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
FormatHardcover
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 9th, 2017
PublisherKnopf Publishing Group
ISBN0307959570
ISBN-139780307959577
Number of pages352 pages
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical

Saints for All Occasions Review

  • KC
    March 18, 2017
    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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  • Susan Johnson
    March 27, 2017
    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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  • Claudia Silk
    February 4, 2017
    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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  • switterbug (Betsey)
    March 22, 2017
    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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  • Bonnie Brody
    March 17, 2017
    This is a big, juicy, family saga about two Irish American sisters who immigrate to the United States in the 1950's. Nora Flynn is 21 years old when she leaves her farm in Western Ireland with her 17 year old sister Theresa in hand and gets on a boat to Massachusetts. Nora is the shy and responsible one while Theresa is the beauty who loves to flirt at dances and have fun. While Nora marries and raises four children, Theresa becomes a cloistered nun in a rural Vermont abbey.Something has driven This is a big, juicy, family saga about two Irish American sisters who immigrate to the United States in the 1950's. Nora Flynn is 21 years old when she leaves her farm in Western Ireland with her 17 year old sister Theresa in hand and gets on a boat to Massachusetts. Nora is the shy and responsible one while Theresa is the beauty who loves to flirt at dances and have fun. While Nora marries and raises four children, Theresa becomes a cloistered nun in a rural Vermont abbey.Something has driven the sisters apart and, as the story goes back and forth between 1957 and 2009, more and more family secrets become revealed. Nora is the matriarch of her family. By 2009, Nora has been a widow for five years and her four children are grown. Patrick, the oldest at 50 and his mother's favorite child, has just died in a questionable automobile accident. He owned a bar and liked to spend his time drinking and womanizing. Though wearing a seatbelt at the time of his death, observers agree that he was way too drunk to have been driving a car. Nora calls her children together to attend Patrick's wake. John is a political consultant for republican politicians and represents one elected official in particular whom Nora disapproves of. He is married to a woman who comes from wealth and they have an adopted 13 year old from China who is becoming more and more distant from them. Bridget lives with Natalie and they are planning on having a child together. Though Bridget is in her 40's she has still not come out to her mother. Brian, a failed baseball player with no apparent motivation, worked in Patrick's bar and has returned home to live with his motherThough they have been estranged for many years, Nora notifies her sister Theresa about the funeral. Surprisingly, at least to Nora, Theresa says she will attend. What was it that created such animosity between them, so much so that Nora's children are not even aware that their mother has a sister? This is a book you can take to the beach, read on an airplane or curl up with and savor at any time. Both literary and a page turner, it has so many of the qualities I look for in a good book. The characters are well-developed, the plot stays interesting and the writing is both literary and accessible. I love family sagas and this one, about an Irish Catholic family "originally from Dorchester", pulled on my heart strings in just the right way.
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  • Robin
    February 28, 2017
    I was a big fan of Courtney Sullivan's first novel Maine, so was excited to read her newest Saints for all Occasions and it surpassed my expectations. Sullivan has honed her craft of telling a sweeping family story in all of its dysfunctional glory. Nora and Theresa are sisters with a past that affects each of their lives for the rest of their lives. It is a story about family ties and the knots that sometimes form us and break us and redeem us.
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  • Mary Lins
    March 25, 2017
    "Saints for all Occasions", by J. Courtney Sullivan, checks all the boxes of a Large Irish Catholic Family saga; secrets, lies, drunks, nuns, wakes, superstitions, and of course...pedophile priests. While I did become engaged with the story of Nora and Theresa Flynn as they emigrate from Ireland to the US (Boston) and where Nora remains a "fish out of water" as Theresa takes an entirely different path, the steady swipes at the Catholic church seemed like an axe to grind and diminished my enjoyme "Saints for all Occasions", by J. Courtney Sullivan, checks all the boxes of a Large Irish Catholic Family saga; secrets, lies, drunks, nuns, wakes, superstitions, and of course...pedophile priests. While I did become engaged with the story of Nora and Theresa Flynn as they emigrate from Ireland to the US (Boston) and where Nora remains a "fish out of water" as Theresa takes an entirely different path, the steady swipes at the Catholic church seemed like an axe to grind and diminished my enjoyment. I'm not defending the church, I'm just saying, for me, it got old.
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  • Marysue
    April 12, 2017
    Absolutely loved this novel. Sullivan's best to date, a gorgeous portrait of family, faith, and forgiveness that also tells the story of immigration and assimilation, of suffering and salvation. I did not want this book to end.
  • Ang
    March 2, 2017
    Gah! The ambiguous ending strikes again. This could have been a five-star read for me, but I just can't get behind an ending that doesn't end. (I don't need my books to be like my life.)Still, this was wonderful to read; I didn't want to put it down and was pissed every time I really had to. This is definitely one to look out for this summer. Great beach reading!Thanks to the publisher and to NetGalley for the digital ARC!
