Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

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 m...

Title:Saints for All Occasions
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0307959570
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:352 pages

Saints for All Occasions Reviews

  • KC

    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.

  • Susan Johnson

    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

  • switterbug (Betsey)

    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

  • Jessica

    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

    and

    got together and made a baby that likes to make references that my husband called Massachusetts fan fiction (

    , 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.

  • Pouting Always

    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.

  • Diane S ☔

    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.

  • Wyndy

    4.5 stars. "Taken together, the small choices anyone made added up to a life." Twelve words . . . twelve simple, thought-provoking words that sum up the way this book is written: Pared-down but rich; personal but not sentimental; emotional without being dramatic.

    This is a fascinating family saga centered around two Irish Catholic families - the Flynns and the Raffertys. Sisters Nora and Theresa Flynn, whose mother is dead, leave County Clare, Ireland at the ages of 21 and 17, without their gran,

    4.5 stars. "Taken together, the small choices anyone made added up to a life." Twelve words . . . twelve simple, thought-provoking words that sum up the way this book is written: Pared-down but rich; personal but not sentimental; emotional without being dramatic.

    This is a fascinating family saga centered around two Irish Catholic families - the Flynns and the Raffertys. Sisters Nora and Theresa Flynn, whose mother is dead, leave County Clare, Ireland at the ages of 21 and 17, without their gran, their father or their brother Michael and journey to Boston USA to join Charlie Rafferty, Nora's fiancé, who has his own reasons for leaving Ireland. The story of their lives alternates between the years 1957 - 1976 and one single week in 2009 - the week Patrick Rafferty dies in a car crash and is buried. The crux of the story, once the early history of both families is established, is about the repercussions of choices made and lies told regarding Patrick's conception, birth, and life up to his untimely death at age 50.

    This is not a smarmy, formulaic, tear-jerking saga. It's a well-written novel about ordinary people and the difficult decisions they make. It's about duty and the trials of parenting. It's about resilience and determination. It's about searching for peace and acceptance. And in the end, this story is all about family and forgiveness. I cared about every single person in this book (even Nora) and wanted only the best for each of them - which says much about this writer's skills. Parting quote: "Someone could save your life without you ever knowing it." Ten words. Highly recommend to any reader.

  • Cheri

    4.5 Stars

    Love, dreams, sacrifice and family are the themes at the core of Courtney Sullivan’s latest novel,

    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 Stars

    Love, dreams, sacrifice and family are the themes at the core of Courtney Sullivan’s latest novel,

    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.

    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:

    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.

    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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