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The Patron Saint of Liars

The Patron Saint of Liars

4.0 89
by Ann Patchett

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"Beautifully written...Ann Patchett has produced a first novel that second- and third-time novelists would envy for its grace, insight, and compassion."


St. Elizabeth's is a home for unwed mothers in the 1960s. Life there is not unpleasant and for most, it is temporary. Not so for Rose, a beautiful mysterious woman who comes to the lovely ex-hotel


"Beautifully written...Ann Patchett has produced a first novel that second- and third-time novelists would envy for its grace, insight, and compassion."


St. Elizabeth's is a home for unwed mothers in the 1960s. Life there is not unpleasant and for most, it is temporary. Not so for Rose, a beautiful mysterious woman who comes to the lovely ex-hotel pregnant, but not unwed. She plans to give her baby up because she knows she cannot be the mother it needs. But St. Elizabeth's is near a healing spring, and when Rose's time draws near, she cannot go through with her plans, not all of them. And she cannot remain forever untouched by what she has left behind and who she has become in the leaving....

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Unanticipated pregnancy makes liars out of young women, this thoughtful first novel shows, as they try to rationalize, explain, and accept what is happening to them. When she arrives at St. Elizabeth's, a home for pregnant girls in Habit, Kentucky, Rose Clinton seems as evasive and deceptive as the other unwed mothers. But Rose is different: she has a husband whom she has deserted. Unlike most St. Elizabeth's visitors, she neither gives up her baby nor leaves the home, staying on as cook while her daughter grows up among expectant mothers fantasizing that they, too, might keep their infants. The reader learns from Rose how she came to St. Elizabeth's, but it is her doting husband and rebellious daughter who reveal her motives and helpless need for freedom. Together, the three create a complex character study of a woman driven by forces she can neither understand nor control.-- Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ. at Carbondale Lib.
Kirkus Reviews
Patchett's first novel, set in rural Kentucky in a castle-like home for unwed mothers—where a good woman finds she cannot lie her way beyond love—has a quiet summer-morning sensibility that reminds one of the early work of Anne Tyler. Within the security of everydayness, minds and hearts take grievous risks. "Maybe I was born to lie," thinks Rose, who, after a three- year marriage to nice Tom Clinton, realizes that she's misread the sign from God pointing to the wedding: she married a man she didn't love. From San Diego, then, Rose drives—"nothing behind me and nothing ahead of me"—all the way to Kentucky and St. Elizabeth's home for unwed mothers, where she plans to have the baby Tom will never know about, and to give it clean away. But in the home, once a grand hotel, Rose keeps her baby, Cecilia; marries "Son," the handyman ("God was right after all...I was supposed to live a small life with a man I didn't love"); and becomes the cook after briefly assisting that terrible cook, sage/seeress, and font of love, Sister Evangeline. The next narrative belongs to Son, a huge man originally from Tennessee—like Rose, gone forever from home—who recounts the last moments of his fianc‚e's life long ago (Sister Evangeline absolves him of responsibility) and who loves Rose. The last narrator is teenaged Cecilia, struggling to find her elusive mother within the competent Rose, who's moved into her own house away from husband and daughter. Like Rose years before, her daughter considers the benefits of not knowing "what was going on"...as the recent visitor—small, sad Tom Clinton—drives off, and Cecilia knows that Rose, who left before he came, will neverreturn. In an assured, warm, and graceful style, a moving novel that touches on the healing powers of chance sanctuaries of love and fancy in the acrid realities of living.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.38(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.81(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Patron Saint of Liars

By Ann Patchett

Thorndike Press

Copyright © 1992 Ann Patchett
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1560545267

Chapter One

Two o'clock in the morning, a Thursday morning, the first bit of water broke through the ground of George Clatterbuck's back pasture in Habit, Kentucky, and not a living soul saw it. Spring didn't care. Water never needed anyone's help to come up through the ground once it was ready. There are rivers, hundreds of them, running underground all the time, and because of this a man can say he is walking on water. This was a hot spring that had broken loose of its river to make mud in the grass, and it kept on till it was a clear pool and then a little creek, cutting out a snake's path toward the Panther River. Water will always seek out its own.

