All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Magical realism
Rating: 4 stars.
I don’t quite know how to express my unexpected delight for this book. The prose was gorgeous, but also snarky in surprising ways, the characters were intensely complex and the growth they experienced compelling, and the way Stiefvater wove fantasy and reality together was incredibly seamless.
I also don’t quite know how to summarize this book. It is the story of the Soria family, but also of Pete and Tony and the other pilgrims who come to the Soria’s ranch in rural Colorado in search of a miracle. Ultimately, I think All the Crooked Saints is a story of facing the lies we believe about ourselves, driving them out, and replacing them with truth.
The way Stiefvater tells these tales in such a lyrical, haunting manner swept me right into the story. I ADORED the way she introduced each of the characters with “Here was a thing CHARACTER wanted” and “here was a thing CHARACTER feared.” These introductions told you so much more about the characters in two sentences than you might learn in an entire book. The introductions also served to make each character memorable, which, with such a large cast for such a short book, was a phenomenal feat.
I honestly cannot think of any flaws with this novel. I unashamedly adored it, though perhaps the ending was slightly rushed and could have been a bit more fleshed out. Having never read a Maggie Stiefvater novel before, I did not know what to expect, but I was absolutely floored by what I read.
I understand there has been some controversy surrounding the book because of how it draws much of its mythology from Catholicism, but I thought it was done in a tasteful, respectful manner. Of course, the mythology does not truly follow the tenants of Catholicism, so I preferred to see it as something completely separate from the reality of the Catholic faith. But the concept of “saints” and “pilgrims” as used by Stiefvater were truly fascinating, and, I thought, were used to tell a moving story of positive change and growth and the resilience of the human condition.
Stiefvater’s understanding of human nature and her ability to synthesize that into beautiful prose and a moving story were what impressed me the most, and I highly recommend All the Crooked Saints.