Rated Reads

Mrs. Saint and the Defectives

by Julie Lawson Timmer

Rated: Moderate

When photo evidence about her husband’s affair spreads like wildfire around the exclusive prep school where Markie works and that their son attends, she’s forced to take action. Kyle’s had plenty of affairs before, but Markie’s ignored them and kept herself secure in their comfortable life that, while built on a rickety foundation, has been mostly acceptable.

Markie not only has to flee her old life so she won’t have to face all her social circle, but Kyle’s other faults have left them broker than broke. She finds a job and a tiny house to rent some distance away and drags her teen son, Jesse, to a new life and school, where Markie hopes to keep to herself and quietly lick her wounds.

Unfortunately for her hopes, Markie ends up as the neighbor of a very intrusive elderly woman, Angeline St. Denis, a French Canadian who says that since they likely won’t be able to pronounce her last name properly (Americans just can’t), they should call her Mrs. Saint.

Mrs. Saint immediately has two of her employees help Markie and Jesse move their scant belongings into the house, and she insists right away that Markie should a) hang up her paintings on the walls, b) get Jesse a dog and c) accept patio furniture and food items from her, among other things.

Though Markie does what she can to avoid Mrs. Saint and brush off her comments and suggestions, her neighbor is very persistent. While Markie works from home for an insurance company and her 14-year-old son attends a new school (and seems to make some friends who don’t seem the greatest, but … at least he’s found some kids to socialize with, and he’s certainly pretty quiet or moody at home), she keeps getting bothered by Mrs. Saint. She can’t help but meet the four people who work for her and hear a bit about their stories from the older lady. She tells Markie that they are all people who needed work and had a hard time keeping jobs elsewhere, so she’s taken them in. She says they are “defectives.” It may not be the best word, but it seems to be the one Mrs. Saint has settled on in English.

Markie has a six-month lease and aims to just ride out that time without getting involved in the lives of her neighbor and her group of employees, but as time goes on, she does unwillingly get looped in, a bit at a time. She does notice some improvements in her son as he has interactions with Mrs. Saint and the others, and she eventually notices some improvements in her own life. She realizes that Mrs. Saint, who may be ill, may very well want her to take over as the caretaker of this ragtag group, and she wants nothing more than to get out before that could happen. But if anyone can make it happen, it would be Mrs. Saint…

This book delivers pretty much what you’d expect from its premise: a charming story about a particular quirky character who is bound and determined to make a difference in a woman’s life, whether that woman wants it or not. I couldn’t help but enjoy watching the story play out: It’s fairly predictable, but it’s a pleasure to go right along with it, just as Mrs. Saint would want readers to do.

Rated: Moderate. There are three uses of strong language and a few instances of milder language. The premise of the story says the main character’s husband cheated on her regularly. Sexual content is pretty much limited to a few references of Markie’s husband’s hands being placed on another woman’s bosom in photos. Another character committed adultery in the past as well. One minor character has a drinking and drug problem. There’s some talk of juvenile smoking and a group of teens tagging a store in the middle of the night.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • Mrs. Saint and the Defectives
  • by Julie Lawson Timmer
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: