The Anti-Rebel

Maile Meloys brittle Southern Californians are real, no kidding

And while, amassed into a couple of paragraphs, this compressed summary sounds a little absurd, one of Meloy's achievements is to make the Santerre saga no more and no less extraordinary than what happens in the family lives of so many Americans, if only we had the audacity to tell the story. What was notable in Meloy's book of stories—an almost unnerving ability to be familiar and original at the same time—isn't always on display here. There are patches of the novel that feel like standard family-novel fare, places where Meloy's prose gets enervated and clichťd ("There had been a rough spot, after Teddy learned the truth, but now things were better between them"), and an ending that too typically rounds up the novel's participants at a family gathering so everyone can reckon with the past. But overall it's a brilliant debut novel from a homegrown talent, and I look forward to what this anti-rebel comes up with next.

Maile Meloy, Liars and Saints, Scribners, 260 Pages, $24.

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