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Ratings and Book Reviews ()

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3.6 out of 5
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  • Good premise, get a little off track

    Saint X is a good effort for a debut novel but I felt as if the author was trying too hard and that detracted from my enjoyment. Author Alexis Schaitkin does a good job of zeroing in on the differences in cultures and countries and traditions and expectations, and how one event can ripple out and touch so many lives forever. When 7-year old Claire’s big sister Alison disappears and then is found to be murdered life for Claire and her parents is never the same. It isn’t the same for those accused of the murder, those who discover it, anyone touched by it in any remote way. We meet Claire again when she is in her mid-twenties and seemingly successful. Then she happens upon the man she thinks killed her sister, and she becomes more than obsessed. It’s as if she starts to descend into madness. It’s an interesting journey for Claire and those around her from there on. But much of the book felt like the author just couldn’t get a handle on where she was going with the story or her short story background got in the way. Did she intend to be politically correct or incorrect, condescending, critical, sympathetic. I couldn’t tell. The “island talk” became irritating quickly – “she little dress, he talk to she, she come up to us, on and on. At least be consistent with it if going to do it. You can’t say, “get we fired” but then “touched his shirt.” It’s jarring. I do understand social commentary and coming of age stories, and I also understand a fair number of big words, but there are too many of them and they drag on too long and are not strung together in a way to make it as interesting as it could have been. The descriptions of the surroundings read like National Geographic articles. The story moves along at a likely intentionally slow pace but jumping from character to character as it does doesn’t really give a better picture of these people and their histories, or what they have to do with Claire’s story. There is no magic thread to tie them all together. The synopsis leads us to believe this is the story of the girl who was murdered and how her sister came to know her. But it spends far too much time on other people; every time a character is mentioned there is a long story about that character making this more a book of short stories than a cohesive tale with feeling. Again, most of the time I felt as if I was reading an exam or a term paper or an article submitted for a job. The author seemed to be trying so hard to cover every single thing, to not disappoint, that I was in fact disappointed. Thanks to Celadon Books/Macmillan for providing an advance copy for my honest review. Saint X was an interesting study of the world and the people in it and I do look forward to author Schiatkin’s future works as she becomes a more seasoned novelist.

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  • A compelling and intelligent mystery

    When Claire is only seven years old, her eighteen year-old sister Alison disappears and is found dead when their family takes a vacation on a Caribbean island. This book takes place mostly in NYC where Claire, now called Emily, is a young adult working at her first job. By happenstance, she runs into one of the men from the island who was accused of killing her sister, but was not convicted due to lack of evidence. She befriends this man to learn more about what happened to her sister, to the detriment of her own mental health. The initial impression of this book was that it would be a fast paced thriller with a stunning conclusion. However, it is more a commentary on unresolved grief, the assumptions that are made based on race and class, and how one event can shatter the lives of so many. It could still be categorized as a mystery. I found the multiple points of view valuable in understanding the characters and events. Even though, at times, Saint X did not move quickly, it was still a compelling and interesting read.

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  • Difficult to maintain attention

    I started Saint X with the notion that it was going to be a fast-paced thriller centered around the murder of a young girl on vacation in the Caribbean. Instead what I found was a slow-moving work of literature that serves as a commentary on classism and race with multiple points of view and many different stories infused into the overarching plot. While on vacation with her family at a resort on the beautiful, fictitious island of Saint X, pretty eighteen-year-old Allison disappears. A few days later her body is found on a nearby cay. Two local men, Edwin and Clive, employees at the resort, are accused of murdering her and arrested. Years later, Claire, Allison’s sister, is still haunted by her death. By chance, one night Claire finds herself in Clive’s cab. After this chance encounter, Claire forms an unhealthy attachment to Clive, at first following him, and then developing a friendship with him, in the hopes that he will reveal the truth about Allison’s death. For me, Saint X was hard to get into and impossible to maintain my attention. The writing was simply gorgeous, but the style did not resonate with me. It transitions from point of view to point of view with little explanation or consistency, and I found it difficult to follow the narrative. I stuck with it until the end because I got the feeling that the slow pace would play out eventually, making the frustration worth it. It did not.

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  • Deeper than the average thriller

    We’ve all heard stories about young privileged, white girls going missing while on vacation in the Caribbean and turning up dead, or not turning up at all and just disappearing forever with no trace. It feels a bit racist to even contemplate this as a real, potential danger and brings up a compelling consideration of race and privilege in holiday resorts in which the guests are often white and wealthy and the workers, who are there to serve them, are often local, black, and poor. In this case the teen is Allison and we spend some time getting to know her, mostly through her sister Claire. Allison’s disappearance and death is a mystery, possibly a murder, which Claire understandably feels compelled to solve. While the mystery of Allison’s death is captivating it isn’t the main focus of this book. Allison is significant more for how she affects others than in her own right. We do get to hear some of the story from her point of view but she always feels like merely the catalyst for damage in everyone else’s lives and not so much important for her own sake. Allison’s death shatters the lives of her parents, the accused (Edwin and Clive), and most especially Claire. Claire always had a bit of an obsessive nature even as a child and when a chance meeting presents her with an opportunity to follow Clive she becomes fixated on finding out what happened Allison’s last night alive even while torpedoing her own career and relationships. The story is truly a look at the nature of grief and how it can so easily cross the line into obsession. The mystery in this felt very relevant and made me remember the Natalie Holloway case. Because of this mental connection I thought I knew what had happened to Alison but I was wrong. The answer was surprising but also not surprising. I won’t give away anything more about it because half of the fun is trying to determine who might be a killer, and there are several potential suspects. I found this book to be rather weighty and more thought provoking than the average thriller. It had all the elements of suspense, mystery, and danger that I expected but was much more of a slow burn, deep dive into one woman’s mind. While I didn’t particularly like either Claire or Allison I did find them compelling and I was particularly interested in that fate of all those who found themselves swept up in their orbits. The ending wasn’t incredibly satisfying but it didn’t leave me exasperated either. This isn’t a happy tale for anyone but it does bring up some essential issues that should be examined more often, especially by those of us fortunate enough to holiday at resorts. Thank you to Celadon Books for providing an Electronic Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley for review.

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  • Not a bad summer read

    Premise was interesting but the story felt somewhat forced and without much direction as the book went on. I am not sure the author knew how she actuslly wanted it to end.

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