Title: The Saint of Lost Causes
Author: Carly Schorman
“Jonathan Lambert stared at the tiny ball of fisted fingers jutting out from the newborn in a desperate show of life.”
When children start going missing in retaliation for the harm corporations cause their local communities, the rich and powerful now have to worry about what they’re going to lose. Known only as Jude, the mysterious force kidnaps children in plain sight, only to whisk them away to never be seen again.
Told from the perspective of six people, The Saint of Lost Causes follows the repercussions of Jude’s actions within the community: both to the bourgeois and proletariat.
This fast-paced thriller had me flipping its pages through the night; I loved how even with her ensemble cast, Schorman manages to give her characters equal time and depth across the earlier acts of the book.
I typically have trouble telling characters apart, especially when any more than five key characters are introduced. But each character is distinctive in their own right, in terms of their backstory, personality and arcs.
Schorman’s debut novel is definitely an ambitious one. Key to the novel’s themes, her characters come from various income levels; some are filthy rich, others live from pay check to pay check. Themes of capitalism and its consequences on society’s members are brought to the forefront of this novel; two characters in particular end up switching classes in the second act and we see how this impacts their mental health and their perspectives of themselves.
However, one glaring oversight in this novel is the lack of racial representation among its cast. Despite having six characters, none of the main characters belong to any minority groups. The few side characters that aren’t white are not named and tend to die within a few pages; as typical of white authors, the pain of minority characters is only used to move the plot along.
If we were to overlook this oversight, the next apparent flaw in the novel is also one of its strengths; with six characters to pay attention too, the ending of The Saint of Lost Causesfalls short of its premise by a lot. And I can’t blame Schorman much on this part, having to tend to six characters’ story arcs plus trying to squeeze in a critique of capitalism doesn’t leave much space to wrap up any loose ends.
In the second half of the book, the third and fourth act are so rushed, they combined are maybe the same length as the first act. The ending of just about every character is immensely unsatisfying, there is no real character development for any of them. The minor characters change more despite showing up less.
While I loved Schorman’s writing style and how detailed the first and second act was, the ending left much to be desired. I really wanted there to be a big conclusion to what Schorman had set out to achieve, either thematically or development wise.
The true beauty of the story was the grey area that the ‘“villain” Jude operated in; their motivations to commit the crimes they did were well-intentioned, even if their actions were clearly morally wrong. But Jude’s strongest facet was their strong belief that their actions was the only way to bring justice to the impoverished to the point that they were willing to disappear from society altogether in order to hide from detection. I wanted to know more about Jude, in more detail than what Schorman had included: what was their personal stake in all these kidnappings? Why had they turned to crime? How exactly did they commit all the crimes they did?
It felt clear to me that the novel was setting up for a sequel to expand more on the “villain” in the story but because of that stylistic choice, The Saint of Lost Causes felt incomplete. I would love to read the sequel, for the sole sake of finishing the story arc, but I do wish that we could have at least gotten a better ending for this debut book instead.
The Saint of Lost Causes by Carly Schorman will be available at Barnes and Noble for $18.99 on 15 Jan 2021.
This review was first published on The Reader Who Came In from the Heat. Subscribe for more in your inbox.