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WHEN WE WERE SAINTS by Han Nolan

WHEN WE WERE SAINTS

By Han Nolan

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-15-216371-9
Publisher: Harcourt

“Young man, you are a saint!” are Archie’s grandfather’s dying words. They plunge the heretofore spiritually unquestioning 14-year-old into a morass of doubt. He sure doesn’t think he’s a saint, but when he meets the charismatic Clare, he begins to think that maybe he can become one. Under her tutelage, he renounces worldly things and spends hours upon hours in isolated prayer. Things come to a head when Clare convinces him to drive her to New York, where she intends to take up residence—with him—in the Cloisters, a move that causes Archie to see both his own faith and Clare’s imbalance clearly. The notion of a 21st-century saint, as embodied by the religious ecstatic Clare, is a fascinating one, and it speaks powerfully to a teen’s need for spiritual self-definition. But Archie’s Hamlet-like back-and-forth about whether to follow Clare’s program becomes tedious, and his own revelation at the Cloisters, while thematically apt, smacks not a little of deus ex machina. That certainly may be the point, but as a narrative strategy, it’s more than a little frustrating. (Fiction. YA)