George Clatterbuck found it when it was already a pretty steady stream. It was only fitting that he should be the one, seeing as how it was his land. It was 1906. He was hunting for his family's dinner. He smelled the spring before he saw it, foul and sulfurous as spoiled eggs. He thought it was a bad sign, that it meant his land was infected and spitting up bile for relief. The water was warm when he dipped in his hand, and he wiped it off against the leg of his trousers. He was thinking about it, thinking what he ought to do, when he saw a rabbit on the other side of the field. It was as big a buck as he'd seen, and he knelt down slowly to get off his shot. He had to shoot on his knees. His father taught him that way because he was afraid the rifle's kick would knock the boy off his feet, thought George would be safer close to the ground. But since that was the way George learned, that was the only way he could ever do it, and now here he was, grown with a family, going down on his knees like a man in prayer to shoot a rabbit.

He blew the head clean off and didn't disturb the pelt. He thought he would tan the hide and give it to his daughter, June, for her birthday. June, like many little girls, was partial to soft things. By the time he'd tied the legs onto his belt he'd forgotten about the water altogether.

It wasn't long after that times turned hard for the Clatterbucks. Both plow horses came down with colic, and Betsy, the horse George rode to town, got a ringworm thick as your thumb that no amount of gentian violet could clear. Not a week after, every last one of his cows came down with mastitis that left them all drier than bones. George had to get up every three hours in the night and bottle-feed the calves, whose crying put his wife beside herself. "Sounds like a dying child," she said, and she shivered. George didn't say this to her, but he was thinking he might have to slaughter the calves and take his losses. Bought milk was more than he could afford.

Then, if he didn't have enough to worry about, the horses broke free of the corral. George took some rope and set out to bring them back, cursing the rain and the mud and the stupid animals with every step. He found them at that spring he had forgotten, drinking so deeply he thought they'd founder. He was frightened then because he thought such water would kill them, and where would the money co me from to buy three new horses? But the horses were fine. Betsy's hide was smooth where the ringworm had been and the other two were past their own disorder. George knew it was the spring that had done this, but he didn't know if it was the work of the Devil or the Lord. He didn't tell a soul when he drove his sick cows down to the water, but by the time they came home their udders were so full they looked like they might burst on the ground.

Then little June took sick and laid in her bed like a dull penny. Doctor came from Owensboro and said it wasn't the pox or scarlet fever, but something else that was burning her alive. She was slipping away so fast you could all but see her dying right before your eyes, and there sat her parents, not a thing in the world to do.

So George goes out in the middle of the night with a mason jar.

He walks in the dark to the spring, fills up the jar, and heads home. He goes to his daughter's room and looks at her pale face. He prays. He takes the first drink of water for himself, thinking that if it was to kill her he'd best die, too. It is foul-tasting, worse even than the smell of it. He lifts up June's head from her sweaty pillow and pours the water down her throat, the whole jarful. He only lets a little run down the sides of her face. He wonders for a moment what it would be like to feed a child from his own body as his wife had done, but the thought embarrasses him and he lets it go. The next morning June is fine, perfect, better than new.

When the spring had saved his livestock, George kept it to himself, not wanting to look foolish, but when it saved his daughter he felt the call to witness. He went into the streets of Habit and told what he had seen. At first the people were slow in believing, but as hardships came to them and they went to the spring for help, all was proved true.

Tales of what had happened spread by word of mouth and before long people were coming up from as far away as Mississippi ...


Excerpted from The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett Copyright © 1992 by Ann Patchett. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

ANN PATCHETT is the author of six novels, including Bel Canto, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize. She has written for the Atlantic, Gourmet, the New York Times Magazine, Vogue, the Washington Post, and others.

Brief Biography

Nashville, Tennessee
Date of Birth:
December 2, 1963
Place of Birth:
Los Angeles, California
B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1985; M.F.A., University of Iowa, 1987

