All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Everyone wants a miracle yet most fear what it will require to receive one.
The Soria family is all about miracles. Pilgrims arrive to their ranch in Bicho Raro, Colorado in search of a miracle. The first step is easy, the second is hard. So the pilgrims stay until they can discover what they need to do to receive that second miracle so they will be cured of what ails them. The problem is that the Sorias cannot help them with the second step because contact past the initial miracle will destroy them. So the pilgrims and the Sorias live in constant tension. That is until two men arrive, one of them doesn't need a miracle and suddenly the way forward starts to become clear. In order to help others, one must pay attention to needs of self.
I am a fan of Maggie Stiefvater and her books, with this one being no exception. Yet, All the Crooked Saints has been up and down on the reviews. Some of the negative reviews talk about the book not being appropriate because it isn't written in OwnVoice, a new delineation of writing authentically from within one's culture. Stiefvater is not Latina so how can she authentically write from that perspective? I say pish-posh to that criticism. If we took that OwnVoices thing to an extreme no one would be able to authentically write about anyone from an opposite gender or have a cast of multicultural characters in their books. That is silly. I honestly think that Twitter is responsible for this reaction to the book. One bad review and suddenly everyone is afraid to say they like the book. Sigh.
When asked, Maggie Stiefvater said that her motivation for writing All the Crooked Saints was about 'dubious advice'. She said,
"I wanted to explore the thoughts I’d had over the years about the dubious wisdom of asking obviously flawed people like myself for dubious life advice, and how giving advice changes the advice giver, and how changing yourself for the better sometimes can be done alone and sometimes requires other people."I know what she means about dubious advice. Doesn't it always seem to be the case? We ask for help from people who also need help. Ha!
What I like about All the Crooked Saints is all the magical realism that is used to highlight points. If you aren't comfortable reading magical realism because it confuses you, think about the magic as a literary technique that is showing the reader a truth without being obvious about it. On the the Bicho Raro Ranch all the Sorias are bound up in their own issues so much that they are living very small lives to the point that interacting with the pilgrims is dangerous. When Daniel Soria falls in love with a pilgrim he thinks of it as a death sentence so he wanders off into the desert to die. While in the desert he goes blind. Even as he feels the presence of the curse creeping up on him, he is given water by long dead family members who encourage him on. Now stop and think. Is he really blind? Is really given water by dead people? No. This is the magical part of the story. The reader has to take a moment to see the blindness and the thirst for what it is. He is blind to self and he thirsts for what his ancestors had---normal relations with pilgrims that didn't involve death. See? Reading magical realism is fun. It just takes time to let the brain kick in and help untangle the messages hidden within.
I listened to the the audiobook of All the Crooked Saints, read by Thom Rivera, a Latino actor. I loved listening to him read. I loved the way he pronounced words with accented English. Coyote (kīˈōtē or kīˌōt) becomes (Coy-yo-tay). It made the listening experience delightful.
I gave All the Crooked Saints five stars on Goodreads. I loved the whole experience of reading and listening to this book.
Source: Audio CDs checked out from the public library.
All the Crooked Saints, Scholastic Audio. 2017.