Saints In Limbo by River Jordan - Book Review

Saints in Limbo is the sort of novel where simply telling the premise shortchanges the story. The protagonist is an old small-town widower. The supporting cast includes a lackluster mailman, an everyday bar maid, a teen runaway and a spinster teacher. Not the sort of folks one expects to enthrall a reader. Yet, Saints in Limbo is filled with action, romance, supernatural horror and magic. Categorizing it proves near impossible. Singing its praises seems to simplify its depth.

Velma True, a recent widower, anchors her world with thread. She's afraid to wander very far from her home since her husband’s death notice arrived, nearly claiming her soul right out front at the mailbox. Since then, she uses threads anchored to her porch to get the mail or water her yard. But while the shifting sand of Vera True’s life is merely an illusion, the man who appears on Velma’s porch is not. The supernatural fellow comes bearing a birthday present for Velma, a rock with powers that will almost claim Velma’s life - which is something she’s not so certain she values any longer.

Saints in Limbo reveals Velma’s ephiphany not only through reflective, psychological back-story, but also by finding the magic still left in Velma’s everyday life. It's tempting to call Saints in Limbo magical realism, but it swerves too far from the real for that, especially once the supernatural creatures show up. There's a reluctance to assign the romance genre because the romance that evolves within the story is middling. But Velma's romance with her husband, told in flashback supernatural sequence, is bona fide. If a genre must be applied to Saints in Limbo, then sothern Gothic possibly comes closest to fit.

As Velma jumps between past and present, the supporting characters stories begin to emerge. Author River Jordan is a southern character writer, which can serve to slow the pace that the action-inducing magical rock beats forth, but it’s that building of character that grounds the story in realism and invests the reader. And even though the heart-string tugging surprise can be seen coming a mile away, it’s still poignant when the reader likes the recipients.

At story’s end, River Jordan leaves us with a message of hopefulness. Velma learns that there is both a place for remembering the past and a hope for the future, one where new chances abound. Mystical, life affirmative and affecting, Saints in Limbo is recommended for readers who enjoy magical realism, southern Gothic and character-driven stories.

Thanks to Random House's WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for my copy of Saints in Limbo

© 2009

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