All Saints — Karen Palmer

[asa left]156947138X[/asa] This is Karen Palmer’s first novel, and it promises good things to come from her. Set in New Orleans in the fifties, it follows three people through a few turbulent days. Each of them has misstepped badly and caused harm to themselves and the people they care about most in the world; each of them struggles with the certainty that they will never be able to make amends. Through a series of every day circumstances, their day intersects and then becomes intertwined.

The novel is beautifully written, clean and clear and bright in its prose, but it’s also a really good story. Of the three main characters, I was most engaged by Harlan Desonnier, a Cajun just released from prison and Glory Wiltz, a white nurse with a young son who is separated from her husband, a black musician. Father Frank — a Catholic priest dealing with a loss of faith — is the least well drawn of the three characters, though I still haven’t been able to figure out why he doesn’t quite work for me.

This novel has a flow and rhythm that feels almost effortless, and the resolutions were striking for their simple elegance. There is not so much a happy ending here as a thoughtful and a hopeful one. One final note: Glory’s relationship to her son strikes me as pretty much perfect, and reads as though the author understands the emotional complexities of motherhood from a deeply personal source.