Saints, Unexpected (Invisible Publishing, 2016)
Author Brent van Staalduinen lives, works, and writes in Hamilton, Ontario. Brent has worked as a low-paid weekend overnight host on a London, Ontario radio station and taught internationally in South Korea and Kuwait, and he now divides his time between working as an information clerk with the Hamilton Public Library and teaching writing at Redeemer University College.
He is the recipient of both the 2015 Bristol Short Story Prize and the 2015 Short Works Prize, his work appears in The Sycamore Review, The Bristol Prize Short Story Anthology 8, EVENT Magazine, The Dalhousie Review, The New Quarterly, and The New Guard Literary Review. A graduate of the Humber School of Writers, he also holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia.
Why you need to read this now:
Saints, Unexpected is an urban odyssey through everyday magic, unexpected heroes, and the many levels of love, and it’ll sweep you right off your feet with equal parts charm and grit. Here’s the premise: When fifteen-year-old Mutton is robbed at gunpoint while working in her mother’s Hamilton thrift store, the thief makes off with an item that Mutton knows isn’t meant for him, hurling her and her family into a summer of remarkable and heartbreaking events.
Brent van Staalduinen has a keen eye for detail, and this shows in his writing. The book is essentially a love letter to Hamilton: van Staalduinen draws a vivid portrait of a city in transition, from empty steel mills and downtown streets to rising entrepreneurs and young families carving out new niches. While the book is grounded in a very real Hamilton, the story itself embraces magic so that it is always present but never explained.
You’ll fall in love with Mutton and the rest of Saints, Unexpected’s cast of characters. You’ll smile at the daily moments made remarkable through careful description, like breakfast in the sun on a downtown stoop. You’ll remember your first kiss, your childhood best friend. Your first summer job. You’ll smile at strangers. You’ll find yourself nicknaming the people passing through your life, based on their physical characteristics, like The Shirt, The Scarf, The Outfit. You’ll shed a tear. You’ll start looking for – and finding! – magic in unexpected places.
What others are saying about Saints, Unexpected:
“This small gem of a novel will stay with you long after you finish reading. It’s a mystery, a love story, a family drama, and it has just enough magic to keep you hooked to the last page.” — Annabel Lyon, author of The Sweet Girl
“Saints, Unexpected is not only a masterful evocation of the simple complexities of family life, it’s also a moving tribute to a city and to those who have struggled to save it. Brent van Staalduinen has a sure eye and a powerful voice.” — Wayne Grady, author of Emancipation Day
“The details of Hamilton’s downtown core are as delicate and unforgettable as his characters themselves—this is a novel filled with hope, both as gritty and as gentle as the city it explores.” — Amanda Leduc, author of The Miracles of Ordinary Men
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Thank you to Invisible Publishing, especially Leigh Nash, for sharing this magical book with us. It made this ALU'er shed a tear or two in the best way possible.