A Brief Review of
Saints in Limbo, a novel by River Jordan.
Paperback: Waterbrook, 2009.
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Reviewed by Jonathan Schindler.
“We never keep to the present. . . . We are so unwise that we wander about in times that do not belong to us, and do not think of the only one that does; so vain that we dream of times that are not and blindly flee the only one that is.” —Blaise Pascal, Pensées.
One year after her husband’s death, Velma True receives a strange birthday present from a supernatural storyteller: a dazzling rock that allows her to physically relive her memories. Though she longs to escape her situation, by traveling through her memories, Velma learns that while regret tethers her to her past, hope releases her to live in the present.
The storyteller finds Velma on her front porch outside Echo, Florida, almost literally tied to her house. Since her husband’s death, she has attached different colored threads to her porch, each corresponding to a different task she must do around her yard, but no thread extends beyond her own fence. She doesn’t leave her house, and she spends her days remembering.
Surrounding Velma are characters equally longing and equally trapped. Her son, Rudy, is a failure, hiding his loneliness and regret behind sexual relationships. Sara, a retired schoolteacher, is slowly losing the one thing she values: her mind. Rose loves Rudy despite his carousing, but fears he’ll never see her as anything but his bartender. Annie feels like her orphan namesake, traveling to Echo to find any clue to who she is.
And lurking behind them is Old Slink, who will do whatever it takes to get hold of what Velma was given.
In Saints in Limbo, River Jordan paints a vivid picture of being caught in the middle of what was, what is, and what can be. Velma, who wanted a large family but only had one child, regrets that Rudy, who is throwing his life away, is all she has. Though others have discarded any hopes in his potential, she is reminded continually that his life is not over—there is still time for him to change. As the storyteller says to her, “You’re caught right in the middle . . . of who you are and who you could be. . . . Saints in limbo. . . . That’s what you all are.”
Saints in Limbo is a genre stew, combining elements of romance, fantasy, allegory, and thriller, tying them together with the front-porch, rocking-chair style of the South. Jordan successfully walks a fine line between fantasy and reality, creating a believable world in which the supernatural and the everyday regularly crisscross. River Jordan’s Echo and the characters who populate it are solid enough that they continue to speak even after the book is closed.
In Saints in Limbo, River Jordan displays the hurting and hoping resultant from our being “saints in limbo” and shows that no matter how old one is, or how desolate a case may seem, it is never futile and never too late to hope.