We are pleased to share the Kirkus review of Julyan Davis‘s literary debut novel, A History of Saints
Cover art: Julyan Davis
A HISTORY OF SAINTS
written and illustrated by Julyan Davis
In this debut literary novel, the residents of a Southern boardinghouse try (and fail) not to drive one another nuts.
In Asheville, North Carolina, Frank Reed is the owner of Carolina Court, a run-down Victorian house that he has long dreamed of turning into a quaint inn. Now, the Great Recession has made such a dream seem less likely than ever, but Frank is unable to sell the house in such an unforgiving market. Instead, he’s simply rented out every room he can to a peculiar assortment of tenants, the oddest of all being the aging Scotsman and odd-jobber Angus Saxe-Pardee. With the meddlesome positivity of a fairy godmother, Angus has taken it on himself to help Frank fill the remaining two rooms (specifically in the hopes of bringing a female presence to the building). One goes to the 6-foot-2 interpretive dancer and waitress Andromeda Megan Bell. She’s just emerged from a sudden breakup, though her ex-girlfriend won’t accept things are over and quickly begins turning up at the property. The other room goes to the sphinxlike Lida Barfield, a trauma ward nurse and breast cancer survivor. It’s like adding two Chihuahuas to a house full of cats (which also happens to be a description of the recent change to the house’s pet population). It’s a combination that seems destined to go down in flames. The novel, like the house, is a claustrophobic den of big personalities, absurd activities, and unlikely objects, all sharply rendered in Davis’ wry prose. Here, Angus recommends a book for Frank’s perusal: “The title was almost worn away. Frank could make out the words Eugenics and Sex. ‘It’s a little dated,’ Angus agreed, ‘and the fellow may have been a Nazi of some sort, but he has some salient points to make, particularly about dieting. A lot of your problems, actually.’ ” The tale unfolds at an easygoing pace, more interested in developing the characters and their relationships than launching into any complex plot. It’s a story about a certain place at a certain time—an Asheville caught between its past and future—and it’s a fine spot to visit for a while.
A leisurely comic, engaging tale about a boardinghouse’s strange denizens.
Kirkus Review, October 1, 2021