J.Courtney Sullivan has been a reliable author in my list. She spins family sagas with heart, develops rich characters, and produces satisfying conclusions. Saints for All Occasions, her latest, does not disappoint. I actually heard her speak once at a book festival. She’s young and personable and I’ve been rooting for her. At this point in her career with three books (The Engagements, Maine, and Commencement) under her belt, I’d say she’s doing darn well.
The book begins in Ireland and Nora and Theresa Flynn are headed to America. Nora, the elder, is responsible at 21. Theresa is energetic and pretty at age 17. Unfortunately, she ends up pregnant and Nora has to devise a plan to avoid family shame. However, the decisions made will forever haunt them both. Flash forward fifty years. Nora sadly must deal with the death of her oldest son, Patrick. He was the good looking black sheep – hard drinking and trouble. Now what? We learn about the siblings – John, Bridget, and Brian and their interactions with their brother and parents. And what of Theresa, now Mother Cecilia, cloistered in a convent. What happens when Nora contacts her about this death? Suddenly an aunt no one knew about appears in their lives at the funeral.
p. 234 Nora: 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.
p. 320 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.
Saints for All Occasions moves between the past, the present, and the family life versus the convent life. Secrets in a family can break and bind at the same time. Sullivan spins a grand tale and it keeps you interested until the end.