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The Patron Saint of Ugly by Marie Manilla

The Patron Saint of Ugly by Marie Manilla

The Patron Saint of Ugly

An unlikely and unwilling saint? Aren’t they always? This story of a young girl growing up with a curse and a blessing who wanted nothing more than her privacy and the love of her family.

Why I read this book? Marie Manilla is a local author. Her work came highly recommended by mutual friends and acquaintances. The things that made this particular work stand out to me was the cover art and the West Virginia setting. While reading the book, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop given by Manilla called Monster Theory that explored the use of Southern Gothic and Magical Realism in literature.

What I liked about this book? Hands down: the characters. Everyone of them seemed to come off the page no matter how small their part or scene. The story is told mostly from Garnett’s point of view through a series of recordings for an archbishop interviewing her for possible sainthood. I found a set of reading group questions for this book and one of the questions suggested Garnett may be lying to the archbishop or an otherwise unreliable narrator. She isn’t lying or unreliable. Garnett tells her truth. Her truth may not be “THE” truth, but it how she perceived the things in her life. She maintains she is not a saint and not responsible for the healings attributed to her. She suspects her Nonna is actually responsible and also entertains the thought that the healings are because of environmental factors. Throughout the stories she records, she explains how she isn’t, and couldn’t be, the saint they claim she is. There is a universal quality to the characters that had me thinking thing like “I know this man.”

What I didn’t like about this book? The concept of Garnett narrating the story on a series of tapes took a chapter or two to get used to when I first started reading the book. Aside from that, the male characters seemed to be the most flawed and imperfect. The men in the story were completely overshadowed by the females even the grandfather who acted more like an impetuous brat than the patriarch of a family. While I don’t mind the feminist undertones of the book, I found myself hoping Garnett would have one positive male figure in her life. The closest she gets is a couple of butler types she meets and the bartender her aunt has a flirtation with at the end of the book.

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About Marsha Blevins, Author

Marsha Blevins lives in West Virginia with her boyfriend and six fur-children. She earned her B.A. in English with a concentration on writing from Marshall University. Two of her short stories and several poems were published in the university’s literary magazine, Et Cetera. She is an active member of the writing group Wicked Wordsmiths of the West and WV Writers. Follow her at www.marbleswords.com on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marbleswords, on Twitter @marbleswords.

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