Wayward Saints [NOOK Book]

Overview

From a folk-rock legend comes a tender, comic story of family, music, and second chances.

Mary Saint, the rule-breaking, troubled former lead singer of the almost-famous band Sliced Ham, has pretty much given up on music after the trauma of her band member and lover Garbagio's death seven years earlier. Instead, with the help of her best friend, Thaddeus, she is trying to piece her life together while making mochaccinos in San Francisco. ...
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Wayward Saints

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Overview

From a folk-rock legend comes a tender, comic story of family, music, and second chances.

Mary Saint, the rule-breaking, troubled former lead singer of the almost-famous band Sliced Ham, has pretty much given up on music after the trauma of her band member and lover Garbagio's death seven years earlier. Instead, with the help of her best friend, Thaddeus, she is trying to piece her life together while making mochaccinos in San Francisco. Meanwhile, back in her hometown of Swallow, New York, her mother, Jean Saint, struggles with her own ghosts.

When Mary is invited to give a concert at her old high school, Jean is thrilled, though she's worried about what Father Benedict and her neighbors will think of songs such as "Sewer Flower" and "You're a Pig." But she soon realizes that there are going to be bigger problems when the whole town--including a discouraged teacher and a baker who's anything but sweet--gets in on the act.

Filled with characters that are wild and original, yet still familiar and warm--plus plenty of great insider winks at the music industry--Wayward Saints is a touching and hilarious look at confronting your past and going home again.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

The first name of Suzzy Roche apparently rhymes with "fuzzy," but there is nothing blurred or foggy about this novel about the rapprochement of a mother and daughter who both suffered violence at hands of the father. The mother remained entrenched in her upstate New York town; the daughter became the lead singer of an underground rock group before fleeing to the relative safety of a hippie church in San Francisco. The return of the daughter to her hometown enables both women to grapple with their shared troubled past in significant ways and lends readers a deeper sense of how wounds that once kept families apart can bring them closer together. (P.S. Author Roche is the youngest of the three sisters who form the group The Roches.)

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Publishers Weekly
In her debut, Roche—one of three sisters who make up the folk-rock group, the Roches—shows that her narrative skills aren’t just limited to lyrics. Abused by her father, Mary Saint—lead singer for Sliced Ham—channels her pain into music. However, after the tragic death of her bandmate and lover, Anthony (“Garbagio”) Calabrese, in 2003, Mary turns away from music and flees to the safety of San Francisco, where she finds comfort working at a cafe and by joining a hippie church run by a self-described chocolate tranny named Thaddeus. Mary’s mother, Jean, also physically and mentally abused, has stayed in the tiny town of Swallow, N.Y., her husband now a stroke victim living in a retirement home. Jean hasn’t seen her daughter in years, and the two remain wrapped in their own lives until an English teacher (who has idolized Mary) contacts Jean with an invitation for Mary to perform at her old high school. Jean worries that the locals may not appreciate songs like “Feet and Knuckles” and “Sewer Flower.” Meanwhile, people from Mary’s past are working on projects that will affect her future. Roche’s empathy for these broken souls allows readers to feel the depth of their pain and savor the novel’s happier twists. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"Not every dazzling musician has a novel in her, but Suzzy Roche, among all her other gifts, is a novelist, the genuine article. Wayward Saints is funny, smart, poignant, the prose so clear, so direct, so true. This book is a joy."—Jane Hamilton, author of The Book of Ruth and A Map of the World

"Wayward Saints is full of wonderful observations about family, fame, guilt, aging, the stupid music business, and the power & glory of performing and creating. Most importantly, Suzzy Roche has written a book about love and redemption. And it's funny! I loved the little details and the big surprises."—Loudon Wainwright, Grammy-winning songwriter

"If you've ever had the privilege of hearing Suzzy Roche sing, you know all about her perfect pitch, her angel's voice, her subtle wit. Her masterful debut novel Wayward Saints (Voice) mines these same prodigious gifts. When Mary Saint, a once-promising indie rocker, is invited to perform in her hometown, where her mother Jean still holds court, the two are forced into a long-deferred reckoning: with each other and with the demons of their past. This is a golden-threaded tale of redemption, of the transformative powers of art, and of the mysteries, pains and sacrifices of love."—Deborah Copaken Kogan, author of Hell Is Other Parents and The Red Book