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  • Rosanna
    March 19, 2017
    This book was a great family saga to get buried in over the weekend, and the fact that it was about an Irish family made it perfect for St. Patrick's Day!!Saints for All Occasions (both a literal and figurative reference) covers the lives of two sisters who came to America in the 1950's. The story is told during that time frame, the 1970's, and the present. While there are many Catholic references, one can still enjoy the story without following that religion.This family pulls out all the stops This book was a great family saga to get buried in over the weekend, and the fact that it was about an Irish family made it perfect for St. Patrick's Day!!Saints for All Occasions (both a literal and figurative reference) covers the lives of two sisters who came to America in the 1950's. The story is told during that time frame, the 1970's, and the present. While there are many Catholic references, one can still enjoy the story without following that religion.This family pulls out all the stops in being dysfunctional, there is definitely no "fun" there. However, choices, sacrifice, and guilt figure into the story quite well and like in many ethnic families, a few surprises thrown in for good measure.I have read a couple of other books by J. Courtney Sullivan and was very happy to see this title. She certainly did not disappoint once again.Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.
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  • Melissa
    February 20, 2017
    Thank you to NetGalley for the advanced copy. I was so excited to get my hands on this, and I'm happy to say, that unlike most things I've read lately, it did not disappoint. A great family saga, full of great characters with dark secrets, I loved it completely. I even gasped out loud at the end - partly because I was reading an ebook and I didn't realize I was already at the end, but also because it just ended so perfectly.
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  • Kelly Coyle-Crivelli
    January 17, 2017
    I can never wait to read J. Courtney Sullivan's new books-I love the way she writes families. A great story that explores the secrets that ultimately make families what they become.
  • Daphne
    March 26, 2017
    I had a very hard time putting this book down. I was a wonderful story and the writing was phenomenal. This is the first book of J. Courtney Sullivan's books that I have read, but I will definitely be picking up her other novels to enjoy.
  • Gigi
    March 25, 2017
    Captivating family saga. Loved all the different POVs. Very likely one of my favorite books of 2017 come December. Another home run from Sullivan.
  • Ellen
    March 14, 2017
    Nora and Theresa leave Ireland to come to Boston so Nora can marry Charlie. The story weaves between the account of their establishing themselves in Boston, and Nora's present day family of three sons and a daughter. Family secrets, complicated sibling relationships and overcoming mistakes make this an appealing book. I highly recommend, as this is Sullivan's best novel yet.
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  • Candace
    March 12, 2017
    "Saints for All Occasions" hit me at just the right time, right when I was very eager for a nice, juicy novel, and this is it. I gobbled it down with great pleasure, which makes it a five star event in my book. The characters are all believable and full, and the story keeps you glued to the page. Once you've read this, you will be ready for another Irish-Catholic saga, so go looking for "Ashes of Fiery Weather," another rich and enjoyable Irish immigrant novel. Lovely reading.
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  • Michelle Beckwith
    March 11, 2017
    A blend of Ann Patchett's Patron Saint of Liars, J.R. Moehringer's The Tender Bar, and Colm Toibin's Brooklyn, this lyrically written novel was a pure joy to read. I sincerely hope this book receives a warm reception from the reading/writing community, as I have already chosen cast members for the movie!
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  • Shoshana G
    March 8, 2017
    I read an ARC through NetGalley.I liked this, but it wasn't that memorable/original. I kept waiting for Nora to tell the truth and I'm a little disappointed that didn't happen, if at all, until after the events of the novel.
  • Dee Kohler
    March 5, 2017
    Like going home. The close Irish catholic family at the heart of this novel suffer their secrets and regrets but also find acceptance in their families. The story skips between 1950s to 2009 and follows two sisters as they move from their farm in Miltown Malbay, Ireland to a three tenement house in Dorchester MA. Betrayal and sacrifice split the sisters and they take very different paths in life. The loud raucous life of aunts and uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters reminded me so much of my o Like going home. The close Irish catholic family at the heart of this novel suffer their secrets and regrets but also find acceptance in their families. The story skips between 1950s to 2009 and follows two sisters as they move from their farm in Miltown Malbay, Ireland to a three tenement house in Dorchester MA. Betrayal and sacrifice split the sisters and they take very different paths in life. The loud raucous life of aunts and uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters reminded me so much of my own childhood. It had me laughing and it made me cry. Read this book
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  • Jen
    February 4, 2017
    I loved this moving story about family and the choices we make and secrets we keep. It begins in Ireland with 2 sisters who are about to leave for America. It follows them as they try to make new lives in Boston and the challenges they encounter. The main character is the older sister and it follows her family and is told from the viewpoint of herself, her sister and her children. It flows back and forth between time lines which gives us the background to understand where they find themselves no I loved this moving story about family and the choices we make and secrets we keep. It begins in Ireland with 2 sisters who are about to leave for America. It follows them as they try to make new lives in Boston and the challenges they encounter. The main character is the older sister and it follows her family and is told from the viewpoint of herself, her sister and her children. It flows back and forth between time lines which gives us the background to understand where they find themselves now and the choices they have made. Highly recommend it.
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  • Julie
    January 30, 2017
    PHENOMENAL!!!!!
  • Dlmrose
    January 10, 2017
    ARC
  • Nancy
    April 13, 2017
    This is a cross between a page turning mystery and a fun beach book. Two Irish Catholic sisters come to America. one gets pregnant. What ensues is a portrait of most Irish Catholic families. We are prolific. We don't air our dirty laundry. We cover for each other. And we celebrate our dysfunction.
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  • Katie
    April 10, 2017
    This novel activated all of my mother-of-sons feelings. Which are MANY. Lovely family story, and I also appreciated the depiction of faith as complicated and imperfect, but potentially nourishing.
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