One of the things I loved best about J. Courtney Sullivan's Saints for All Occasions was how quietly and unassuming this story snuck up on me. I found myself about halfway through, reading along and realizing that I didn't want to put it down. I was thinking about Nora and Theresa in the car on the way to the grocery store and contemplating what it means to raise a family and have your children grow up and into themselves while I was stirring the spaghetti sauce on the stove.
"Taken together, the small choices anyone made added up to a life."
This quote, for me, is meaningful personally and alongside this beautifully written story. As Nora looked back over her life, as Theresa looked to the past wondering what she might have done differently....it was the realization that those small decisions along the way are what created the lives they led. And the lives of their children. I sometimes wonder where my own "small" choices are going to take our family. Something as simple as accepting a part time teaching position perhaps, or a decision to keep a friend in your life.
I enjoyed the sections that took place in Nora and Theresa's past immensely! One of my favorite things about a well written family saga is seeing the sequence of events, those "small choices", build upon themselves. Some parts of the story seemed familiar to me from other books. The Irish American experience, the dance halls, the girls making their way across the Atlantic. The stifled fifties housewife who is questioning her marriage and husband. But altogether, in this book, Sullivan writes a unique story all her own. One I couldn't put down!
My favorite character was Nora, who wasn't able to see or understand the affect of her choices on herself until much later but still handled herself with grace. Her constant role as the family matriarch, her protective mothering and her avoidance of things she didn't understand was incredibly endearing. As a mother myself I often wonder what I'm going to do with my grown adult children, when they start making their own decisions and have their own opinions different from mine. Their own life experiences. I can't imagine being able to understand everything they choose, but hope for the grace to handle them well.
I would suggest this book to anyone who is loves a good family saga, one filled with secrets and regret and the love of family that perseveres throughout mistakes and misfortune. I enjoyed the historical aspects of the sections that took place in Nora and Theresa's past as well as the present day themes that were more relatable. I rated this book 4 stars on Goodreads and am thankful to Knopf for the copy!
Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan
Published by Knopf