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The Patron Saint of Liars 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 89 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am fast becoming a fan of Ann Patchett! This novel has wonderful characters that draw you quickly into their lives. I also have read The Magician's Assistant, Truth and Beauty, and Run by this author and liked them all very much as well. If you are a fan of Jodi Picoult or Anita Shreve novels, you will like this book as it reminded me much of their works. I especially liked reading the editorial afterword by Patchett "The Movie of the Week Ate My Novel." It was funny and gave great insight about how much gets changed from the vision an author has about their books and their characters when they get made into movies. I am looking forward to reading the other novels written by this author, including Bel Canto and Taft.
CitygirlAG More than 1 year ago
This is my first Ann Patchett book. I picked it up because the title was intriging. I could not put the book down.....I enjoyed how Ms. Patchett told the story from the three main characters point of view. One thing though....the ending was very disappointing....It left me wanting about 20 more pages. I'll probably read another one of her books and see if the ending is disappointing as well.....
LovetoreadinFlorida More than 1 year ago
You can't help it, you will fall in love with each and every character that makes up this beautifully written story. The end will come too soon, you will want to know more, but this is the magic of Ann Patchett, you always end up wanting to know more about the characters, because they become your friends, your family. That's how real they are. Savour this little wonder of a book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's true ... I couldn't put it down! Your journey with Rose through her dreams, desires, despair, and finally her strength of character, consume your emotions. Then the author juxtaposes the narrator, and you see the events in a fresh light, with a whole new heart! The end is masterfully wrought, and will wrench from you a cry for more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nicely woven story, one where you wish everybody a nice ending but that's not the endings planned, as all of the writings of this author the end is a twist that leaves you wanting more even after the books is finished. Is it the characters? The story? Both. Well written once you get the cadence of the author. Enjoyed it very much, like all of her books actually.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great writing. I could not relate to Rose hurting her mother and Thomas and then Cecelia and Son. I guess that is one reason this is a well written book. The author makes you feel emotion al attachment. I hated to see this book end. She leaves the reader with her /his own idea as to what will happen next! Wonderful book!!
shanbritts More than 1 year ago
Loved this book, major page turner!!!!!!
OntheRocks More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book. My first of Ann Patchett. I am currently reading her book "Run." There are so many people like the character Rose. I have personally never experienced the death of a parent at a young age, but the effects must be dramatic and long lasting. Fathers and daughters relationships are vital. Rose grows up without a father and it is hard for her to make any commitments. She is searching in all the wrong places.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ann Patchett is one of my favorite authors, and this is my favorite book of hers. The pregnant home for girls setting was fascinating, as was the plot.
The_Book_Wheel_Blog More than 1 year ago
What a great book! It’s about a woman who runs off to a home for unwedded pregnant girls and ends up staying and raising her daughter there. The book is broken down into thirds with each section being told by a different narrator. The characters were all so loveable even if you didn’t particularly like or understand them. When I first started reading the book, I was intrigued but found it a little slow. Luckily, my sister had recommended it and told me to keep reading, and I’m glad I did! The past few books I have read have all lacked in some way, whether it be poor character development or failing to wrap up loose ends. This book was different. Although there were a few loose ends that could have been tied up a bit better, the fact that they were left the way they were only adds to the story itself. This was my second book by Anne Patchett (the other being State of Wonder) and they are so completely different. While the other book was also really great, this is one you want to curl up with on a windy and cloudy day (like today!).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Made me think about the roles we play and look outside my views. Hadn't thought about these situations.
grlgiraffe More than 1 year ago
This is a very interesting story about people who get used to living in a certain way, having the daily habits over and over again. With the backdrop of a place for pregnant women to go through their pregnancies without the knowledge of their families. The story goes on to reveal secrets of a main character and shows how our lives are a continuous circle, even for the people involved in it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was very captivating and I couldn't put it down. I felt that the characters where very real and you could feel the emotions. Enjoy Ann Patchett very much!
comet65 More than 1 year ago
My second book by Ann Patchett and my favorite thus far. It was difficult to put down and ended all too soon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am not sure how I am just now finding this book? It's excellent.
MsKiz More than 1 year ago
Ann Patchett is one of my favorite authors. This book did not disappoint. Ms Patchett writes about people you come to care about. I highly recommend it.
anonomas More than 1 year ago
This book is interesting. It tells a story from a different side.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful, as are all of Ms. Patchett's wondrous books. A gifted writer whose novels are luminous and magical.
butterflyBU More than 1 year ago
It held my interest through out. I enjoyed the characters and theme. However, I think it is left open for a second in the series. Worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really found myself disgusted with the main character, Rose after awhile. She was so selfish. The story is well written, although I became somewhat bored during Rose's cross country trip. I just found it a very odd book.
bunsmomtl More than 1 year ago
Would have liked a little more closure with Rose
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Everything she writes is magical.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
bittersweet story where you really feel for all the characters in the story. patchett has a way of making them come alive
bookluvrFC More than 1 year ago
Rose deserts her husband and, pregnant, enters a home for unwed mothers. The novel follows her time there, her daughter Cecilia's birth and growing years, and has subplots to round things out. It is a human drama and gives plenty to think about. I enjoyed reading it and although the plot may be unusual, I felt deep compassion for the characters, who have depth and psychologically ring true.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Looking forward to the next book by Ann Patchett.