Title: The Undoing of Saint Silvanus
Author: Beth Moore
Print Publisher: Tyndale House
Audio Publisher: Oasis Audio
Narrator: Shannon McManus
Published: September 2016
Genre: Contemporary Mystery. Christian fiction.
Length: 12 hours, 24 minutes. Unabridged.
About the Book: (from the publisher’s Web site)
Only God knew why Jillian Slater agreed to return to New Orleans on the news that her father had finally drunk himself to death. It’s not like they were close. She hadn’t seen him—or her grandmother, the ice queen—in almost 20 years. But when Adella Atwater, the manager of her grandmother’s apartment house, called and said Jillian’s expenses would be paid if she’d fly in for the burial, a free trip to New Orleans was too intriguing to resist.
What Adella didn’t tell her was that the apartment house wasn’t a house at all and, whatever it was, bore the dead weight of a long and painful history. As soon as Jillian meets the odd assortment of renters and realizes that her grandmother had no idea she was coming, she hatches a plan to escape. But the investigation into her father’s death quickly unfolds and Jillian is drawn into the lives of the colorful collection of saints and sinners who pass through Saint Silvanus. She soon discovers there is more at stake than she ever imagined. Who is behind the baffling messages and the strange relics left on the steps? Is it possible that her family is actually cursed? Or is it just this crazy old house that holds them all under its spell?
Jillian walks into a web of spiritual and personal danger borne out of her family’s broken history, and despite Adella’s wiliest efforts, only God himself can orchestrate the undoing of all that is going on at Saint Silvanus.
My Thoughts on the Book:
The Undoing of Saint Silvanus made my Top Ten List for 2016, with its fascinating local flavor, colorful similes, entertaining characters, and thought provoking themes. It’s a mystery, complete with murder investigation, but it reads more like a work of general fiction, being so much more focused on the characters and their relationships. There’s some romance in the mix as well, though that aspect takes a backseat to other relationships in the story.
The overall book has a gritty and real feel to it, grappling as it does with some challenging situations, and presenting complex and misunderstood characters and relationships. Some of the main characters weren’t so much likeable at first as sympathetic. In fact, I thought Olivia and Jillian were downright prickly at the outset. But they drew me into the story, because of all they were going through, and because of my curiosity to see where the story was headed. And yes, they grew on me quickly, as I got to know them better.
The secondary characters, especially Adella, kept things interesting with their quirky personalities and witty sayings. In fact, some of my favorite parts of this story were the surprising turns of phrase, unexpected comparisons, and vividly idiosyncratic descriptions used in the story, most frequently from Adella’s viewpoint. Here’s just one quick example from Chapter 5: “Over the next solid hour, Olivia spilled more beans than Adella could have shoveled back into a ten-gallon can.”
This novel would make a great choice for book discussion groups. It made me laugh. It made me tear up. And it made me stop and think about brokenness, relationships, and grace.
Specific to the Audio Edition:
The narrator, Shannon McManus, did a great job with this audiobook. Sometimes matter of fact, sometimes wry, the reading has character to match that of the text. From male to female voices, young to old, each character was portrayed with uniquely distinctive variations in voice well suited to their personalities and other characteristics. I highly recommend the audio edition to those who enjoy listening to their books.
I borrowed an electronic copy of this audiobook from my local library and received a free print copy from the publisher as part of a Goodreads giveaway. What a pleasant surprise! I was not expected to write a review, but I wanted to share my thoughts.