Saints for All Occasions
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.

Saints for All Occasions Details

TitleSaints for All Occasions
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 9th, 2017
PublisherKnopf Publishing Group
ISBN-139780307959577
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Cultural, Ireland

Saints for All Occasions Review

  • Pouting Always
    January 1, 1970
    Nora is Theresa's older sister and constantly worries about Theresa, especially since their mother died. Nora feels like it is her responsibility to take care of Theresa and so when Nora's fiance moves to the US Nora asks him to send for both her and Theresa. Charlie, Nora's fiance, eventually saves up enough for both sisters to come over from Ireland and the two journey out together. Theresa is excited for all the opportunities available to her and begins to pursue her education, meanwhile Nora Nora is Theresa's older sister and constantly worries about Theresa, especially since their mother died. Nora feels like it is her responsibility to take care of Theresa and so when Nora's fiance moves to the US Nora asks him to send for both her and Theresa. Charlie, Nora's fiance, eventually saves up enough for both sisters to come over from Ireland and the two journey out together. Theresa is excited for all the opportunities available to her and begins to pursue her education, meanwhile Nora struggles with her new life and promise to marry Charlie. Then when Theresa makes a mistake Nora steps up to take care of it and Theresa which means having to marry Charlie. The story interweaves the past and the present, where Nora in the present day must deal with the death of her eldest son Patrick, who had always been her favorite and the fall out between her and Theresa. I really enjoyed this family drama, I usually tend to enjoy family dramas for whatever reason. The writing was really great and I loved both sisters. The story felt like it lost some steam towards the end but it might be because it was building up to Theresa and Nora's reconciliation and so once Theresa actually showed up at Patrick's funeral and nothing really happened it felt anticlimactic. It was realistic but I'm not sure how satisfying it was but I guess there's never any neat closure in life is there. I do think its really unfair of Theresa though to try and make the decision for Nora about telling Patrick because it doesn't feel like it's her place to do so anymore. Even though she never gave him up willingly, I just feel like she should have been much more appreciative of what Nora did for her and gave up for her. I don't think Theresa would have been able to take care of Patrick as well in the situation. It was really enjoyable to read this though, even though religion tends to turn me off in books. The plot line and ideas behind the book aren't unique ones but they're executed well.Also before I go I want to say that John is underappreciated and I'm so sad about it, like why doesn't anyone else love John the way I do, John deserves all the love.
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    4.5. I has been quite a while since I have read a family generational novel, a family drama if you will, though in this the drama is kept to a minimum, at least in the telling. Two sisters, Nora 21 and Theresa arrive from Ireland, they have traveled alone so that Nora can marry her boyfriend who had arrived previously. Let's just say that things do not work out as planned and the two sisters will take different paths, but always connected by a secret.I loved the way this story was told, so natur 4.5. I has been quite a while since I have read a family generational novel, a family​ drama if you will, though in this the drama is kept to a minimum, at least in the telling. Two sisters, Nora 21 and Theresa arrive from Ireland, they have traveled alone so that Nora can marry her boyfriend who had arrived previously. Let's just say that things do not work out as planned and the two sisters will take different paths, but always connected by a secret.I loved the way this story was told, so natural and unassuming. The way the author uses the framing of a death to tell her story of lives lived. Fell in love with these characters, their past, their personalities, flawed and so very real, felt as if they could he family members we get to know them so well. Parts take place in a contemplative Abbey and I enjoyed learning of the lives of the sisters who lived within. Secrets, the complicated roles of family members, feelings, thoughts, the families we make and the families we are born to are all themes. How an unexpected happening can affect our personalities and the roles we assume in the future. The changes that result and that we must find a life despite our choices. I loved so much about this book, a book whose situations called for drama and yet the author manages to hold back, not let the story descend into a soap opera. Was quite sad to let these characters go, but so glad to have read their story.
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  • Dem
    January 1, 1970
    Every now and then a book comes along that is so good you think the author must have written it "with just ME in Mind" Well I think courtney Sullivan wrote this book just for me as I loved every moment spent with this novel and I am starting to miss the characters already.image: The Story of Irish Immigration is always close to my heart and I never tire of Non fiction accounts or Historical fiction done well and not too IRISHED up. I think Courtney Sullivan gets it right, this was Ireland of the Every now and then a book comes along that is so good you think the author must have written it "with just ME in Mind" Well I think courtney Sullivan wrote this book just for me as I loved every moment spent with this novel and I am starting to miss the characters already.image: The Story of Irish Immigration is always close to my heart and I never tire of Non fiction accounts or Historical fiction done well and not too IRISHED up. I think Courtney Sullivan gets it right, this was Ireland of the 50s, this was Irish Immigration of the 50s and this was the Irish settling in America and raising their American Children in the 60s/70s and I have listened to numerous Aunts and Uncles stories over the years and Saints for all Occasions captures the Journey, the emotions and feel of the time for me. The plot is well paced and entertaining and the characters are real Irish Women, living in fear of the church, of their families, their communities and mostly in fear of themselves. Making do with.....and putting up with...... just to safe face. I loved the characters of Nora and Theresa and their complicated relationships with each other and their families. I rated this Book 5 stars because its just a good old fashioned story, beautifully written, that touched me and I found myself looking forward to picking up this book every evening to learn more about the Flynn sisters.I think this would make an interesting book club as so much to discuss in this one.(view spoiler)[ I think there is one teeny tiny error at the beginning of the novel, but its too teeny tiny to even mention (hide spoiler)]
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  • Elyse
    January 1, 1970
    Death reunites Irish Immigrants.....and not without a complicated story! Since I’m Jewish - I had to work harder in trying to understand the title of this book. For one thing - I wasn’t sure what “Saints” were referring to. Seems to me - with so many disheartening unhappy characters - these Iris Catholics - might have wished personal visits from their holy-saints! DEATH .....of *Patrick*- first born child - was considered Nora’s FAVORITE child. We are told towards the start of this novel. Red fl Death reunites Irish Immigrants.....and not without a complicated story! Since I’m Jewish - I had to work harder in trying to understand the title of this book. For one thing - I wasn’t sure what “Saints” were referring to. Seems to me - with so many disheartening unhappy characters - these Iris Catholics - might have wished personal visits from their holy-saints! DEATH .....of *Patrick*- first born child - was considered Nora’s FAVORITE child. We are told towards the start of this novel. Red flags went up for me - “what type of mother so easily says they have a favorite child”? - Then I thought about the name: Patrick...“Saint Patrick”? “Saint Patrick of Ireland”....