Book Review: All the Crooked Saints
All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater.
Warnings: This book is gonna dig down into your soul, and does explore some heavy themes like giving up your own self for your family, but always with a hopeful tone and a tone of recovery.
Positive Representation: Colorado's Mexican Immigrant Population (decedents of them), casual background wlw representation.
Rating: 6/5 stars
“All the Crooked Saints” is a delightful book primarily because there is something very non-book-like about it. I’ve been dying to get my hands on this story ever since it’s author, Maggie Stiefvater, first started talking about it. As a born and raised Colorado girl from an old and large Colorado family, the idea of my favorite author basing a book here in my home was incredibly exciting. I knew if any author could capture my home in a way that I always longed for it to be captured but never quite found, it would be Maggie. I was not disappointed.
“All the Crooked Saints” is about a family of exiled saints living in the questionable state of existence found only in the southwestern corner of Colorado. Here they perform miracles for those who need them. These miracles come in the form of the manifestation of the inner darkness a person carries within themselves. Given concrete form, the person must then learn to face this inner darkness made exterior, as this is the only way to banish it for good. Some never manage to face their darkness, some do, but only with help.
It is this concept of help that the book circles around in a delicate dance. If a person’s inner darkness is their own, should anyone else help them? Can anyone else help them? And what if, by helping someone with their own darkness, you accidentally release an even more dangerous darkness within yourself?
Here is where the very non-book-likeness of this book comes in. Maggie is an incredibly poetic writer. She captures things with a tone that I have not see others even come close to. While in her other works this skill is usually displayed in evocative settings and evocative characters that play on all of your senses, it is displayed through her evocations of feelings in “All the Crooked Saints,” in her ability to give words to even the most fragile and fleeting of feelings. I have never seen a book quite like it.
This is not to say that the characters or scenery are not strong, they are. Maggie truly did capture the essence of Colorado and its people in this book. But they seem almost secondary to how deeply the feelings reach down into your soul as you read. As someone who has suffered from depression—darkness—for quite a long time, and still does to this day (though not as heavily as I used to), as well as someone who teaches students struggling with their own darknesses, this very much hit home. Maggie manages to explore the isolation and confusion and illogical nature of personal darkness in a way that I have never seen it done before. It doesn’t matter what happens to the characters in the book, it matters how you feel after their stories are over. It matters how the book effects your own thoughts on darkness both in yourself and in others. It matters what questions the book helps you answer, and what new ones it poses.
Because of that, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Even if you don’t yet know what shape your own darkness is, there is a damn good chance this book will mean something to you.