Latest Review: "Twenty-One Cardinals" by Jocelyne Saucier

The latest addition to our Reviews section is a piece by Natalya Tausanovitch on Twenty-One Cardinals by Jocelyne Saucier, published by Coach House Books.

Natalya was a student of Chad’s last school year, and is in her final year of studies at the university. This summer, she did an internship with the press and helped out with the myriad things we make them do for us (the worst is probably getting out of the car to check whether or not the Jimmy Johns doors have opened yet), including getting in touch with people about our upcoming 2nd Annual Celebration of Open Letter & Rochester. Natalya is a trooper, and a big help. Here’s the beginning of her review:

Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the Cardinal family, and left me wishing I could stay for more. With its elegiac prose and sensitively developed characters, the novel is an original, emotionally potent, and heartbreakingly real exploration of the forces that bind and break families.

In addition to Saucier’s nuanced portrayal of a unique family dynamic, the inventiveness of her various characters and settings kept me constantly intrigued. The Cardinals are a fierce and feral clan of twenty-one siblings who grew up together in Norco, a now desolate and poverty-stricken mining town in Quebec. Norco was built on the short-lived prosperity of a zinc mine discovered by their obsessive and elusive prospector father; in the original, instigating tragedy of the family, he would never see an ounce of the wealth that came from his discovery, an event that would spiral into the family’s demise. As a consequence of this underlying anger, the siblings grew up united in a war against anyone outside their exclusive, isolated family: for most of their childhoods, it was Cardinals against the rest of the world. They despised the outsiders that profited from the mine and ridiculed any sign of weakness within their own ranks.

For the rest of the review, go here.


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