“Saint X” opens with a preview of what will come. Readers learn there are many versions of the Alison Thomas story, and now there will be another version of that disturbing, traumatic moment, one that separated events into before it and after it.
The omniscient narrator sets the tone with a present tense tone, instructing readers to look, to examine the vivid geography of this tiny Caribbean island. The account describes events about to unfold, comments on what is seen, and hints at what is yet to come. The manner is clinical, precise, and unemotional. The scenes are beautiful and multi-sensory; something is not purple but eggplant-colored; minutes do not pass but diffuse like perfume into the air. Readers want to go there, experience the island, relax, and enjoy. However, all that changes after the event, the discovery of a young girl’s body on the beach
The story of Alison Thomas, the family, the supporting characters, and island itself are complex and detailed. It is told from many points of view, and narrators weave in and out of the storyline, often unidentified by time, place, or person. It is up to the reader to interlace these complex parts into a detailed, complete whole. Everyone has part of the story to tell, and everyone played a part in the tragedy, but who, in addition to Alison, is the real victim over time. Perhaps all of them are.
Schaitkin created a narrative that is rich in dialogue and geography and still full of questions and uncertainty. Readers are as confused about what really happened as are the participants in this drama. In the end, the pieces fall together, but in the tale of a girl found dead on a tropical beach, there are no winners, only losers.
I received a review copy of “Saint X” from Alexis Schaitkin, Celadon Books, and Macmillan Publishing. The sense of place was dramatic, and the characters multifaceted. The multiple points of view made continuity difficult at times, but that also contributed to the intrigue. Who were these people? What part did they play in the drama? How did they get to today from 1995?