My Favorite Book - Saint Maybe
Discovering Anne Tyler
In 1999, I had to have an emergency surgery to remove my gall bladder at the age of 23. This was the first surgery I'd had and I was laid up with staples in three different areas of my stomach. I also had stitches in my bellybutton.
I had time off from work to heal so I went to stay at my aunt's in her guestroom. After a day, the boredom set in. I looked around for something to read and found a book, "Saint Maybe" by Anne Tyler.
I couldn't seem to get past the first couple pages of the book. Putting it aside, I read the only other book she had on the nightstand in the room. I cannot remember what the other book was. When I finished the book, I decided to pick up the Anne Tyler book again.
I read the first few sentences but this time the descriptive sentences seemed to jump off the pages and I was entranced with the setting, the characters, the neighbors, and the era. Whatever part of Chapter One that hadn't held my interest the first time, had me hooked this time.
I have read countless novels since 1999 and still, "Saint Maybe" has remained my favorite book so far. I have thought about the fact that I was stuck in bed and rather than being bored, I picked up this book for a second time. It's a book I easily could have overlooked under ordinary circumstances. I am glad I didn't overlook it. Let me share the reasons I adore the book with you.
Meet the Bedloes
The Bedloes are an all American family. Doug and Bee Bedloe are proud of their children, Claudia, who is married, Danny, and Ian. They're not rich as far as money goes but they make up for that with happiness and an optimistic attitude.
Mrs. Jordan is the nosey but tolerable neighbor that appears during holidays and crisis. She has memories she shares with everyone of the Bedloe children. Across the street resides foreign exchange students that come and go as they transfer in school. They keep Doug Bedloe entertained with various projects they keep messing up.
Danny's photos line the Bedloe home from his football days in highschool. Ian is the youngest with good looks and a carefree smile. He's 17 years old and aside from idolizing his older brother, he spends his time with his girlfriend Cicely.
This is how the book begins except Anne Tyler uses brilliant sentences to describe the Bedloes life on Waverly Street.
Things start changing when Danny introduces his fiance, Lucy, and her 2 children, Agatha and Thomas. Bee's extra cheerfulness fades for just a moment but she recovers quickly. Ian tries to catch the "hitch" as he calls it, but missed it again.
Danny and Lucy are married which is a huge event for the Bedloes, Mrs. Jordan, the Foreigners, and Ian's girlfriend, Cicely. Shortly after, Danny announces Lucy is having a baby. When Daphne is born, Ian automatically has a bond with her. There is a moment when Claudia and Ian question whether Daphne belongs to Danny but they keep this line of thinking to themselves and life continues as normal.
Lucy talks Ian into babysitting so his evenings are filled with playing games with Agatha and Thomas while Daphne sleeps until Lucy returns each time with new clothes. Ian's also trying to have sex with his girlfriend and is a normal teenage boy.
Cicely plans a dinner for Ian on a night when her parents will be out of town. At the last minute, Lucy needs Ian to babysit. Ian declines but Bee insist he babysit. Danny is at a stag party of a friend's. Lucy promises not to be late; a promise she ends up not keeping. Ian notices that the homely Agatha could be sneaky and Thomas is self contained but still demanding.
Danny arrives home after drinking heavily. Ian demands Danny drive him home to shower for his date with Cicely that he's already late for. Ian's anger causes him to hint to Danny that Lucy is out cheating and that Daphne was not a premature baby. As Ian is changing clothes he hears Danny start the car outside and speed off. Instead of turning when hesh supposed to, Ian hears Danny crash into a wall at the end of the road.
Here is an excerpt from the book:
"He would see it looming in his path -- something dark and stony that got in the way of every happy moment. He'd be splitting a pizza with Pig and Andrew or listening to records with Cicely and all at once it would rise up in front of him: Danny is dead. He died. Died.
And then a thought that was even worse: He died on purpose. He killed himself.
And finally the most horrible thought of all: Because of what I told him."
Church of Second Chance
Ian carries his guilt of Danny dying with him to college. Then he gets a call that Lucy had overdosed. Ian immediately feels responsible for her death too thinking it wouldn't have happened if Danny were still alive.
Ian drops out of college after the first semester to help Doug and Bee with Lucy's orphaned children. Doug and Bee are intent on finding Agatha and Thomas's birth father so he can raise the older two.
It is during this time Isn't stumbles across the Church of Second Chance and Reverend Emmett. Emmett is the founder of the church. Second Chance has a flock of misfits and some strict rules they abide by. Ian has been searching for some type of forgiveness over the deaths of Danny and Lucy, so the Church of Second Chance seems to be what he is looking for because they believe actions bring forth atonement.
Ian learns the trade of making furniture and he works, goes to church, and raises the three children. Cicely falls out of the picture because of Ian's newfound religion and beliefs. As the years go by, the hope of finding the father of the other two dwindles.
Ian wrestles with guilt, atonement, and taking care of Agatha, Thomas, and Daphne. Agatha grows up and marries. Thomas is grown. Daphne turns into a handful as a teenager but she always rights her wrongs before too much damage is done.
The three children go on a mission to find Ian a girlfriend and to rid the Bedloe home of clutter. Rita, a home organizer, helps clean out the home and she sees something special in Ian. They end up marrying and Ian has a son, Joshua.
Why A Sappy Novel
The plot to "Saint Maybe" can be sappy at times and the happy ending could seem over the top. Except, Anne Tyler crafts the novel in a way that even the ending comes off bittersweet.
I kept thinking that Ian gave up college, Cicely, and any type of life he planned in order to raise Lucy's children. Isn't that what life is about though? We all have choices we make everyday. I could definitely relate to Ian's feelings of guilt. His search for atonement is what makes the novel after all. Rather than being just a sappy novel, Tyler creates an elegant story of regular characters.
I haven't had the opportunity to read anymore of Anne Tyler's novels. Hopefully I can get to them soon. Does anyone have any recommendations for me? Has anyone else read "Saint Maybe" and have thoughts to share? I later learned that "Saint Maybe" was made into a T.V. movie in 1998 with Tom McCarthy as Ian. Has anyone seen the movie?