& “American born”. My mind was going batty - so I needed to stop thinking - and just keep reading. I was pulled in right away - which I always appreciate...............It’s just that it took me a long time to stop thinking about Patrick because his birth was literally and figuratively life changing - for many. His death was tragic-but we know so little about him. We know more about the pain his birth and death created for others - those who loved him. In the meantime —- there was a WHOLE LOT OF LIVING GOING ON WITH THE REST OF THE FAMILY! Nora and Theresa are sisters — They are different as sisters can be ( anybody who has a sister ‘directly’ understands - or a mother of two daughters knows this first hand too).....So- it’s no different in Courtney Sullivan’s novel: Nora is the older sister- considers herself responsible - accountable- and I might add contributed to her sister and children’s suffering - suppression- and secrets. As far as her husband - Charlie — he was pretty much chopped liver from the get go.He was an incidental underdeveloped character, but Nora needed a husband to make those babies. His death didn’t cause much pause in the grand scheme of this story. The heart of this story belongs to the two sisters .....so many lost years between them - resentments- withheld communications - but mostly—- their love was suppressed by the circumstances of their choices and pride. I really felt sad thinking about these sisters. My own two daughters - different as night and day - aren’t close. I love them both .. they both have full active successful passionate careers — live hundreds of miles away from each other. Years go by without them having much of a relationship. I can’t force a close relationship on them - all I can do is love them both. - and of course I wish things were a little brighter for them ‘together’.Me- on the other hand —I’m connected at the hip with my sister —- I love her so much at times it hurts. We know each other better than anyone in the world. We share a history from our childhood - not an easy one - but one that only she and I know - as we do. THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT BOOKS - ABOUT *SISTERS* - that touch some of us ( YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE)>> very deeply. We look at their problems with bigger eyes. Theresa- the younger sister was much more organically gregarious than Nora- however - once an Irish-sin was discovered ( and I didn’t see any saints coming to save the day), Theresa wasn’t her perky-bouncy-dancing butterfly any longer. She decides to runaway but promises to return. First she becomes a teacher -( something Nora really had wished to be) - and later turns to her religious faith —and finds solice as a cloistered nun. But while Theresa becomes peaceful in her own skin having let go of anger— Nora wore a scarf of bitterness. At times Nora took off her bitterness scarf- but it was never far away from her. Sad really— but I guess she represented a type of Irish women of the times. Irish novels continue to expand my awareness through their history and culture. I’ve come to love reading about families and community from Ireland. Just because Nora and Theresa stopped talking to one another for thirty years - doesn’t mean they weren’t carrying around the heavy weight of each other....anger- resentments- sadness-guilt-fear-memories upon memories -egos - and deep down love and forgiveness. I suppose those SAINTS ‘were’floating around in this novel.....’very quietly’. Nora raised 4 kids: Besides Patrick, her favorite- who was drunk at the wheel of a car when he died- each of her other adult children suffered quietly with problems and or secrets. John, the politician....but working for the opposition party —Bridget...who was gay - hasn’t told her mother - but really? Nora was in denial- she knew. and Brian...he was a little lost in the world - he was bartending for his brother Patrick, at the time of his death. I got a lot of value from this book. As a pure family relationship novel - it was as excellent as any I’ve read.....but with the added element of this Irish Catholic World....It was inspiring to know that religious conservative taboos were changing - and continued to change. I was reminded - again - of how much I learned and enjoyed “The Heart’s Invisible Furies”, by John Boyne.....This story is very different— yet both books gave me a deep appreciation to how far the Irish people have come in opening up their minds and hearts. I don’t know if I will ever understand- the injustices in the Irish history - but I am moved when I see growth. There HAS been growth!!! There is not a perfect happily ever after ending in this novel- yet we see possibilities!Cheers to the Irish! Cheers to sisters - families - forgiveness and redemption.....Wonderful novel!!!
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 for this Irish Catholic family drama. Nora and her sister Theresa are very young and are coming over to America from Ireland, Nora on the promise of marriage to a childhood friend and Theresa to hopefully become a teacher. Things don't go smoothly and we see such sacrifice, and learn about the unbreakable bonds of family.
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  • Cheri
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 StarsLove, dreams, sacrifice and family are the themes at the core of Courtney Sullivan’s latest novel, ” Saints for All Occasions,” a story of two families from the small village of Miltown Malbay in Ireland, whose children leave their village for the hopes and dreams associated with a new life in America. One family sends their son ahead to set his new life in motion, so that when his bride-to-be and her sister arrive, everything will be easier for them. Beginning in the year 1957, this t 4.5 StarsLove, dreams, sacrifice and family are the themes at the core of Courtney Sullivan’s latest novel, ” Saints for All Occasions,” a story of two families from the small village of Miltown Malbay in Ireland, whose children leave their village for the hopes and dreams associated with a new life in America. One family sends their son ahead to set his new life in motion, so that when his bride-to-be and her sister arrive, everything will be easier for them. Beginning in the year 1957, this travels back and forth in time between 1957 and 2009. Time enough for the young women who left to no longer be the wide-eyed innocents they once were. ”Once, a circus had come to Miltown Malbay. Everyone gasped as an elephant ambled down the Flag Road. Nora thought then that it was the most extraordinary thing she would see in her life, but she had been mistaken.”Nora is betrothed to Charlie, who has a plan to go ahead to Boston and get them situated, and then send for Nora. Nora, who would have preferred not to leave her home in Ireland, and isn’t quite sure she likes Charlie well enough to consider marrying him anyway, knows what is expected of her, and so she agrees to go, on the condition she can bring her younger sister, Theresa, telling Charlie before he set off for America: “I could never to go Boston without my sister.”A year later, Charlie sends for twenty-one year-old Nora and her seventeen year-old sister, Theresa, his letters filled with wonder over the advances of life in America.”I’ll never get used to how different it is. You turn a knob on the kitchen sink and hot water flows right out. There’s no carrying water from the pump, or boiling it in the kettle to clean the clothes. That’s just one of a million little miracles that everyone here takes for granted. You won’t believe it, Nora. I can’t wait for you to see.”Where Nora is earnest and dependable, life is still a party waiting for her arrival to Theresa. Life has a way of interrupting plans, and one party too many, one handsome man to lead her a bit astray and whoopsie-daisy, a bit like an old rope skipping chant, first came lust, then came… um… … and then came someone with a baby carriage. A slight variation leaving out the bit about marriage. A family secret that will be carried on for years begins, and fifty years later, Nora is the reigning matriarch of this family, with her four children grown, all raised and schooled in the Catholic Church. Theresa no longer goes by her given name, but has chosen a quiet, cloistered life in an abbey in Vermont.Family stories like this can become too convoluted when too many generations are added in, we tend to get lost as the original family multiplies beyond our ability to follow, or, quite frankly, care. This felt just right to me, with the addition of the children grown and beginning to add to the family with significant others / spouses, children by birth or adoption – in other words, a family. There is some conflict, some heartache, but mostly there is a lot of love, with characters you will draw closer to, and love.Having visited with friends who live in Miltown Malbay on my last trip to Ireland, it was nice to read about a spot of Ireland I’ve been to, which really added to the charm of this for me.
