and cut off from the world, 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.
“Reminiscent of both Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn and Matthew Thomas’s We Are Not Ourselves… All of Sullivan’s characters leap off the page. You don’t read this book; you breathe it.” –Janet Maslin, “Times Critics’ Top Books of 2017,” The New York Times
“Fabulous and smart.” —Emma Straub, The New York Times Book Review
“Moving… Eloquently testifies to the durability of the fabric of family… Touched with… warmth, kindness and gentle wisdom.” —Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
“A breathtaking literary ode to life, change, and the unbreakable bonds of family.” —Redbook
“Carefully plotted… Sullivan succeeds in creating a believably complicated, clannish Irish-American family… Engrossing.” —Suzanne Berne, The New York Times
“An engrossing family drama… Sullivan’s profound understanding of her characters and the Irish-Catholic culture that defines them illuminates every scene.” —Kim Hubbard, People Magazine
“This year’s best book about family… Elegant… Captivating… Deft and insightful… A quiet masterpiece…impressive. Saints for All Occasions is so unassuming that its artistry looks practically invisible. In a simple style that never commits a flutter of extravagance, Sullivan draws us into the lives of the Raffertys, and in the rare miracle of fiction makes us care about them like they were our own family.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“A blockbuster…An engrossing family drama with feisty humor and transformative tough love.”
“I hope to read another novel as strong and wise and beautiful and heartbreaking as J. Courtney Sullivan’s Saints for All Occasions this year, but I’m not sure I will.”
About the Author
Top customer reviews
There are memorable characters and stories and then there are fantastic characters and incredibly moving stories brought to life that allow you to fall deep into a book and forget that they are just that. Stories. This is what happens when you read J. Courtney Sullivan’s novel SAINTS FOR ALL OCCASIONS. Rich storytelling, fraught with intense struggle, torn between two worlds, young girls who leave their home in Ireland for America, not yet ready for this unknown world that awaits and promises a new life, a better one. Terrified, on their own. Husbands-to-be, still too young to process, away from the comfort of home and family, and all that they know. Sisters torn apart over great love that will change their lives forever. They each take a separate course, never knowing what the other is feeling. This is what secrets can do.
A new generation enters with their own set of problems. Of this new world, they are only aware of the present, and a bit of their move from Boston’s Dorchester where their large extended family lives to their new home in the farther away Hull. The sudden move was never explained. Their parents’ past is unknown to them. A family tragedy occurs later as the children are grown and life unfolds before them.
Sullivan paints a strong portrait of Irish immigrants, the life and hardship that so many left behind with the hope of better jobs, improved education, while holding on to their beliefs and religion in a new country. What the second generation finds is that they are faced with a different set of troubles, yet some resemble similar predicaments of a previous era. We evolve but there is always difficulty and perhaps, we should not be so quick to dismiss the generation before us.