“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.”
“Anyone—especially Asheville natives, newcomers, and visitors—will greatly enjoy A History of Saints, a gentle-spirited satire of the kinds of people who land in that Appalachian sanctuary, ‘a no-kill shelter for the artists, the misfits, and the weird-do-well.’ Julyan Davis paints a vivid and affectionate portrait of the characters sharing a huge old ramshackle house, of their neighborhood and the slightly nutty city, and of the surrounding mountains, not just during the Great Recession of 2008, when the book is set, but in the years before and since. His first novel is a delight.”
Michael McFee, poet, critic, editor, and professor of English at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. McFee received the James Still Award for Writing about the Appalachian South, from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award from the Western North Carolina Historical Association.