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  • Margitte
    January 1, 1970
    Somewhere between Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín and Did You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg, The Saints for All Occasions nestles comfortably into the family drama genre. Nora and Theresa Flynn left Miltown Malbay in Ireland for Boston, America. Nora, the serious, responsible, shy twenty-one year old girl, promised to marry Charles Rafferty upon her arrival, but insisted on taking her seventeen-year-old sister with her since she promised her mother to take care of her siblings when the l Somewhere between Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín and Did You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg, The Saints for All Occasions nestles comfortably into the family drama genre. Nora and Theresa Flynn left Miltown Malbay in Ireland for Boston, America. Nora, the serious, responsible, shy twenty-one year old girl, promised to marry Charles Rafferty upon her arrival, but insisted on taking her seventeen-year-old sister with her since she promised her mother to take care of her siblings when the latter passed away many years earlier. Thus began this family saga of two sisters in America, and the path their lives would take in the Fifties. Jump to 2009, fifty years later, when Dora had four grown-up children, and Theresa was Mother Cecilia in a rural Vermont abbey. And Patrick died in a tragic accident. And suddenly, there were more questions than answers for Nora's remaining children, John, Bridget and Brian. Hidden behind their own intricate, multidimensional lives, they all cached a secret regret that was difficult to share with matriarch Dora who had the most secrets of them all. One of them was the Miraculous Medal around Patrick's neck. The medal she insisted he should take with him to his grave. The simplicity of manner, in terms of prose style, becomes complicated when the subject of Roman Catholic symbolism are thrown into the family hardships. It's not really hardships. It is more like each character's challenges to survive the family dynamics and their own social environments. Each child took a different path, leaving the family with only one adopted grandchild from Chinese descend who were baptized as Maeve Rafferty. Like most novels with a religious plot point, it felt too much like being drowned in a bucket of subject being tilted over the reader's head. However, it was still interesting enough to speed-read the endless religious politics behind the scenes and get on with the story. The book dragged as a result. The writing was excellent. What I really loved about this book is the deeply humane characters and the analysis of each person's story. In the end Patrick's death was like the rope in the harbor which snapped, causing them all to lose a few toes and forever limp slightly as a result. The experience left them more grounded in their own lives, and changed the way they knew their mother Nora. She was a woman who took care of them and their secrets in her own uncompromising, stern way, because that was what loves was in her book. She did not teach them loyalty, she lived it, and saved them all from themselves. Finally, life became whole again for them all. A wonderful, heartwarming, beautiful, uplifting story. The blurb describes the novel the best.RECOMMENDED!
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  • JanB
    January 1, 1970
    4+ stars!A multi-generational family saga that follows two Irish sisters, Nora and Theresa, who immigrate to the U.S. from Ireland at a young age. One sister, the quiet, responsible one, arrives to wed through a pre-arranged marriage, while the other sister is a free spirit. Not surprisingly they take different paths in life, some quite surprising. Decisions are made and secrets are kept that have a life-long impact and threaten family bonds. I love the way the author writes, in a quiet, unassum 4+ stars!A multi-generational family saga that follows two Irish sisters, Nora and Theresa, who immigrate to the U.S. from Ireland at a young age. One sister, the quiet, responsible one, arrives to wed through a pre-arranged marriage, while the other sister is a free spirit. Not surprisingly they take different paths in life, some quite surprising. Decisions are made and secrets are kept that have a life-long impact and threaten family bonds. I love the way the author writes, in a quiet, unassuming way that is deeply emotional. I enjoyed the alternate points of view and fell in love with this family, flaws and all.Highly recommended!
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  • Brandice
    January 1, 1970
    Like J. Courtney Sullivan's other three novels, I really, really liked Saints for All Occasions. The story is focused around two sisters, Nora and Theresa, and the decisions they make that shape the rest of their lives, including other family members as they get older and the family grows. The story alternates between the past and the present and this is executed very well. It was easy to imagine and sympathize with the conflicting feelings from both sisters and their alternative points of view Like J. Courtney Sullivan's other three novels, I really, really liked Saints for All Occasions. The story is focused around two sisters, Nora and Theresa, and the decisions they make that shape the rest of their lives, including other family members as they get older and the family grows. The story alternates between the past and the present and this is executed very well. It was easy to imagine and sympathize with the conflicting feelings from both sisters and their alternative points of view - each deeply feeling the sacrifices they made, while trying to also feel for and understand the other one's point of view. "One of life's contradictions: how human beings were entirely resilient yet impossibly fragile. One decision could stay with you forever, and yet you could live through almost anything."I enjoy well-done family dramas and Saints for All Occasions was no exception. I liked the way the story finished, with the individual characters' story lines, and the overall outcome.
