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2 Hawthorne Literature- A to Z

The Patron Saint of Liars


The Patron Saint of Liars Cover



Author Q & A

Q. The Patron Saint of Liars is your first novel. How did you come to write this? What inspired you?
A. I very much thought of myself as a short story writer when I was young, but I wanted to give a novel a try. I won a fellowship for seven months to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, which rescued me from being a waitress. I knew that this block of time was my great chance to make the jump to a longer form. So in a sense the fellowship itself inspired me, that and being a waitress. I made up the story of Patron Saint while rolling silverware at the end of my shift every night.

Q. As a writer, would you say you operate more from life or imagination?
A. In the case of this novel, the question then becomes, "Did you do time in a home for unwed mothers or did you make it up?" I work very much from my imagination, though I write about issues that interest me in my own life, like the construction of family. There are also some similarities between the home for unwed mothers and the artist's colony on Cape Cod in the winter where I wrote the book. Like the pregnant girls, the artists and writers were all sort of stuck out in the hinterlands for seven months.

Q. When you wrote The Patron Saint of Liars, did you start with the characters, the narrative, or something else? What was your process, and did you always know where you were going?
A. I started with the scene of Beatrice giving birth to her twins and not calling out. I was thinking about who the other people in the room were and where they had come from and Rose was the one I was most interested in. I do always know where my books are going before I start writing them. I always say if I don't know where I'm going I tend not to get anywhere.

Q. The novel was adapted to a TV movie. Did you have any hand in the adaptation? What do you think is the best way to make a book into a movie?
A. The best way to make a book into a movie is to have nothing to do with it. I find Hollywood a very frustrating place. I did become good friends with the screenwriter for Patron Saint, Lynn Roth. I always thought of it as Lynn's movie, not mine. Even when I see it now in reruns I think, "Lynn's movie is on!" I had a part as an extra, one of the pregnant girls, but I was cut.

Q. Because your first novel takes place mostly in a small town in Kentucky, some people might think of you as a southern writer. How do you think of yourself?
A. I've lived in Tennessee for most of my life but I was born in Los Angeles. People here take that very seriously, where you were born. Southerners have been so supportive of my work that I will always think of being called a southern writer as a great compliment, but I think everyone ultimately wants to just be a writer, not southern, not female, not Catholic.

Q. How would you say The Patron Saint of Liars fits into your body of work? Did you discover themes or make artistic choices that continue to intrigue you?
A. Patron Saint is the novel in which I learned to write novels. I figured it out as I went along. Many of the choices I made in the book, the three points of view for example, came from what I was capable of doing at the time. I have a real tenderness for the book because it was my first, but I've also never read it since I finished writing it, so I can't speak to whether or not it holds up.

Q. Do you think writing for magazines was important to your early progress? Now that you are a successful novelist, do you still write short fiction or nonfiction?
A. I think writing for magazines was good for me because it helped me take my feelings out of the process of writing. For years when I was young and very broke I wrote for Seventeen Magazine and they were merciless, making me rewrite things ten times. I got to the point where I didn't take it personally. I just buckled down and did what needed to be done. I stopped writing short stories when I wrote my first novel, but I still write nonfiction and I really love it. It's so great when your life revolves around novels that take years to write to do an essay that people read and comment on right away.

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

cerabe1, April 30, 2015 (view all comments by cerabe1)
This novel delivered a lot more than I expected, based on the description. Girl gets pregnant - moves to convent - decides to keep baby. It's been done before, with many different twists, but this one really drew me in. Much more than a coming of age story or one woman's struggle to find meaning and solace in her life, the book is a character study of some really interesting people. For a first novel, it's amazingly well written, too. Ann Patchett is obviously a natural observer of human behavior.
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Dina, November 25, 2007 (view all comments by Dina)
I am a big fan of Ann Patchett. I first read The Magician's Assistant and then backtracked to read this book. The Patron Saint of Liars is an interesting look at Rose, a woman who leaves her marriage and her family and goes to a home for unwed mothers. Her plans change and she ends up staying at the home. Patchett tells the history of the mother's home and the small town where it is located. All of her characters are interesting, but ultimately Rose is hard to figure out. She is unhappy and seeking something, but can't seem to really find what she is looking for.
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Product Details

Patchett, Ann
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hepinstall, Kathy
New York
Mothers and daughters
Unmarried mothers
General Fiction
Civil War;love;historical fiction;mental asylum;insanity;island;confederate sold
Edition Number:
1st Perennial ed.
Edition Description:
Mass market paperback
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
March 18, 2003
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
8.25 x 5.5 in 0.87 lb

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Featured Titles
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

The Patron Saint of Liars Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
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Product details 288 pages Perennial (HarperCollins) - English 9780060540753 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Patchett's first novel...has a quiet summer-morning sensibility that reminds one of the early work of Anne Tyler....In an assured, warm, and graceful style, a moving novel..."
"Review" by , "[A] thoughtful first novel....[A] complex character study of a woman driven by forces she can neither understand nor control."
"Review" by , "Ann Patchett has written such a good first novel that among the many pleasures it offers is the anticipation of how wonderful her second, third, and fourth will surely be....It is a world that Ms. Patchett draws with wit and imagination....It is about pilgrimage and healing. A made-up story of an enchanted place. A fairy tale. A delight."
"Review" by , "A remarkable first novel...the voice is fresh and winning and the images linger....'A Patron Saint of Liars' is everything a novel should be, rich in beautiful language and tender wisdom."
"Review" by , "Perhaps this novel's greatest accomplishment is that we become as yearning and uncertain as the characters themselves — we search for a divine pattern to their lives, yet are surprisingly accepting of the author's reluctance to trace it for us."
"Review" by , "Beautifully written....Ann Patchett has produced a first novel that second- and third-time novelists would envy for its grace, insight, and compassion."
"Synopsis" by , Set at St. Elizabeth's in Habit, Kentucky, this is the story of Rose, an obstinate young woman fleeing her first marriage who seeks temporary sanctuary but instead finds a place among the nuns when she decides to keep her child and marry the groundskeeper.
"Synopsis" by , In the midst of the American Civil War, a southern plantation owner's wife is arrested by her husband and declared insane for interfering with his slaves. She is sent to an island mental asylum to come to terms with her wrongdoing, but instead finds love and escape with a war-haunted Confederate soldier.
"Synopsis" by , Amid the mayhem of the Civil War, Virginia plantation wife Iris Dunleavy is put on trial and convicted of madness. It is the only reasonable explanation the court can see for her willful behavior, so she is sent away to Sanibel Asylum to be restored to a good, compliant woman. Iris knows, though, that her husband is the true criminal; she is no lunatic, only guilty of disagreeing with him on notions of justice, cruelty, and property. On this remote Florida island, cut off by swamps and seas and military blockades, Iris meets a wonderful collection of residents--some seemingly sane, some wrongly convinced they are crazy, some charmingly odd, some dangerously unstable. Which of these is Ambrose Weller, the war-haunted Confederate soldier whose memories terrorize him into wild fits that can only be calmed by the color blue, but whose gentleness and dark eyes beckon to Iris. The institution calls itself modern, but Iris is skeptical of its methods, particularly the dreaded "water treatment." She must escape, but she has found new hope and love with Ambrose. Can she take him with her? If they make it out, will the war have left anything for them to make a life from, back home? Blue Asylum is a vibrant, beautifully-imagined, absorbing story of the lines we all cross between sanity and madness. It is also the tale of a spirited woman, a wounded soldier, their impossible love, and the undeniable call of freedom. http://www.hmhbooks.com/blueasylum/
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