'Saint X' is hypnotic. Schaitkin's characters...are so intelligent and distinctive it feels not just easy, but necessary, to follow them. I devoured it in a day.
-Oyinkan Braithwaite, New York Times Book Review
When you lose the person who is most essential to you, who do you become?
Recommended by Entertainment Weekly, included in Good Morning America's 20 Books We're Excited for in 2020 & named as one of Vogue's Best Books to Read This Winter, Bustle's Most Anticipated Books of February 2020, and O Magazine's 14 of the Best Books to Read This February
Hailed as a "marvel of a book" and "brilliant and unflinching," Alexis Schaitkin's stunning debut, Saint X, is a haunting portrait of grief, obsession, and the bond between two sisters never truly given the chance to know one another.
Claire is only seven years old when her college-age sister, Alison, disappears on the last night of their family vacation at a resort on the Caribbean island of Saint X. Several days later, Alison's body is found in a remote spot on a nearby cay, and two local men-employees at the resort-are arrested. But the evidence is slim, the timeline against it, and the men are soon released. The story turns into national tabloid news, a lurid mystery that will go unsolved. For Claire and her parents, there is only the return home to broken lives.
Years later, Claire is living and working in New York City when a brief but fateful encounter brings her together with Clive Richardson, one of the men originally suspected of murdering her sister. It is a moment that sets Claire on an obsessive pursuit of the truth-not only to find out what happened the night of Alison's death but also to answer the elusive question: Who exactly was her sister? At seven, Claire had been barely old enough to know her: a beautiful, changeable, provocative girl of eighteen at a turbulent moment of identity formation.
As Claire doggedly shadows Clive, hoping to gain his trust, waiting for the slip that will reveal the truth, an unlikely attachment develops between them, two people whose lives were forever marked by the same tragedy.
For readers of Emma Cline's The Girls and Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies, Saint X is a flawlessly drawn and deeply moving story that culminates in an emotionally powerful ending.
- ISBN-13: 9781250219596
- ISBN-10: 1250219590
- Publisher: Celadon Books
- Publish Date: February 2020
You’ve probably seen a similar story in the news: A pretty American teenager meets a tragic end while on vacation in a tropical paradise. The 24-hour news cycle is fueled by every salacious detail of the girl’s private life, and with every new revelation, hasty conclusions are drawn. The lurid media frenzy cruelly obscures what should be obvious—that the dead girl was a real person, someone’s daughter or perhaps someone’s sister.
Alexis Schaitkin’s magnetic debut, Saint X, begins on the first day of 7-year-old Claire Thomas’ family vacation on a fictional Caribbean island. Claire’s 18-year-old sister, Alison—gorgeous, brilliant and on the sullen cusp of adulthood—disappears on the last day. When her body is found, local police make some arrests but can’t make murder charges stick, which drives her grieving parents even further around the bend. Claire, already a “reticent, prickly” child with an obsessive streak, struggles to fit into her new identity as the surviving sister: “I was an only child now, hopelessly insufficient.”
But time does its good work. The Thomases transplant themselves from the East Coast to Pasadena, California, where Claire decides to go by Emily, her middle name. A fresh start in a sunny setting is what she and her family need to forge a manageable path through the rest of their lives. If Alison haunts her little sister throughout childhood, into college and beyond, it is more or less as a friendly ghost.
This relative peace is upended in a moment. Emily, now an editorial assistant living in Brooklyn, has a chance encounter with an employee of the Saint X resort where her family vacationed—a man with whom Alison was seen on the night she died. Emily is yanked instantly into an obsessive web of her own making, a cold case unceremoniously reopened: Who was her sister, really? And what really happened to her?
Saint X is a nuanced examination of class, privilege and the terrible ways that tragedy can echo forward in time. Schaitkin embellishes a strong plot with psychologically complex main characters and a chorus of devastatingly incomplete narratives from peripheral characters about what really took place on Saint X. This is a must-read for fans of literary suspense.