Title: Saint X
Author: Alexis Schaitkin
Genre: Literary Fiction, Thriller
Published On: February 18, 2020
Publisher: Celadon Books
Synopsis: 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.
Saint X is not a typical thriller. It’s a literary novel first, examining a plethora of issues that would keep a book club discussing for days. From white privilege and racism to familial and sexual relationships. It’s a reminder that no one can ever really, truly know someone else completely. There will always be layers or secrets that make us humans, wholly alike and wholly different.
Like a lazy, sun-filled vacation on a tropical island, this book is a slow-burn, taking its time to reveal the characters and events that surround the disappearance of Claire’s big sister, Alison. Years later, when Claire’s path crosses with one of the men who was with Alison on her final night, Claire becomes obsessed with not only what happened to her sister on Saint X, but who Alison really was.
Beautifully written, this debut novel deserves attention. Told from alternating points-of-view that could have quickly become confusing, Schaitkin manages to give each character a distinctive voice, guiding the reader on a journey that crosses land, water, and cultures. With such an impressive first novel, I look forward to future endeavors by the author.
On Bookstagram I created a hashtag for when I include a song that reminds me of the book I’m sharing, #ASongForABook, and I had so much fun making my music-themed Top Ten Tuesday this week, I thought I’d make it a regular feature on my reviews, too. This week I’ve chosen Fade Into You by Mazzy Star, a cult classic from the 1990s. I can imagine Alison listening to this sultry and mysterious tune on her walkman as she lounges on the beach at Saint X.
Thank you to the publisher, Celadon Books, for providing me with an advance copy.
Rating: (4 / 5)
Have you read Saint X? Or is it on your tbr? Let me know in the comments!