... a fetching, charismatic, somewhat volatile heroine. One who is pure enough that you feel the enormity of her loss, but slick enough to be interesting ... All these sub-narratives dedicated to minor and major characters, chapters that do little to move the plot along, could easily have resulted in a novel that buckled under the weight of its structural ambitions, but Schaitkin pulls it off without a hitch ... hypnotic, delivering acute social commentary on everything from class and race to familial bonds and community, and yet its weblike nature never confuses, or fails to captivate. Schaitkin’s characters have views you may not always agree with, but their voices are so intelligent and distinctive it feels not just easy, but necessary, to follow them. I devoured Saint X in a day ... Perhaps intentionally, the narrative deflates a little at the end. But perhaps this was bound to happen; after spending over 300 pages trying to understand what happened on the island that night, could the reader be satisfied by any ending? Could the bereaved?
In this riveting debut...Schaitkin vividly paints the emotional struggle Claire experiences after leaving the island ... The differing points of view remind readers [of] unreliable narrators; readers must parse for themselves what the truth is, if it actually can be found ... While Saint X on its surface presents a mystery, the focus is on the dynamics of human relationships—and the result is an engrossing tale about family, about privilege and about finding one's way in the labyrinth of life.
... magnetic ... a nuanced examination of class, privilege and the terrible ways that tragedy can echo forward in time. Schaitkin embellishes a strong plot with psychologically complex main characters and a chorus of devastatingly incomplete narratives from peripheral characters about what really took place on Saint X. This is a must-read for fans of literary suspense.
Less thriller and more slow-burning mystery, Schaitkin’s debut novel skitters back and forth in time ... Touted as an exploration of family and grief, race and privilege, Saint X attempts to blend the weighty topics often found in literary fiction with a more mainstream storyline. The result: a story that feels disconnected and, at times, superfluous. The narrative returns time and again to issues of privilege, however these moments feel forced, disjointed, and uncomfortable. With this said, Schaitkin undeniably possesses some sharp writing skills. Sentences and passages throughout were well-written, carefully crafted, with a clear and engaging voice. Big picture, however, this reader felt detached from the perhaps overly lengthy narrative and themes that the author undertakes here.
... weighty issues serve to buoy this novel rather than weigh it down ... Emily befriends Clive without revealing her identity, and then, inevitably, these two people, victims in their own right, have the showdown Schaitkin has us craving. What happens won’t satisfy all readers, but through Emily we see that truth doesn’t always yield resolution.
... Schaitkin elevates a juicy page-turner into an incisive cultural commentary that de-centers the white female victim narrative ... instead of lingering on the well-trodden drama of the tragedy itself, the author turns a critical eye toward our collective fixations and assumptions ... Through narrative, character development and world-building, Schaitkin doesn’t just manage to avoid the Dead Girl story trap, she successfully subverts it ... This narrative choice allows the author to highlight the persistent, problematic fetishization of dead white women through Claire, as well as invoke issues of race and class through Clive—and treat both concerns with equal importance ... Schaitkin’s exhaustive, research-backed rendering of the island of Saint X and its inhabitants is key to the novel’s ability to transcend what might otherwise have been a simplistic story about another missing woman. Through the careful portrayal of Caribbean characters and culture, the author calls attention to the ripple effect of one woman’s death on an entire community ... By telling these stories—the ones we don’t usually hear—Schaitkin de-centers and helps to partially dismantle the dominant narrative of the white female victim ... Schaitkin effectively brings new dimension to the subject by facing its ugly side head-on. Instead of romanticizing Alison’s death, the novel addresses the dysfunction of glamorizing or profiting from these situations, emotionally or financially ... Schaitkin wisely avoids a neat resolution, underscoring that what’s at issue is less how or why Alison died, and more the reverberations and implications of our mythologizing of such events.
... deeply intelligent ... A rich cohesiveness of words on the page that brings the setting to life, and the profoundness and complexity of the character development makes this outstanding debut book noteworthy ... The absolute brilliance of this book and what keeps the reader reading is the way author Schaitkin put it together. She tells the story from a variety of viewpoints, sometimes in first person, sometimes third person, and even sometimes in omniscient POV...The result is a series of utterly fascinating detailed mini biographies of every character involved in any way in the murder. The reader gets to see what everyone is thinking and doing before, during, and after the event ... Readers will gladly fall headlong into this brilliantly conceived novel.
While point-of-view shifts may be confusing for readers struggling to orient themselves in the story, the richness of the characters makes the attempt worthwhile. Questions of race and privilege deepen the impact of the characters' struggle, emphasizing the societal norms each individual and every nation must address for equity to become more than a mission statement or campaign slogan ... Readers who enjoy a mystery with emotional depth will find this a compelling and impressive debut.
As thrillers go, Saint X is relatively simple when it comes to the plot. We start with a dead girl and a question: 'Who killed her?' Still, the novel isn’t quite your airport bookstore pulp (which is extremely fun in its own right). It’s an intriguing mix of literary fiction, thriller and travel literature, putting us not only in the POV of Claire, but also Clive and a menagerie of people who find themselves connected to Alison over the years ... Schaitkin spent ample time researching in Anguilla, and her time there gives the book far more dimension than just the story of missing American ... As such, we find ourselves in the minds of characters male and female, black and white — deftly navigating a story that struggles with sexuality, gender, race, and privilege ... If you’re more of a beach read fan, this is perhaps not the book for you — but if you’re looking for something that will stay with you long after the sun goes down on your holiday, Saint X marks the spot.
... deft, accomplished ... shifting between Claire and Clive’s points of view allows Saint X to cleverly subvert our expectations, as her assumptions about what happened the night her sister died are gradually challenged by his version of events. However, the truth remains elusive, with Claire finally realizing that the closure she thinks she’s after is impossible. In the end, all one can do after tragedy is to try to move on.
The complex point of view, shifting among an omniscient narrator, Emily's perspective in first person, Clive’s immigrant story in close third, plus brief testimonies from myriad minor characters, works brilliantly. Just as impressive are Schaitkin’s unflinching examinations of the roles of race, privilege, and human nature in the long-unfolding tragedy. Setting the story in a fictional place, collaged and verbally photoshopped from real Caribbean settings, is daring, but this writer is fearless, and her gamble pays off. This killer debut is both a thriller with a vivid setting and an insightful study of race, class, and obsession.
Schaitkin’s unsettling debut plays with the conventions of the romantic thriller to comment on the uneasy relationship between working-class residents of a fictional island in the Caribbean and the wealthy American tourists who visit it ... As the novel gradually shifts to Clive’s point of view, Schaitkin subverts the other characters’ assumptions about the lives and intentions of strangers. This is a smart page-turner, both thought-provoking and effortlessly entertaining.