Living with Saints by Mary O'Connell

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Mary O'Connell's literary territory owes as much to the pop icon Madonna as it does to the Virgin Mary. Adventurous in subject and spirit, and alternately playful and intense, each story in Living with Saints features a female saint whose life story is thematically woven into deeply resonant contemporary settings. O'Connell's tone is sassy and often profane, and in exploring the elements and effects of Catholicism in women's lives, she demonstrates an insider's nuanced understanding of its rich traditions even as she questions their limitations. In one story, the sass-talking Saint Agnes, Patron Saint of Girls, delivers a disembodied running commentary to a high school class that is being subjected to a video called How Christian Girls Blossom into Maturity. In another, Saint Anne, Patron Saint of Mothers, sits on the corner of a bed offering words of wisdom while a woman has sex with her reptilian boss in exchange for time off to be with her baby. From grave illness to the mystery of a virgin pregnancy to the more quotidian heartbreak of balancing work and motherhood, Living with Saints maintains a buoyant freshness that transforms its moments of potential despair. Reminiscent of Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides in its arresting immediacy and of Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber in its brilliant reinvention of tales of old through the prism of the author's modern voice, Living with Saints is a savvy, insouciant collection of stories that will captivate readers of all or no faiths for years to come.

About Mary O'Connell

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O'Connell is a graduate of the University of Kansas and the Iowa Writer's Workshop.
Published January 1, 2001 by Review. 228 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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O’Connell writes superb dialogue, a bracing mix of modern vernacular and eternal spiritual longings that nearly salvages “The Patron Saint of Girls,” but she’s been led astray by the currently trendy notion that a story collection must have a unifying principal—“conceit” would be a more accurate ...

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The New York Times

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There is a striking moment in Mary O'Connell's first story collection when a young woman with rheumatoid arthritis tells us that she hates the idea of a ''peaceful God.'' Like most of O'Connell's female protagonists, who are Roman Catholics (or lapsed Catholics), she knows more about life's storm...

Nov 18 2001 | Read Full Review of Living with Saints

The Guardian

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Living with Saints Mary O'Connell Review £14.99, pp228 The Long Home William Gay faber £10.99, pp257 The House of Blue Mangoes David Davidar Weidenfeld & Nicholson £16.99, pp412 In the Catholic church, saints are intended to provide consolation as well as edification by example, and also miracles...

Feb 24 2002 | Read Full Review of Living with Saints

Book Reporter

Read an Excerpt A gripping, cleverly conceived debut collection of 10 short stories that draw parallels between the lives of Christian women saints and the complex experiences of contemporary women.

Jan 22 2011 | Read Full Review of Living with Saints

Project MUSE

In that story the biblical Martha speaks of her carnal (incarnational) desire for Jesus: "I wanted the King of the Jews to dust the disciples and spend sunny afternoons with me, gathering daisies and wild blue veronica in the bright fields north of Bethany" (89).

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