Ballantine Books, 1996
In 1965, the Bedloe family is living an ideal, apple-pie existence in Baltimore. When a tragic event changes their lives, seventeen-year-old Ian Bedloe, who blames himself for his older brother’s death, begins a lengthy, roundabout path of forgiveness.
Saint Maybe offers opportunities for a reader to think about the broader questions in life right alongside the messy characters Anne Tyler presents so intimately and sensitively.
Protagonist Ian Bedloe, one of the story’s many heroes, wants to do the right thing but struggles with what, exactly, that looks like. His search for significance is merciless and mercy-filled, influential and influenced, depleting and fulfilling—sometimes all at once. The adult Ian we know at the end of the story is a different person than the seventeen-year-old Ian we met at the beginning of the book, and we’ve seen exactly how he became who he is.
Several characters in this book change for the better. And, true to life, a few characters give in to their weaknesses or let those weaknesses become more prominent with age. Because the story covers several decades, readers watch long-term effects unfold years after critical decisions are made.
Anne Tyler has been writing award-winning literary fiction for decades, but she’s a new author to me. A few paragraphs into Saint Maybe, I knew I loved this author. And by the end of the book, I loved the Bedloe family, too. In fact, I kind of feel like an old family friend.
Which of Anne Tyler’s books do you love?