Saul and Patsy
By Charles Baxter
Vintage Contemporaries, Paperback, 9780375709166, 317pp.
Publication Date: April 12, 2005
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Five Oaks, Michigan is not exactly where Saul and Patsy meant to end up. Both from the East Coast, they met in college, fell in love, and settled down to married life in the Midwest. Saul is Jewish and a compulsively inventive worrier; Patsy is gentile and cheerfully pragmatic. On Saul’s initiative (and to his continual dismay) they have moved to this small town–a place so devoid of irony as to be virtually “a museum of earlier American feelings”–where he has taken a job teaching high school.
Soon this brainy and guiltily happy couple will find children have become a part of their lives, first their own baby daughter and then an unloved, unlovable boy named Gordy Himmelman. It is Gordy who will throw Saul and Patsy’s lives into disarray with an inscrutable act of violence. As timely as a news flash yet informed by an immemorial understanding of human character, Saul and Patsy is a genuine miracle.
"Stunning, never predictable, glimmering fiction, full of mischief and insight." –The Los Angeles Times
“Marvelous. . . . Baxter's prose–trenchant, funny, and apt to turn on a metaphysical dime–remains one of the pure pleasures of American fiction.” –The Atlantic Monthly
“For the past twenty years, Baxter has been writing some of the finest fiction in America about love, longing and the holes we carve in one another's hearts. . . . [Saul and Patsy is] eerily beautiful.” — Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Baxter at his best. He is an observer and writer of prodigious giftsÉ. A disquieting, thoroughly enjoyable and unforgettable novel.” — The Seattle Times
"A tale of generations at war and the troubled underside of placid Midwestern life . . . abounding in irony and wit, and reminiscent of Bernard Malamud and Saul Bellow." –San Francisco Chronicle
“Baxter reminds us that there is no regional monopoly on virtue and understanding, and no easy comforts for either self-appointed world-savers or smug populists. And for all those hard lessons, Baxter also manages to deliver Saul and Patsy into something astonishingly close to a happy ending. Such indeed is the glory of love--and of fully realized fiction.” –The Washington Post Book World
“One of our most gifted writers.” –Chicago Tribune
"Thoughts sprawl delightfully, insanely, worryingly and sometimes brilliantly from Saul, who, we often have to remind ourselves, is only in his twenties. . . . Funny and grown-up and generous." –The New York Times Book Review
"Charles Baxter's novel Saul and Patsy is what it appears to be--a love story. But underneath its placid surface broils biting social commentary, a tale of lost teenagers adrift in a culture with no moral center." –The Oregonian
"Saul and Patsy [is] a penetrating, surprisingly funny meditation on the dynamics of community belonging and acceptance." –The New York Times
"[Baxter] weaves magic into everyday life as if it were mere coincidence. Clark Kent is to Superman as Charles Baxter is to his writing." –Los Angeles Times
"It is rare that a novel, even a good one, manages to evoke contemporary life without being self-conscious about it. But that is what Baxter achieves here." –The New Yorker
"Watch out for the 'quiet Midwestern' tag on [Baxter's] writing: That's the iceberg you will strike. There is nothing simple in his universe, and nothing solely on the surface. Baxter's intelligence and humor are submerged, and dangerous. You know--something like yours." –Detroit Free Press
"Baxter . . . make[s] the mundane seem marvelous, the everyday seem extraordinary. . . . A clever and empathetic writer." –The Capital Times
"On almost every page at least one sentence would make me stop and shake my head in amazement and wonder. . . . Few lessons can be more valuable than a sense of how important the persistence of questioning must be to any fully realized human life. Few novels manage to renew that important sense so vividly and poignantly as Saul and Patsy." –Logan Browning, Houston Chronicle
"Both hilarious and poignant." –The Dallas Morning News
"Baxter defies the laws of publishing gravity: He went up and has yet to come down. . . . Baxter's new novel is just as bright and fully imagined, just as energetic as anything that came before." –The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Brilliantly exploring the emotional intricacies of a young marriage, Charles Baxter's latest novel, Saul and Patsy, uncannily exposes the least flattering side of human desire while celebrating the inexplicable power that love has over our lives." –Rocky Mountain News
"A warm, sad, subtle tale of difficult love." –O, The Oprah Magazine
"Baxter's store of figurative language and rich, apt description is essentially boundless, and he draws generously from it for all the characters." –St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"More proof that Baxter is one of the best novelists anywhere. Every line packs a double punch--what it apparently means and what it really means." –Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"Charles Baxter has a uniquely keen eye for the seemingly minor, ultimately telling, detail." –The Denver Post
"Baxter is a gifted, humane novelist." –Newsday
It might be the Heartland of America, but writers from the middle of the country are often overlooked. An Iowa resident herself, author Jennifer Wilson recommends the best books from that cold, comforting place known as the Midwest. More at NPR.org
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