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  • Britany
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 StarsTechnically, I finished this book in 3 days. BUT, I had already started it and didn't want to bring a halfway finished book on my 2 week vacation (booknerd problems?).I do not remember this author's writing holding this much clout, but man was I wrong. I was hesitant to add this one to my list, as when I read Maine I wasn't overly impressed. This book brings us to the shores of Ireland when sisters- Theresa & Nora Flynn grow up, make mistakes, and decide to immigrate over to Massach 4.5 StarsTechnically, I finished this book in 3 days. BUT, I had already started it and didn't want to bring a halfway finished book on my 2 week vacation (booknerd problems?).I do not remember this author's writing holding this much clout, but man was I wrong. I was hesitant to add this one to my list, as when I read Maine I wasn't overly impressed. This book brings us to the shores of Ireland when sisters- Theresa & Nora Flynn grow up, make mistakes, and decide to immigrate over to Massachusetts. One tough decision sends the relationship into dis-repair and heartbreak. Theresa becomes sister Cecelia- living amongst the minimal standings of the Abbey in Vermont, while Nora is forced to take the more traditional route of getting married and having a family-- but is she happy?The characters are so well drawn, I could feel the tensions, frustrations, and inner demons. My heart grew and broke over and over again watching these families self destruct in ways only families can. I'm so impressed with Sullivan's writing and the slow way she built this novel. It literally broke my heart over and over again. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough because as much as this was a character study, there was also a solid plot that kept you turning the pages, as you discovered little links that tied together the entire picture as you kept reading. I did shed a few tears as I closed this book, but I'm not sure if it's simply because I wasn't ready for this story to end.
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  • Lori
    January 1, 1970
    Enjoyed! I loved both Nora and Theresa. Their rocky relationship was heartbreaking, but understandable given the circumstances. I do sympathize greatly with both women’s positions. This novel is most importantly about family and the sacrifices made that are sometimes never realized. It is funny how no matter how old you are, when you’re back with the people & places from your youth you are immediately transported back to the person you felt you were then. I’m not sure that I’m completely sat Enjoyed! I loved both Nora and Theresa. Their rocky relationship was heartbreaking, but understandable given the circumstances. I do sympathize greatly with both women’s positions. This novel is most importantly about family and the sacrifices made that are sometimes never realized. It is funny how no matter how old you are, when you’re back with the people & places from your youth you are immediately transported back to the person you felt you were then. I’m not sure that I’m completely satisfied with how it ended... I wanted more closure. However, maybe Sullivan ended it this way so that we as readers could decide our own vision of how the story ends. 4.5 stars.
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  • KC
    January 1, 1970
    I would like to thank Edelweiss, Knopf Publishing, and J. Courtney Sullivan for the advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review. 1950's Ireland where teenagers Nora and her sister Theresa, embark on a journey to Boston, seeking a better life. Nora reluctantly accepts her boyfriends marriage proposal only after she discovers her younger sister pregnant, with the intention of adopting Theresa's baby. This tale spans multiple decades, covering the life choices that each of these women ma I would like to thank Edelweiss, Knopf Publishing, and J. Courtney Sullivan for the advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review. 1950's Ireland where teenagers Nora and her sister Theresa, embark on a journey to Boston, seeking a better life. Nora reluctantly accepts her boyfriends marriage proposal only after she discovers her younger sister pregnant, with the intention of adopting Theresa's baby. This tale spans multiple decades, covering the life choices that each of these women make. Although I was not impressed with the story itself, the writing was stellar.
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  • Jessica
    January 1, 1970
    On paper, this book is about a group of people whose lives are phenomenally different from my own. And maybe it was just because of some conversations I’ve had recently, but their experiences and psychological development so weirdly mirrored by own that I often thought I was reading about my own family. J. Courtney Sullivan burrowed into a very tiny place in my heart with this book. Reading it had a profound effect on me and reminded me why I love reading so effing much. There are many elements On paper, this book is about a group of people whose lives are phenomenally different from my own. And maybe it was just because of some conversations I’ve had recently, but their experiences and psychological development so weirdly mirrored by own that I often thought I was reading about my own family. J. Courtney Sullivan burrowed into a very tiny place in my heart with this book. Reading it had a profound effect on me and reminded me why I love reading so effing much. There are many elements of this story that readers have seen a zillion times before: Irish immigrants settling into life in America, once-close sisters divided by secrets, a family gathering to mourn as each member ruminates on his or her own baggage. Even the characters are variations on familiar themes: the unfeeling Irish mother, a washed-up baseball player running a Boston bar, and a golden boy son working on a political campaign for a Republic Mormon looking to be governor of Massachusetts. It’s like Instructions for a Heatwave, Brooklyn, and Let the Great World Spin got together and made a baby that likes to make references that my husband called Massachusetts fan fiction (Cheers, Mitt Romney, etc). And, yet, this book works so well as its own little beast. Sullivan has drawn characters whose types we’ve seen before but who still manage to feel fresh and real and multidimensional. It starts out as the story of two Irish-born sisters arriving in Boston from in the 1950s. Nora is coming to meet her fiance Charlie and is bringing her younger sister Theresa in the hopes of providing her with new opportunities. When Theresa finds herself pregnant, Nora and Charlie send her to a home for unwed mothers but eventually decide to raise the baby as their own. Fifty years later, Nora is a widowed mother of four, Theresa is a nun living in an abbey in Vermont, and they haven’t spoken in years. The book bounces back and forth between the children growing up and an unexpected death in 2009, as Nora’s grown children come together and we learn, piece by piece, exactly how the falling out happened and the long-term effects on each member of the family. The title of the book and the fact that one of the main characters becomes a nun suggests that religion is one of the major themes of this book--and it is, to an extent. But the idea that really resonated with me is, “Someone could save your life without you ever knowing it. It happened more than most people realized.” Nora was a very stereotypical Irish Mother, strict and short on outward displays of emotion or affection. Her children do not even know that she has a sister, much less an estranged one living in a nunnery. She and Charlie made many big decisions and played them close to the chest, resulting in some long-simmering resentments between the children who don’t have all of the information. The purpose of this book isn’t necessarily to uncover all the secrets in a big, twisty reveal. Nor is it to give these haunted characters closure. If that’s what you’re looking for here, you’re going to walk away disappointed. It’s a much quieter novel than that, but that’s what I loved about it. I could relate so much to the experiences of these adult children, their attempts to piece together an understanding of their parents’ behavior and to piece together an identity of their own. Seeing these characters reach their own levels of understanding broke my heart, but it also filled me with a small burst of hope. I thought it was phenomenal.
