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Book review: Deceit and desire await in White's new novel

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“A Saint from Texas,” Edmund White (Bloomsbury Publishing)

There is a lot to appreciate in Edmund White’s “A Saint from Texas:” the artful prose, the vivid storytelling, the darkly whimsical tone.

It is the story of twins Yvonne and Yvette, two young heiresses growing up in Texas in the 1950s with an abusive father. From a young age, the twins find themselves on opposite journeys through life. Yvette moves to Columbia to become a nun, while Yvonne moves to France and marries into high society.

While living completely separate lives, both sisters find themselves struggling with what will ultimately make them happy. Through salacious chapters, White explores both women’s sexualities as Yvette finds herself in love with a fellow nun and Yvonne finds herself loathing her husband and in a torrid affair with both a man and a woman.

At times, the story feels fresh and exciting, unlike anything else you’ll read, but the dense writing can also become cumbersome. Thus, as the story goes on, White wanes in his ability to fully engage the reader. White has masterfully created deeply complex and dynamic characters, though the writing style doesn’t always make it easy to feel wholly invested in their pursuits.

Still, with “A Saint from Texas,” White skillfully invites readers into an organized mess of a world filled with equal parts deceit and desire. It is a world full of sinners and saints, one that asks us to question what turns some of us into one and some of us into the other.

 

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