Cover image for Saints and sinners : stories
Saints and sinners : stories
O'Brien, Edna.
Personal Author:
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Back Bay Books/Little, Brown and Co., 2011.
Physical Description:
245 pages, 16 pages ; 21 cm
A timeless collection of short stories about the driving forces in our lives. The author introduces us to a vivid new cast of restless, searching people who, whether in the Irish countryside or London or New York, remind us of our own humanity. A librarian waits in the lobby of a posh Dublin hotel expecting to meet a celebrated poet while reflecting on the great love who disappointed her. Irish workers dream of becoming millionaires in London, but long for their quickly changing homeland exiles in both places. A searing anatomy of class is seen through a little girl's eyes.
General Note:
Includes a reading group guide.
Shovel kings -- Sinners -- Madame Cassandra -- Black flower -- Plunder -- Inner cowboy -- Green Georgette -- Manhattan medley -- Send my roots rain -- My two mothers -- Old wounds.
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With her inimitable gift for describing the workings of the heart and mind, Edna O'Brien introduces us to a vivid new cast of restless, searching people who-whether in the Irish countryside or London or New York-remind us of our own humanity.

In "Send My Roots Rain," Miss Gilhooley, a librarian, waits in the lobby of a posh Dublin hotel-expecting to meet a celebrated poet while reflecting on the great love who disappointed her. The Irish workers of "The Shovel Kings" have pipe dreams of becoming millionaires in London, but long for their quickly changing homeland-exiles in both places. "Green Georgette" is a searing anatomy of class, through the eyes of a little girl; "Old Wounds" illuminates the importance of family and memory in old age. In language that is always bold and vital, Edna O'Brien pays tribute to the universal forces that rule our lives.

Author Notes

Writer Edna O'Brien was born in Clare County, Ireland, in 1930 and attended Pharmaceutical College in Dublin.

O'Brien, winner of the Kingsley Amis Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Price and the European Literature Prize, has written short stories, novels, plays, television plays and screenplays. She has also written for such magazines as Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal and The New Yorker.

(Bowker Author Biography) Edna O'Brien's previous works of fiction include "Down by the River", "House of Splendid Isolation", "Time & Tide", & "Lantern Slides", which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction. Her book about James Joyce was published in 1999 & excerpted in "The New Yorker". An honorary member of the American Academy of Arts & Letters, O'Brien grew up in Ireland & now lives in London.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* The world, if viewed in cliched terms, is indeed populated by the two types of individuals cited in the title of this new collection of short stories by the doyenne of contemporary Irish literature, an acknowledged master of the form. But that is all that is cliched about this splendid book. Witness the story Send My Roots Rain. Miss Gilhooley is a small-town librarian in provincial Ireland who arranges a first-time meeting in Dublin with her favorite poet, who, with no word left anywhere, simply does not show up, leaving Miss Gilhooley to get back on the bus and go back home, defeated. But O'Brien renders this character sympathetic, not pathetic, avoiding stereotype altogether. In the staggering Black Flower, O'Brien reaches into the recent Irish past to capture, in brief pages but intense comprehension of the psychology involved, the long grim chain of reprisals resulting from the bloody triangle of British, Protestant, and Catholic political interests and programs. Eleven stories in total bring literary lovers' rapt attention to this author's clear, immaculate style and her brilliant selection of detail, nimble plot construction, and astute character delineation. Recommend O'Brien along with William Trevor and Alice Munro. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Winner of both Irish and American literary awards, O'Brien will be featured on NPR's Selected Shorts at Symphony Space in New York on May 25, 2011; she will be granting interviews in print, online, and on the radio; and print advertising will appear in the New Yorker, where O'Brien is frequently published.--Hooper, Brad Copyright 2010 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

O'Brien (The Light of Evening) mixes her trademark lyricism with a brutal depiction of lives marred by violence, whether a pining lover whose life has been upended or a dreamer whose fate leads him to a cold death in the wild. "Sinners" depicts one night in the life of a fusty innkeeper whose prudish disgust at a trio of guests is slowly revealed to have roots in her own loneliness. In "Black Flower" a former prison art teacher drives to the countryside with a newly released veteran of Ireland's freedom fights-and a likely target for revenge. The narrator of "Plunder" is a young girl caught in a civil war who describes cowering in fear and her torments at the hands of the enemy. Another young girl narrates "Green Georgette" and endures the emotional hardship of class divisions, while in "Send My Roots Rain" a woman sits in a Dublin hotel lobby awaiting a reclusive poet and thinks back on love affairs and disappointments. And in "Manhattan Medley" a transplant to the big city begins an affair with a man and describes in rich prose how it has permeated her life. Throughout, tragedy mingles with beauty, yearning with survival, and destruction with moments of grace. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

We feel that we know O'Brien's displaced characters, like Rafferty, of Donegal, from the opening story "Shovel Kings," who in his youth joined hundreds of other able-bodied Irishmen digging the trenches for London's Underground and, sinking into late middle age and still in London, slowly downs his Guinness at Billy Mulligan's Pub. O'Brien's women, who usually own the first-person narrative, are likewise unforgettable. Funny, smart, rueful, and unlucky in love, they wait in Dublin hotel lobbies and wander through foreign cities. One unnamed narrator, in the story "Manhattan Medley," tells us, "Cities, in many ways, are the best repositories for a love a forest or a cornfield...somehow the kiss or the spoken covenant gets lost in the vastness and indifference of nature. In the city there are places to remind us of what has been." VERDICT In her best stories, O'Brien conveys the trajectory of a life so seamlessly that we almost forget these are words on a page. Her longtime readers will be pleased, and those encountering her stories for the first time will be grateful for a wonderful find. [See Prepub Alert, 11/15/10.]-Sue Russell, Bryn Mawr, PA (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.