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  • Susan Johnson
    January 1, 1970
    A family saga novel about two Irish sisters who travel to America to make a new life. Nora's fiancé is already there and pays for them to come and join him. Her sister, Theresa, joyfully starts a new life but Nora is homesick and hesitant. Nora and Charlie go on to have four children and Theresa surprisingly becomes a cloistered nun. They go their separate ways.At 50, Nora's oldest son, Patrick is killed and the family reunites for his wake and funeral. It is this gathering that the book center A family saga novel about two Irish sisters who travel to America to make a new life. Nora's fiancé is already there and pays for them to come and join him. Her sister, Theresa, joyfully starts a new life but Nora is homesick and hesitant. Nora and Charlie go on to have four children and Theresa surprisingly becomes a cloistered nun. They go their separate ways.At 50, Nora's oldest son, Patrick is killed and the family reunites for his wake and funeral. It is this gathering that the book centers. People look back on their lives and how they got to where they are. It's a little drawn out and unfortunately I feel like I've read it before. There's nothing new, nothing really insightful, and nothing that really holds your attention. I just kept wishing the funeral would end. Still if you life family sagas, you might enjoy this
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  • switterbug (Betsey)
    January 1, 1970
    The first seventy or so pages of this Irish family saga is concise, droll, tough, and tender, and introduces us to immigrants Nora Flynn and younger sister Theresa, who moved from Ireland to Boston (Dorchester) in the mid-1950s. Nora, 21 and four years older than Theresa, has been very protective of her younger sister since their mother died. They leave their widowed father and brother behind, promising to return to the country they love once they find jobs and raise enough money. But over fifty The first seventy or so pages of this Irish family saga is concise, droll, tough, and tender, and introduces us to immigrants Nora Flynn and younger sister Theresa, who moved from Ireland to Boston (Dorchester) in the mid-1950s. Nora, 21 and four years older than Theresa, has been very protective of her younger sister since their mother died. They leave their widowed father and brother behind, promising to return to the country they love once they find jobs and raise enough money. But over fifty years later, Nora remains near Boston, while Theresa is a cloistered nun in Vermont.As the novel opens, it is 2009, and Nora is the mother of four adult children. It is the oldest, Patrick, who she adores the most, despite his reckless and lazy lifestyle and boozy habits. She gets a phone call that he has died in a car accident, which unglues her, and subsequently she makes an impulsive call to the convent where Theresa has lived for the past half century, and leaves a message informing her of Patrick’s death and inviting her to the funeral. It is obvious that they are estranged. The rest of the novel covers the past and the present and gradually tells us the story of their falling out.I was sucked into the interior--and exterior-- life of Nora, an initially complex character with her mixture of family devotion and repression. She is in denial that her forty-year-old daughter is gay, despite the indisputable clues. Her son, John, a Democrat, has made a bundle working for a Republican that he knew from childhood, a slick politician who makes Nora apoplectic. Brian is a has-been baseball player struck down by various injuries while en route to stardom. He works at Patrick's bar and lives back at home with Nora. Nora’s husband is several years dead now, and all the secrets of Nora’s past are busting at the seams to get out. "There was always time to get rid of your ghosts." And now time is closing in on Nora.The nascent pages held me in its grip. Lean, and with a terse tempo and gallows humor. I was glued to the events and the dropped little reveals. But then it turned into melodrama. It became static and clingy, including the characters. Theresa goes from one extreme to another, which is about as interesting these days as stripper to saved.Other than Nora, who eventually became a parody of herself, this 50+ year span became repetitive, depleted by all the filler. It was just more of the same. The children, except maybe for Bridget, were wafer-thin portrayals. What happened off stage and referred to later (or thrown in) felt labored and inconsequential after Sullivan ran over it several times. Mundane events stood on ceremony and then withered to monotony, and the dry humor gave way to treacle sentiment and info dumps.I kept hoping it would capture the vitality and crisp flow of the beginning seventy or so pages, only to be disappointed by a baggy follow-through. I chose this book because I’m a fan of her witty and authentic last novel, THE ENGAGEMENTS. Sullivan is capable of an artful, exciting narrative, but this one doesn’t live up to her previous talents. The best analogy I can give is that, if this were television, it would be network TV, not cable.2.75 stars
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  • Petra
    January 1, 1970
    I listened to the audio version of this book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Family drama, secrets, relationships.....how they all form us, especially the secrets we don't even know.I like an immigration story. Within the family story, is the story of making a new life in a strange & new land. The difficulties and joys of this are blended with the difficulties and joys of raising a family, finding a source of contentment, finding a purpose in Life. This family is full of interesting, delighful pe I listened to the audio version of this book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Family drama, secrets, relationships.....how they all form us, especially the secrets we don't even know.I like an immigration story. Within the family story, is the story of making a new life in a strange & new land. The difficulties and joys of this are blended with the difficulties and joys of raising a family, finding a source of contentment, finding a purpose in Life. This family is full of interesting, delighful people who we want to get to know
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  • Jackie Ullerich
    January 1, 1970
    Sullivan brings to life the Irish Catholic world. She starts out in 2009 and takes us back to the late 1950s and what Irish immigrants experienced coming to the United States. An amazing portrayal of women. Such a fascinating look into the past. The story is complex, interesting, filled with culture and religion, including the journey of becoming a nun. Family relationships are an integral part of this novel—their dynamics and complexity intertwined in Catholicism. I learned a lot.Highly recomme Sullivan brings to life the Irish Catholic world. She starts out in 2009 and takes us back to the late 1950s and what Irish immigrants experienced coming to the United States. An amazing portrayal of women. Such a fascinating look into the past. The story is complex, interesting, filled with culture and religion, including the journey of becoming a nun. Family relationships are an integral part of this novel—their dynamics and complexity intertwined in Catholicism. I learned a lot.Highly recommend!
