Hailed as a “marvel of a book” and “brilliant and unflinching,” Alexis Schaitkin’s stunning debut, Saint X, is a haunting portrait of grief, obsession, and the bond between two sisters never truly given the chance to know one another.
Claire is only seven years old when her college-age sister, Alison disappears on the last night of their family vacation at a resort on the Caribbean island of Saint X. Several days later, Alison’s body is found in a remote spot on a nearby cay, and two local men–employees at the resort–are arrested. But the evidence is slim, the timeline against it, and the men are soon released. The story turns into national tabloid news, a lurid mystery that will go unsolved. For Claire and her parents, there is only the return home to broken lives.
Years later, Claire is living and working in New York City when a brief but fateful encounter brings her together with Clive Richardson, one of the men originally suspected of murdering her sister. It is a moment that sets Claire on an obsessive pursuit of the truth–not only to find out what happened the night of Alison’s death but also to answer the elusive question: Who exactly was her sister? At seven, Claire had been barely old enough to know her: a beautiful, changeable, provocative girl of eighteen at a turbulent moment of identity formation.
As Claire doggedly shadows Clive, hoping to gain his trust, waiting for the slip that will reveal the truth, an unlikely attachment develops between them, two people whose lives were forever marked by the same tragedy.
For readers of Emma Cline’s The Girls and Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, Saint X is a flawlessly drawn and deeply moving story the culminates in an emotionally powerful ending.
What I thought
Thank you to Celadon Books for the free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
You guys. I LOVED this book. I’m talking LOVED like every time I (reluctantly) put it down, I felt like I was coming up out of a trance kind of LOVED. I was 100% sucked into this book, and I’m legitimately sad that it’s over. Not only that, but I am completely blown away by the fact that this was a DEBUT novel.
So, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. I went into this book VERY hesitantly, fully expecting a “meh” read. I had seen SO many mediocre review of this, and even though I’m one to keep an open mind, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy as I went into this one. So, imagine my surprise as I fell in love with this book–was I even reading the same book as everyone else? And now that I’ve finished, I think I understand. Obviously, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and not everyone’s going to enjoy the same books–that’s what makes reading so great. However, I went into this knowing not to expect a fast-paced, murder mystery, thriller–and I truly think that made all the difference.
Saint X is, instead, a deep and riveting character study that looks at all of the ripples created by tragedy and how it affects those closest to it, as well as those on its periphery. Alexis Schaitkin has some serious writing chops like I haven’t seen in some time. The settings and especially the characters felt so real and vivid to me that this book hardly felt like fiction. And there was so much to delve into, I think any book club discussion could go on for days.
If you enjoy reading about real (and flawed) characters, if you enjoy contemplating how we all have an effect on others we encounter, and especially if you have ever pondered a question like, “I wonder how it would have all turned out if I had turned left instead of right?”–get your hands on this book. So, so good!