"Spoiler alert: this book is wonderful from beginning to end. I loved every page."—Patty Marx, author of Starting from Happy

"I'm jealous! How can it be that someone who sings like Suzzy Roche can also write this well, tell us so much not only about the music business but about the large hearts of her characters, the locales of their deepest pain and the sources of their strength? Her language is dazzling — unpredictable, supremely funny, irreverent, and full of authority. Wayward Saints is the best and most surprising debut novel I've read since I can't remember when."—Rosellen Brown, author of Half a Heart and Before and After

Jane Hamilton
"Not every dazzling musician has a novel in her, but Suzzy Roche, among all her other gifts, is a novelist, the genuine article. Wayward Saints is funny, smart, poignant, the prose so clear, so direct, so true. This book is a joy."
Loudon Wainwright
"Wayward Saints is full of wonderful observations about family, fame, guilt, aging, the stupid music business, and the power & glory of performing and creating. Most importantly, Suzzy Roche has written a book about love and redemption. And it's funny! I loved the little details and the big surprises."
Rosellen Brown
"I'm jealous! How can it be that someone who sings like Suzzy Roche can also write this well, tell us so much not only about the music business but about the large hearts of her characters, the locales of their deepest pain and the sources of their strength? Her language is dazzling -- unpredictable, supremely funny, irreverent, and full of authority. Wayward Saints is the best and most surprising debut novel I've read since I can't remember when."
Deborah Copaken Kogan
"If you've ever had the privilege of hearing Suzzy Roche sing, you know all about her perfect pitch, her angel's voice, her subtle wit. Her masterful debut novel Wayward Saints (Voice) mines these same prodigious gifts. When Mary Saint, a once-promising indie rocker, is invited to perform in her hometown, where her mother Jean still holds court, the two are forced into a long-deferred reckoning: with each other and with the demons of their past. This is a golden-threaded tale of redemption, of the transformative powers of art, and of the mysteries, pains and sacrifices of love."
Patricia Marx
"Spoiler alert: this book is wonderful from beginning to end. I loved every page."
Patty Marx
"Spoiler alert: this book is wonderful from beginning to end. I loved every page."
Library Journal
Roche, one of three cofounding sisters of the folk-rock band The Roches, takes a brief detour from performing to write her debut novel. Musician Mary Saint flees her hometown of Swallow, NY, after an upbringing rife with torment and despair. When her bandmate/partner Garbagio dies in a tragic accident, Mary spirals into self-destruction and chosen obscurity in San Francisco until a request for a solo concert at Swallow's high school means she must resurrect her voice. As her mother battles the past and tiptoes around her own future on one side of the country, Mary struggles to find peace on the other. Reuniting at home, they must discover how to fit in the pieces of their puzzle of reconciliation. VERDICT A great read for fans of The Roches; there are definite allusions to and pokes at the music industry here, from an insider's perspective. Themes of insider/outsider, despair/inspiration, faith, abuse, and acceptance/rejection are all addressed—with finesse. A well-done first outing; Roche handles sticky topics with grace. [Roche is the latest singer-songwriter to write a novel; consider displaying her book with Josh Ritter's Bright's Passage, Wesley Stace's (aka John Wesley Harding) Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer, and Steve Earle's I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive.—Ed.]—Julie Kane, Sweet Briar Coll. Lib., VA
Kirkus Reviews
Roche's first novel has the quirkiness one would expect from a singer in a group whose fans consider them to be down-to-earth music royalty. The Saints in the title refer to daughter Mary and mother Jean, who live both miles and worlds apart. Mary skipped out from under her abusive father's thumb when she was a teenager, leaving behind Swallow, N.Y., where she felt stifled and repressed. Later, the mother who failed to protect either her daughter or herself from Bub's attacks puts her failing husband in a nursing home and moves to a new place, but she and Mary have not seen one another in years. Now Mary's career as an alternative rocker with hits like "Sewer Flower" and "Feet and Knuckles" to her credit is over, dying along with her lover, Garbagio. She's landed in San Francisco with an endearing and practical black transvestite named Thaddeus, a bedraggled dog and a fear that people will recognize her and see the failure in her eyes. Jean, on the other hand, remains in Swallow, troubled by a request from a high-school teacher who wants to bring Mary back to play a concert at the high school where she was miserable. To everyone's astonishment, Mary agrees to do the concert for a ridiculous amount, and her impending trip causes ripples that turn into waves in everyone's lives. Roche, who knows a thing or two about word slinging, writes with a fine ear, attuned to the rhythm of the language. Although the characters are off-kilter enough to be interesting and compelling enough to be sympathetic, there is, alas, lots of filler in the form of some of the minor characters, like the pedophilic teacher who brings Mary back to town. Like extra verses of a song that no one ever bothers to sing, Roche's book stretches to add details that are neither important nor very interesting. A debut novel that offers a slightly unsettling look into the lives of two women who are just beginning to understand one another.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401342746
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 1/17/2012
  • Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 903,806
  • File size: 971 KB