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  • Kristy
    January 1, 1970
    Nora and Theresa Flynn are only twenty-one and seventeen when they leave their native Ireland and immigrate to the U.S. For her entire life, Nora has been the quintessential older sister, raising Theresa and their younger brother after the death of their mother. Now she's headed to Boston to be married to their former Irish neighbor, Charlie, whom Nora doesn't really even love. Theresa, meanwhile, is outgoing, beautiful, and intelligent. She loves the dances and social atmosphere in Boston, but Nora and Theresa Flynn are only twenty-one and seventeen when they leave their native Ireland and immigrate to the U.S. For her entire life, Nora has been the quintessential older sister, raising Theresa and their younger brother after the death of their mother. Now she's headed to Boston to be married to their former Irish neighbor, Charlie, whom Nora doesn't really even love. Theresa, meanwhile, is outgoing, beautiful, and intelligent. She loves the dances and social atmosphere in Boston, but that all changes when she winds up pregnant. Both Nora and Theresa are forced to make some drastic life decisions that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Fifty years later, in 2009, Nora and Charlie have four children: John, Bridget, Brian, and Patrick. But Theresa and Nora are no longer speaking, and Theresa lives as a cloistered nun in an abbey in Vermont. What happened between the two sisters? And how will a sudden tragedy affect their current, separate lives? This was an amazing book - just beautiful, heartbreaking, and lovely. Sullivan captured the essence of each of her characters so perfectly. I could picture every one, and each was so realistic, with their own background, mannerisms, and details. The novel switches between the past, starting with Nora and Theresa's journey to Boston, and 2009, with a shocking event that rocks the entire family. We hear from each character--Nora, Theresa, John, Bridget, Brian, and Patrick. As I said, they are each an individual and embellished with Sullivan's wonderful writing and details. For instance, I loved the tidbit that Nora and her daughter-in-law communicated for years mainly through Nora's daughter's dog at family gatherings. It said so much with just one story. (And I've so been there.) I became attached to each character in their own way thanks to the strong writing and characterization. I don't always enjoy books with shifts between time periods, but all flowed seamlessly here. There's an underlying thread that ties everything together, just adding to the brilliance of the novel. While it's really a story of a family, there's still a bit of suspense, as you try to fit some pieces together. Everything works so well. Overall, I just loved this beautiful story of parenthood, immigration, siblings, religion, and so much more. It's achingly well-written, and while it ended just right, I was still sad to see the characters go. I'll certainly be recommending it to everyone I know. 4.5 stars. Blog ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Google+ ~ Instagram
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  • Ron Charles
    January 1, 1970
    “Saints for All Occasions,” the new novel by J. Courtney Sullivan, is so unassuming that its artistry looks practically invisible. In fact, from the outside, nothing about this story seems noteworthy: Irish Catholics settle in Boston; they drink too much; they struggle with the church; they gather for a loved one’s wake.That sounds as fresh as a pint of last week’s Guinness.Which makes this quiet masterpiece all the more impressive. In a simple style that never commits a flutter of extravagance, “Saints for All Occasions,” the new novel by J. Courtney Sullivan, is so unassuming that its artistry looks practically invisible. In fact, from the outside, nothing about this story seems noteworthy: Irish Catholics settle in Boston; they drink too much; they struggle with the church; they gather for a loved one’s wake.That sounds as fresh as a pint of last week’s Guinness.Which makes this quiet masterpiece all the more impressive. 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.Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this novel is its. . . . .To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...
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  • Claudia Silk
    January 1, 1970
    The best book J Courtney Sullivan has written and I really liked her previous books. It's the story of 2 sisters who come over from Ireland and settle in Boston. Such a great story and I didn't want it to end. Not coming out until the end of June but well worth the wait!
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  • Jenny
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book. Great family drama! I liked how the author referenced the title throughout the book, which gave me a greater understanding of the meaning behind the title. The Catholic girl in me enjoyed the depiction of life within a convent and how that life has changed and evolved with the church. I'm not sure if I loved or disliked the ending. I think the only reason I may have disliked it is that I didn't want the book to end. Great read!
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  • Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 *'s. This one started out great but then got really slow for me. I was left at the end thinking, "That's it?" It's a story about a family secret, hidden for many years. This is definitely my type of book and I enjoyed Sullivan's writing style as usual. It was just a little too quiet for me and I did not develop an attachment to the characters like I usually do.
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  • Robert Blumenthal
    January 1, 1970
    This is a lovely, lovely novel. It is an Irish American tale, in the spirit of Coim Toiban or Alice McDermott. It involves two sisters from Ireland, Nora and Theresa, who were 21 and 17 respectively when they came to the US in the 1950s. They were very close and lived in Boston, until Theresa got pregnant, and their relationship was never the same again.Nora is the practical and worldly one, Theresa is the dreamer. The story shifts back between 2009, where Nora's oldest and most beloved son Patr This is a lovely, lovely novel. It is an Irish American tale, in the spirit of Coim Toiban or Alice McDermott. It involves two sisters from Ireland, Nora and Theresa, who were 21 and 17 respectively when they came to the US in the 1950s. They were very close and lived in Boston, until Theresa got pregnant, and their relationship was never the same again.Nora is the practical and worldly one, Theresa is the dreamer. The story shifts back between 2009, where Nora's oldest and most beloved son Patrick has just died in an automobile accident at the age of 50, and they years from the 1950s into the 1970s. There is a secret involving Patrick that has caused friction between the sisters. Nora has become a housewife raising 4 children with a man that she is devoted to but has never really loved. And Theresa has moved to first New York to become a teacher and later to Vermont to become a nun. They end up not communicating to each other for thirty years until Patrick's death.This is a novel of character, each one beautifully drawn and realized. It is a novel of family and religion, and how certain actions or events can tear family members apart. It is simply told--it is not a novel where a whole lot happens. In fact, there are some descriptions of the nunnery that I found a little tedious. It also deals with the Irish culture--the Catholicism, the hard drinking, the bad jokes, and the inability to truly express how one feels. These people truly care for each other, they just can't express that love to each other. And after all of the buildup to the big reunion, the end is as sweet and simple as can be. Truly moving and effective.
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  • nomadreader (Carrie D-L)
    January 1, 1970
    It's only May, but this is my favorite novel of the year, and I won't be surprised if it still is by the end of December.
