Monday, January 9, 2012

Patron Saint of Liars

I have read several of Ann Patchett's books and, so far, Patron Saint of Liars is my favorite.  Interestingly, it was her debut novel!

An old hotel in Habit Kentucky became St. Elizabeth's, a home for unwed mothers run by nuns.  Rose Clinton was married and living in California when she found that she was pregnant.   She got into her husband's car and began driving across the country without informing anyone of what she was doing. She arrived at St. Elizabeth's, with the intent of giving up her baby and moving on with her life.  While she was staying there, she became an assistant in the kitchen, soon taking over all of the cooking as the staff began to realize that she had a talent for it.  After Rose's baby was born, she decided to keep the baby and was allowed to remain at the Home to work in the kitchen.  The older groundskeeper had befriended Rose and fell in love with her.  Rose married him and she and her baby, Cecilia, lived with him in his small house on the grounds.  Sadly for Rose, her past caught up with her in the end.

The book seemed to insinuate that girls/women who go to these homes are "liars".  I have found it interesting in my genealogical research that the few times that I have attempted to research women who went to unwed mother's homes, the women usually gave false names, making it extremely difficult to trace them.  So perhaps by the very nature of the process, they start out with lies. They lie to their family and friends, often to the father's of the babies, and then lie about their circumstances to the other girls at the home.  And there are probably millions of cases where the women have never told anyone about having the baby, sometimes taking the secret to their grave.  Certainly, Rose was deceptive as soon as she learned she was pregnant, by leaving her family without telling them she was having a baby, then arriving at St. Elizabeth's and being both deceptive and evasive there.  Then she married (even though she was still married to her husband in California) and her new family knew nothing about her past life. 

Very interesting to consider all the factors involved!  The book was really well-written.  I did not find Rose to be an especially likable character, but I found her quite interesting.  Good book!

No comments: