Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler

TitleSaint Maybe
AuthorAnne Tyler
FinishedSeptember 24, 2021

As the adage goes: be careful what you wish for. After finishing Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig on September 1 I was wishing for a novel that was more plausible. Well I got that wish with Saint Maybe which is so realistic that at times it borders on grim. Bee Bedloe looks at her family through rose colored glasses:

“There was this about the Bedloes: they believed that every part of their lives was absolutely wonderful. It wasn’’ just an act, either. They really did believe it. Or at least Ian’’ mother did, and she was the one who set the tone.”

page 6

High school student Ian can’t always get to the bright side. He wondered about his brother,,

“Wasn’t it sort of a comedown that Danny had gone to work at the post office straight out of high school, when both sides of the family as far back as anyone could remember had been teachers?”.

page 7

But Bee puts a positive spin on it and suddenly

“…Ian readjusted; he shifted gears or something and whir! He was rolling along with the others, impressed by Danny’’ good fortune.”

page 7

When Danny brings Lucy home to meet the family Ian “felt his parents’ hidden start at the word ‘ex-husband'” [p 7] They also learn that Lucy has 2 children from that marriage. But a moment later

“[Bee] laughed. Ian turned to look at her, but he was too late. Already she had passed smoothly over to unquestioning delight, and he had missed his chance to see how she did it.”

page 8

Ian just can’t make that switch and studies Lucy and Danny. That studying leads him to take an action that has life-long repercussions; changing his life as well as Lucy, Danny, and the rest of the family. The novel shows how Ian deals with the consequences of his action over the next several decades. 

Anne Tyler dissects families showing all the fractures and weak spots. She does an excellent job here and we can plainly see how Ian’s decision leads to the changes in his life. Small decisions can have an outsized impact on our lives and Anne Tyler shows us the repercussions in elaborate detail. It’s a beautiful novel; but normally Tyler’s novels provide a  a semi-sweet ending where we can hope the protagonist will break through his/her troubles for a better future. That happy-ish ending is debatable in this novel. 

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