  • Dale Harcombe
    January 1, 1970
    The story opens in 2009 with Nora Rafferty on her way to the hospital where Patrick, viewed by his siblings as the favoured son, is in hospital. It then jumps back in time to 1957- 1958. Nora and Theresa leave their small village in Ireland for America. When she arrives, Nora is set to marry Charlie who had previously moved there. It is what everyone expects, though she is not sure love is involved, at least on her part. She is also trying to do the best for her younger sister. But not everythin The story opens in 2009 with Nora Rafferty on her way to the hospital where Patrick, viewed by his siblings as the favoured son, is in hospital. It then jumps back in time to 1957- 1958. Nora and Theresa leave their small village in Ireland for America. When she arrives, Nora is set to marry Charlie who had previously moved there. It is what everyone expects, though she is not sure love is involved, at least on her part. She is also trying to do the best for her younger sister. But not everything goes according to plan. So begins a chain of events that depend on a tightly kept and divisive secret. Having heard a lot about this book, I was really looking forward to reading it. It is certainly an engaging family drama. Maybe though for me, it suffered a little initially, as it is the third book in a row I have read about families with Irish characters. Anyway, for whatever reason it took me a bit longer than I expected to get right into it. Once I did, I wanted to keep reading, even though at times I struggled to relate to the family dynamics. It presents a good picture of the things that unite a family and those that drive them apart. Also it depicts well the way siblings often see each other and how one is often perceived to be, or indeed is, favoured which is very sad. I found Patrick not particularly likeable but again it is not always the deserving or the most likable who are favoured in families. This is an in depth exploration of several generations of this Boston family that has its roots in Irish Catholicism and makes for a good and involving read. If you like family sagas you should enjoy this one.
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  • Suzy
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this family saga of two young Irish women who immigrated to Boston in the 1950's. Nora, 21, is going to join and marry Charlie, a young man from her hometown in Ireland. Theresa, 17 . . . well, Theresa has always been in the care of Nora since their mother died when they were young children so it didn't seem like an option for her to stay in Ireland with her father and brother. Sullivan has written a touching (but never sappy) story of the fates of these sisters and their childr I really enjoyed this family saga of two young Irish women who immigrated to Boston in the 1950's. Nora, 21, is going to join and marry Charlie, a young man from her hometown in Ireland. Theresa, 17 . . . well, Theresa has always been in the care of Nora since their mother died when they were young children so it didn't seem like an option for her to stay in Ireland with her father and brother. Sullivan has written a touching (but never sappy) story of the fates of these sisters and their children. The story of their lives in the States is told in retrospect over the course of four days in 21st century Boston after the death of the oldest son, Patrick, now in his 50s. We learn of the dramatic incident early in their time in the U.S. that sent the sisters on divergent paths. At the center of Saints for all Occasions is Nora, the family matriarch, who keeps tight control on the family and the secret she fears will unravel everything she has strived to create. Full of dramas, large and small, over the course of their lives, I never felt Sullivan went over the top in her writing. She quietly unfolds their story and drew this reader in.
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  • Ferdy
    January 1, 1970
    Not really a review, just a bitch session about the main character:Oh wow, how I loathed Nora, she was seriously unlikable, which would have been okay if she had been even slightly interesting. She was a boring, cold hearted, hard faced, self pitying, obnoxious cow. The way she treated her family pissed me off so much, the blatant favouritism she showed her children was irritating, and she had a constantly bitchy attitude with almost everyone she came in contact with. Worst of all was how everyo Not really a review, just a bitch session about the main character:Oh wow, how I loathed Nora, she was seriously unlikable, which would have been okay if she had been even slightly interesting. She was a boring, cold hearted, hard faced, self pitying, obnoxious cow. The way she treated her family pissed me off so much, the blatant favouritism she showed her children was irritating, and she had a constantly bitchy attitude with almost everyone she came in contact with. Worst of all was how everyone pandered to her and fought for her approval and love when she wasn't worthy of any of it.Why did Nora marry Charlie when she could barely stand him? She criticised him non stop. No-one was forcing her to marry him, she could have backed off at any time but she was too much of a selfish coward to do that. She seriously acted like she was some kind of victim of forced marriage. The only one who had a right to act like a victim was Charlie, he was the one who thought he was marrying someone who loved and wanted him, instead he was stuck with a dull, ungrateful shrew who more or less hated him. If she had been a half decent person she would never have inflicted herself on Charlie and tricked him into a loveless marriage, she deprived him of a real marriage and loving relationship.Why did Nora only ever consider her own feelings? Other people were suffering and grieving and going through things but not once did she try to empathise or sympathise with anyone else. Everything was always about her, she wanted it all to be her way and for everyone to bow down to her wants and needs. Even Patrick's death was all about her and her feelings, other people loved and missed him but somehow she made it just about her.I don't know why Nora acted so hard done by when she adopted Patrick. It was her choice to take her sister's baby, her sister never wanted that, she was ready to give Patrick away to a family she didn't know, but Nora being the controlling bitch she was wanted to act the martyr and decided to take Patrick on herself. All it did was create a huge mess and made Theresa's life hellish with her having to watch her son being raised by her awful sister. Yet Nora wanted Theresa to be grateful for the clusterfuck she created and kicked up a fuss every chance she got. I was so hoping someone would deliver Nora some home truths about her despicable behaviour instead of everyone acting like she was a victim.Nora was a total hypocrite when it came to John/Patrick's feud, she hadn't been on good terms with her sister for decades yet she banged on and on at John to work things out with his brother. She had no right to expect John to just get along with his brother when she couldn't do the same with her sister. Also, John/Patrick's fraught relationship ultimately stemmed from her playing favourites and showing Patrick more love than any of her other kids. Patrick wasn't even Nora's biological child but she still put him before anyone else, she didn't even try to pretend she liked all her kids equally. Ugh, she had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. The only saving grace was the other characters, who in comparison were somewhat interesting and likeable.
