Saints and Martyrs: Novel
John Steinbeck suggested that one of the most heartbreaking lessons a child learns is that their parents are not always of divine intelligence and that the realization “is an aching kind of growing.” The entirety of Aaron Roe’s Saints and Martyrs can basically be summed up in that one quote. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young man who yearns for a way to connect with his late father. He looks for him in God, in old letters, in the divine nature of the universe, praying that one day he can amount to one iota of what his father was.
Unfortunately for Damien Kirk, reality rarely lives up to fantasy. He creates father figures in everything he does. He latches onto religion, saints, anything infallible and unreachable in order to try and connect with his late father, including a bid for sainthood. While Damien has serious intentions on becoming a saint, one mishap after another results in stressful obstacles that have him second guessing his meticulously planned future.
Any survivors of Catholic guilt will appreciate the oft bumbling Damien, who just can’t seem to find his way. Perfect on paper, his upbringing and piety are so straight-laced and shiny that his seminary disperses them en masse as their own, extending the illusion of perfection that Damien is so desperate to be reality. However, it doesn’t create the saintly path he hopes for. Damien finds himself so at odds with what he wants and how he feels that it isn’t until he meets Eden, a young boy with cancer, that he truly starts to understand himself. Eden causes Damien’s idols to crash and shatter and his path to truly open up. Choked by the cassock that once gave him reassurance, Damien finds himself broken and lost; a true messiah in the garden.
Saints and Martyrs was a relatively easy read, although the story dragged for most of the novel. It did pick up in the second half once Damien had found his foil, but it felt like it came almost too late. Most of the characters weren’t sufficiently fleshed out, making it difficult to dredge up any interest in them. However, the story itself is a good one and there were cheeky parts that had deeper meanings behind them. Even the title’s initialism seems like a nod to the sadomasochistic nature of sainthood and martyrdom.
In the end, anyone who has had cause to undertake the difficult task of finding themself will enjoy this Bildungsroman about a young man searching for his father and finding himself instead.
|Page Count||334 pages|
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