Skip to main content

Review | All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

I thought today would be the perfect day to review this unicorn of a book. It is All Saints' Day—a fitting day to revisit all the crooked ones, no? It is also the first day of November and so, today, . . . well, you know the rest. What I'm saying is, today is kind of the perfect day to do all the Maggie Stiefvater-related things! Which is, of course, why I'll be attending her signing event later this evening at my local indie, key in hand. I know. I win today. I do. What I do not do is take it for granted. My good fortune or this book. This beautiful, beautiful book. But before we get into my reaction, I want to make a brief request. If you haven't yet had a chance to read Maggie's post on how this book came about and what it was originally going to be and what it actually became, I straight up implore you to do so. It is one of my favorite things I've read this year and it is something I needed to read this year. My favorite line? "I discovered that I wanted to instead write about light."
On the night this story begins, both a saint and a scientist were listening to miracles.
The time the 1962. The setting is the tiny hamlet of Bicho Raro, Colorado. The problem is Beatriz, David, and Joaquin Soria have a rather desperate secret. The three cousins run an illegal radio station out of the back of a 1958 Dodge moving truck. Joaquin is the voice. Beatriz is the heart (and brain). Daniel is the Saint. Among the tight-knit, if wildly unusual Soria clan, there is always a Saint—one of the family members given the magical task of granting miracles to wandering pilgrims. People from all over find their way to Bicho Raro in search of miracles. Some of them leave. But some of them stay, waiting desperately for that last most difficult step in the process—that acceptance of their miracle, of the darkness within them, of what they must do to accept their miracle, solve their darkness, and move on (both literally and figuratively) from the little town, its mysterious inhabitants, and the multitude of owls inexorably drawn to the miracles. But it is not just the pilgrims who are required to accept what they cannot. It is also the Sorias. For Daniel has done what no other Saint has. He has interfered with one of his own miracles by trying to help one of the pilgrims who has come to mean something more to him than she should. Now his own darkness is coming to swallow him whole, and possibly every inhabitant of Bicho Raro along with him.

I know that Maggie can turn her hand to anything she likes and have it come off beautifully, but the fact that she chose to turn to magical realism and light at this specific point in time is a bit of a godsend as far as I am concerned. Because we collectively needed this book, I think. It is gentle and sweet in the way that only true gentleness and sweetness at the heart of ever-encroaching darkness can be. This book felt like a prayer, in the most far-reaching sense of the word—its cadences soft and ongoing, its longing true and framed by real need, its love rooted in the beauty of this flawed world we live in and in the people whose hearts and breaths imbue it with meaning. The entire time I was reading, I felt I was living inside one of Ronan Lynch's dreams. This book is a fable and a love letter, a reminder and a jumping off point. I fell in love with each of the crooked saints and their pilgrims, with Marisita and her rain-soaked butterfly dress, with Francisco and his whistling language and way with misused fowl, with Tony and his unavoidable heights, and, yes, most of all with Beatriz and Pete. Pete who wasn't there about a miracle at all, but rather about a box truck he believes might help fill the hole in his heart. And Beatriz who simply wants to understand and know more, and who fears being asked to do anything else. Watching Beatriz and Pete was a privilege.
It was nothing extravagant, just Patsy Cline sung in his low and uneven voice, and they began to dance. It was very quiet. No one else would have seen if not for the desert. But when the desert heard Pete Wyatt singing a love song, it took notice. The desert loved him, after all, and wanted him happy. So when it heard Pete singing, it rose a wind around them until the breeze sang gently like strings, and when it heard Pete singing, it provoked the air to heat and cool around every stone and plant so that each of these things sounded in harmony with his voice, and when it heard Pete singing, it roused Colorado's grasshoppers to action and they rubbed their legs together like a soft horn section, and when it heard Pete singing, it shifted the very ground beneath Bicho Raro so that the sand and the dirt pounded a beat that matched the sound of the incomplete heart that lived in Pete Wyatt.
I was dead the moment Pete Wyatt fell in love with the desert and the desert itself raised its head and took note. But Beatriz and Pete dancing as Pete softly sings Patsy Cline? And every other marvelous and magical character pausing to mark the beauty of the moment? That put the nail in the coffin. I am truly dead. I am dead of all the crooked, light-filled things.

Buy
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository

Comments

You Might Also Like

Interview with Alexandra Bracken + Brightly Woven Giveaway!

I fell in love with the cover of Alexandra Bracken's debut novel--Brightly Woven--last fall and the scant synopses I could find at the time certainly piqued my interest. After managing to get my hands on an ARC, I found myself surprised and pleased with this unique fantasy. You can read my review here. As the release date approached, I invited Alex to participate in an interview and giveaway here on the site and, despite her crazy busy schedule, she kindly accepted. Enjoy! First things first: When did the idea for Brightly Wovenfirst hit you and what (if anything) did you know right off the bat? I remember the exact moment it hit me—what I was doing, who I was talking to, what song was playing on iTunes.  :)  I had just come back from Winter Break my sophomore year in college and was sitting on my bed chatting with my mom.  Sophomore year was pretty remarkable in terms of the insane weather that we had in Virginia (where I was in school) but it had also been a bizarre year in Arizon…

Blog Tour Giveaway | An Artless Demise by Anna Lee Huber

Today marks the release of An Artless Demise―the seventh installment in Anna Lee Huber's excellent Lady Darby mystery series. I'm happy to be participating in the blog tour with a giveaway courtesy of Berkley. This is a series I've enjoyed from the very beginning (you can read my review of the first book here). Be sure that Kiera and Gage are well worth your time, particularly if you are a fan of Deanna Raybourn or Tasha Alexander.

ABOUT THE BOOK Kiera’s return to London is anything but mundane after fleeing in infamy more than two years ago. While Kiera expected the whispers and murmurs inspired by her reappearance, she wasn’t prepared to receive a letter of blackmail, threatening to divulge the secrets of her past and implicating her in crimes she didn’t commit. A gang of body snatchers is arrested on suspicion of killing people from the streets and selling the bodies to medical schools, and Kiera is a perfect suspect for their crimes―after all, she was previously married…

E-book Alert | Life Without Friends by Ellen Emerson White

I have been waiting for this day for what feels like forever. If you've followed this blog for basically any length of time, you have heard me singing the praises of Ellen Emerson White. I am a devoted fan of her spectacular President's Daughter and Echo Company series. And you should read and own them and spread the good word immediately. But Life Without Friends. This book was the beginning for me. Beverly and Derek and Boston and the Public Gardens. From my review:
This book kind of ate me alive at fourteen, and I have reread it pretty much every year since. It has become what you might call a Monster Comfort Read. I have been buying up used copies of this previously out-of-print book for years now and sending them to readers I knew needed them. I am so delighted to let you know it's now available on Kindle for just $2.99 or free with Kindle Unlimited. And I really love the new Kindle cover (above left), while I will always be inordinately attached to the original cove…