Meet the Author

Suzzy Roche
Along with her sisters, Maggie and Terre, Suzzy Roche is a founding member of the beloved singing group The Roches, whose debut recording was named Album of the Year by the New York Times in 1979. She has been touring for over 30 years, appeared on SNL, The Letterman Show, and the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The Roches have collaborated with Paul Simon, The Indigo Girls, Philip Glass, and Laurie Anderson. She recently teamed up with Meg Wolitzer to co-host "A Love Affair Between Words and Music" for WNYC at Symphony Space in New York, and is the creator of 'Zero Church," a performance piece that has been performed all over the United States. In 2013, her first children's book will be published by Random House.
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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Suzzy Roche
What inspired you to turn to writing novels after a career of making music as part of the Roches?
Honestly, the Roches were not touring and I had no job and no prospects, but I did write a children’s book for Random House (due out in 2013) and I figured I had enough money to live for six months. It was one of those now or never moments. I had to depend entirely on myself, sit down and create something out of absolutely nothing, and hope that it would mean something to someone, including myself.
Maybe because I was trained as an actress, I’ve always loved working with characters and realized how, through them, you can express ideas. Even when I perform music onstage, I think of myself as a character. I had been writing stories for years, but didn’t really have the nerve to try to write a novel. I took a short story I had written and set about expanding it. I spent the summer in my pajamas working on the book every day as if it were my job. I kept it to myself because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it. But I figured if I put in the hours, something would happen. It turned out to be a magical experience. I started to live and dream the book, and once I finished a first draft, it was a joy to spend the next year revising. I probably could have worked on it forever. But lo and behold, thanks to my agent, Gail Hochman, and my friend Meg Wolitzer––both led me through several revisions––the book was sold. I’m so grateful.
How is the process of writing a novel similar to writing music? How is it different?
For me, one important similarity between writing music and writing a novel is the way time slows down in the process. When you catch that creative wave, there’s nothing like it, you become super aware of everything that’s happening around you. Maybe it’s a bit like meditating. Of course, the wave ebbs and flows, so when it ebbs, you feel lost. But constructing a sentence is very similar to constructing a melody. It’s trial and error, attention to detail, a good deal of luck, and some whimsy. I consider myself a beginner as both a novelist and a musician. These are lifelong pursuits. There is no end to what I have to learn, and practice is the only way I know how.
There are big differences, too. A song is much shorter than a novel! Perhaps another difference is that a song generally expresses a single idea, where a novel is more complex. But that’s not to say that a song can’t be complex or that a novel can’t be simple.
Wayward Saints includes many nods and winks at the music industry. Is there a specific experience from your time in the music business that inspired a moment or event in Wayward Saints?
The opening scene in Wayward Saints bears a slight resemblance to something that actually happened. I have a fleeting memory of standing backstage in a smoky club in England somewhere, peeking through the curtain, scared to death because there were so many skinheads in the audience. But it’s just a flash, and everything else that happens in the chapter is fictional. Though there are little snippets of reality woven throughout the book, the story is by no means autobiographical. But I have experienced the music world from many angles, and I wanted to show as many of them as I could.
Is there a particular author whose work influenced you in the writing of this book?
I read constantly while I was writing, but the books that I found myself craving were Larry McMurtry’s Streets of Laredo, Lonesome Dove, and Comanche Moon. I love those books and have read them more times than I care to admit. But, specifically for my book, I needed courage. I never had the opportunity to study formally, from an early age I was busy singing, touring and recording, always running to catch up. My book is full of scrappy, uneducated people. Though I’m sure Larry McMurtry is a genius and probably very well schooled, the characters in those books are, for the most part, autodidacts, making sense of the world on their own, and I adore them, and his compassion for them.
Who have you discovered lately? What writers are you reading?
Fabulous books I’ve recently read:
Just finished Meg Wolitzer’s first draft of her new novel, The Interestings
Patricia Marx’s Starting from Happy
Mary Gordon’s The Love of My Youth
Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot
David Rakoff’s Half Empty
Re-read for the umpteenth time A Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene Anne Sexton’s The Complete Poems—a bedside companion Margaret LeRoy’s The Soldier’s Wife
I also belong to a wonderful writers’ group and am very inspired by my fellow writers.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 16, 2012

    A book with heart. This one has it all: Rock'n'Roll's seamy unde

    A book with heart. This one has it all: Rock'n'Roll's seamy underbelly, the trials of being in a Catholic family, friendship, love, devotion to the aging, humor, startling images and metaphors dropped as casually as the sliver of silver paper in a pack of gum or cigarettes - and I'm only 1/2 way thru it! Also, it's not too heavy to carry around town. Highly recommended.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 27, 2012

    Live To Read

    Mary Saint is the main character and very interesting. She is not your typical lead singer or musician. She marches to the beat of her own drum. The author provides the reader with details from Mary's past, including her touring and band experiences, as well as her current turmoil. What do you do after you are a lead singer? Mary still deals with the death of her boyfriend, Garbagio, and the disbanding of Sliced Ham (her former band).

    Mary's character was memorable and enjoyable. She seems so raw and real in the novel. Thaddeus, her best friend, is a compassionate character. The reader will be able to tell that he clearly cares for Mary and wants what is best for her. Jean, Mary's mother, comes off as a bit cold. She doesn't seem to have her daughter in mind most of the time and doesn't appear to care overly much for her. The other secondary characters were kind of just there, they didn't add much to the story.

    Mary's story is interesting and fun to read. If the reader enjoys musician stories, band stories, etc... this is a book that he/she will love. The author herself writes from a knowledgeable base, the reader can believe much of Mary's story. The book can be comical as well as serious. The events are well-written and flow perfectly. This novel is recommended to adult readers.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 20, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Mix of Weird and Wonderful

    Wayward Saints is a mix of weird and wonderful characters spanning time together. From the broken Mary Saint to the likable chocolate tranny Thaddeus at God’s Kindness Church, I wasn’t expecting much beyond a simple quick read but found myself pausing to reflect on the many themes in this book. Suzzy Roche combined music, faith, family and recovery, directing the reader to love and forgiveness through angst-ridden lyrics and musings of a tormented protagonist that I found at times to range from poetic to depressing.

    With a story heavy on wavering faith, many of the whimsical characters were interesting, but others were not as developed. The reoccurring themes of violence, self-destruction, and faith through me off and I was left wondering who the real Mary Saint is. She’s so damaged that you want to empathize her, but Mary’s resolution feels awkward. Perhaps this is intentional as there is no perfect conclusion to existential matters.

    It’s amusing that a punk rock text brought me back to folk rock jams. I was unfamiliar with the musical repertoire of The Roches prior to this book; however, I enjoyed the mellow musical companion “Song for Wayward Saints”, a duet with daughter Lucy Wainwright Roche available
    online. As this is Suzzy Roche’s first novel, I admire her versatility and promising talent as I look forward to her future works.

    Reviewed by Rosa for Book Sake.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted March 13, 2012

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    Posted January 23, 2012

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