Saints for All Occasions

J. Courtney Sullivan (The Engagements) traces the story of the Flynn-Rafferty clan in her fourth novel, Saints for All Occasions. Growing up on her family's farm in County Clare, Ireland, Nora Flynn could see her whole life unfolding ahead of her. She'd marry Charlie Rafferty, the first boy she ever kissed, and they'd raise their children in the village where they know every face and every stone. But plans take a turn when Nora sails to the United States with her younger sister, Theresa, to join Charlie in Boston. Adventurous Theresa dreams of a teaching career and high romance, while shy, sensible Nora wants to earn some money and go back home. But when Theresa becomes pregnant, both sisters make a choice with far-reaching consequences for their family. 

Sullivan begins her narrative in 2009, with the death of Nora's eldest son, Patrick: the winsome boy who caused her more worry than her other three children put together. A phone call to Theresa, now a cloistered nun in Vermont, hints at the fraught history between the sisters, and Sullivan untangles the skein of the past 50 years with nimble strokes. Nora's other children each get their due, both as part of her family and as their own, fully realized selves. Boston's tightly knit, boisterous Irish and Irish-American communities are rendered in vibrant detail, and Theresa's winding path to (and within) the monastery is an unexpected delight. Saints for All Occasions is a keenly observed story of family, regret and love--especially the complex, unbreakable bond sisters share. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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