Monday, November 10, 2008

The Saints of Augustine

Sam and Charlie’s lives are both spiraling out of control, but they aren’t aware that the other is in trouble. Sam and Charlie used to be best friends, but about a year ago, Sam abruptly ended their friendship, and they haven’t talked since. In that year, Charlie has lost his mother to cancer, and worries about losing his father to drunken oblivion. He escapes by working hard to save up for a car and by smoking more and more pot, which his dealer says he now owes him $500 for. Charlie’s girlfriend is increasingly frustrated with his smoking and the erratic behavior it causes. Sam’s family is also breaking apart—his mother and father are divorced, his father is now living with a man, and his mother has taken up with a homophobic jerk named Teddy. And Sam thinks that he might be gay. Charlie and Sam could each use their best friend about now, but they’re both increasingly isolated from everyone around them. As everything is falling apart for both of them, they meet up by chance and learn that the power of friendship isn’t in making all the bad things go away, its in making each other feel like they’re not alone.

P.E. Ryan's The Saints of Augustine is told in alternating chapters from both Sam and Charlie’s points of view. The scope of each of their situations is slowly revealed, and you’ll want to keep reading just to find out how things turn out for them. It may seem that both Sam and Charlie have too many problems, piled one upon the other, but we’ve all had times in our lives when it seems like one bad thing just leads to another, with seemingly no end in sight. Even their romantic relationships—Charlie’s girlfriend wants him to choose between her and smoking pot, and Sam has been spending time with a new guy named Justin, but isn’t sure whether to call their outings dates—provide more frustration and confusion than comfort. There are no easy answers to their issues, which makes this book feel more realistic and a good portrait of friendship between guys. It was easy for Sam and Charlie to be friends before, but getting back to a place where they trust each other takes some none too easy admissions from both of them. Charlie needs to know the reason why Sam ended their friendship so quickly in order to forgive him, and he needs to tell Sam what it was like to lose his mother and not have anyone to talk to about it. Sam had his first hints of his sexuality in his attractions to Charlie. He knows Charlie is straight, and is over the attraction now, but will admitting this ruin their fragile new alliance as soon as its forged? “Honesty is the best policy” may seem like a cliché, but this novel shows that it is also the only path to true friendship.

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