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  • Rebecca Foster
    January 1, 1970
    Having enjoyed Sullivan’s The Engagements, I was keen to try her new novel. It opens in 2009 with Nora Rafferty, a mother of four, rushing to the hospital after being informed of a death in the family. She reluctantly accepts that her next task will be to contact the abbey where her estranged sister Theresa, now known as Mother Cecilia, lives. From County Clare, the girls moved to Boston together in the late 1950s: Nora to join Charlie, the fiancé she didn’t really love, and Theresa to have a ch Having enjoyed Sullivan’s The Engagements, I was keen to try her new novel. It opens in 2009 with Nora Rafferty, a mother of four, rushing to the hospital after being informed of a death in the family. She reluctantly accepts that her next task will be to contact the abbey where her estranged sister Theresa, now known as Mother Cecilia, lives. From County Clare, the girls moved to Boston together in the late 1950s: Nora to join Charlie, the fiancé she didn’t really love, and Theresa to have a chance at a new and exciting life. Moving back and forth between 2009 and earlier points in the sisters’ history, the novel considers the way their decisions have played out over the course of half a century, musing over what was fated and what they might have changed. We meet and spend much time with Nora’s children, especially John, who worked on the campaigns of a suspiciously Mitt Romney-esque figure and adopted a daughter from China with his wife; and Bridget, who’s planning to have a baby with her partner Natalie but hasn’t come out to her mother yet.I’m not sure I ever gave this book a fair shake; from the earliest pages it reminded me so strongly of other Irish-American family stories I’ve read: Mary Costello’s Academy Street, Anne Enright’s The Green Road, Nick Laird’s Modern Gods, Maggie O’Farrell’s This Must Be the Place, and Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn. With these forebears in my mind, it was hard to judge the book on its own merits. I also thought the ‘secret’ was as plain as day from the beginning. If it’s a less familiar story line for you, you may well enjoy it more than I did.Favorite lines:Charlie gave her a sad smile. ‘Isn’t there anything you like about Boston?’ Nora thought it over. ‘Brigham’s vanilla ice cream,’ she said. ‘That’s it.’It was amazing that you did not become your grief entirely, and walk around leaking it everywhere. It could lie dormant inside of you for days, weeks, years. You could seem a perfectly whole person to everyone you met. Without warning, grief might poke you in the ribs, punch you in the gut, knock the wind out of you. But even then, you seemed just fine. The world went on and on.Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.
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  • Celia
    January 1, 1970
    "How could you be this close, be a family, and yet be so unknown to one another?"This quote sums up the reason for this book... the whole theme of this book: We can be a family, yet not know each other. Undoubtedly, this is because we do not let ourselves BE known. Nora and Theresa are sisters. They are born in Ireland but travel together to America so that Nora can be married to her betrothed, Charlie. She is not sure she loves Charlie. She is the serious one; Theresa is the fun loving one who "How could you be this close, be a family, and yet be so unknown to one another?"This quote sums up the reason for this book... the whole theme of this book: We can be a family, yet not know each other. Undoubtedly, this is because we do not let ourselves BE known. Nora and Theresa are sisters. They are born in Ireland but travel together to America so that Nora can be married to her betrothed, Charlie. She is not sure she loves Charlie. She is the serious one; Theresa is the fun loving one who looks for beautiful clothes and loves to dance. Theresa becomes pregnant and Nora feels the need to come up with a plan. She marries Charlie and brings up Theresa's baby as her own. Theresa tries to live with her sister and brother in law as her son's 'aunt', but can't handle it. She leaves in the dead of night, leaving Nora to bring up her boy.The sisters are now estranged for 50 years. A death in the family forces them back together to confront their choices and each other.I was drawn to this book because of the reference to saints. In this book, a box of holy cards with saints pictures on the front is described. On the back is the cause or group that the saint 'patrons'. If you are a Catholic, you will know what I mean. For those who don't, I'll give an example. St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music and musicians. Theresa becomes Mother Cecilia, a cloistered nun. I am Celia and musical too. No wonder I was drawn to the book.This book describes real family drama: the children of Nora: Patrick, John, Bridget and Brian all have their stories and secrets. Getting to know this family was like getting to know my own family. I felt close to them all, even though I did not always understand the motivations of all. Good book that keeps the reader enthralled.
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  • Eileen
    January 1, 1970
    A sprawling, delicious family saga that was surprisingly addictive from start! I had abandoned an earlier work by this author, and she was finished as far as I was concerned. Fortunately however, the number of glowing reviews by goodreads friends (for this one) convinced me otherwise. The Irish element is hypnotic, because that’s somewhat in my background, and the siren song is real. As Courtney Sullivan spins this tale, different time frames are used, combining an irresistible mix of family dyn A sprawling, delicious family saga that was surprisingly addictive from start! I had abandoned an earlier work by this author, and she was finished as far as I was concerned. Fortunately however, the number of glowing reviews by goodreads friends (for this one) convinced me otherwise. The Irish element is hypnotic, because that’s somewhat in my background, and the siren song is real. As Courtney Sullivan spins this tale, different time frames are used, combining an irresistible mix of family dynamics, secrets and sheer drama! Nora and her younger sister Teresa emigrate from Ireland and must find their way. Much needed support on this challenging path appears from various relatives who have already navigated the transition. The powerful force of family interaction is clear and recurring: among the cousins, siblings and the aunts and uncles, parent and child. It seemed obvious to me that Courtney Sullivan had lived with this blessing, so convincing was the presentation. The story was charged with the attitudes of the times. Nora’s hopes and perspective were, of course, shaped by her experiences.‘When she was young and thought of marriage in the abstract, she believed it was about two individuals, each having a mostly independent existence. Now she saw that marriage was like being in a three-legged race with the same person for the rest of your life. Your hopes, your happiness, your luck, your moods, all yoked to his’. The stiff upper lip was consistently encouraged, as compared what is often the prevailing attitude in today’s culture! ‘Nora always acted like an emotion was the most dangerous thing in the world. When Bridget fell down as a child, her mother would pull her to her feet and tell her she was fine. Willing it to be so. Ignoring whatever pain she might be in, as if not mentioning it would make it dissolve. In adulthood, the same impulse took on different forms.’ It was indeed a lively household, and the five children enjoyed a loving, though disciplined upbringing. The author provides insightful glimpses of the family scene. Here’s a wry impression of how the facts of life were handled, according to daughter Bridget. ‘Repression was the order of the day in her house growing up. Nora and Charlie slept in separate beds. Privately Bridget and John referred to them as Bert and Ernie. She believed it was entirely possible that they had only had sex four times, each encounter resulting in a child’.That the convent was woven into the plot was intriguing! I was interested to learn from the acknowledgements that part of the inspiration for that plot strain came from Elvis is a Lesser God, a documentary based on the life of Dolores Hart. She was a rising Hollywood star, appearing in the movie Where the Boys Are, who left her fiancé and promising career to become a nun. I savored this story, reluctantly reaching the final page! The characters will linger on. Fortunately, I came across a link to a marvelous study which endorses an addiction to fiction:http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opi...
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