cover image A Saint from Texas

A Saint from Texas

Edmund White. Bloomsbury, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-63557-255-1

White (The Unpunished Vice) serves up a mesmerizing sensual history of identical twin sisters who leave their booming Texas oil town for Paris and a Colombian convent. As teens in 1950s Ranger, Tex., Yvonne and Yvette Crawford are as different as can be. Yvonne listens to top-10 radio hits, reads women’s magazines, and aspires to French aristocracy and a career in fashion; Yvette, with a “crush on God,” prefers Bach and performing acts of charity. Both are determined to escape their small-minded, oil-rich abusive father and social climbing stepmother. Most of the retrospective narrative comes from Yvonne’s point of view, focusing on her sumptuous experience in Paris, where she travels for her college junior year abroad and instantly immerses herself in haute couture. Surrounded by a plenitude of Givenchy and marrons glaces, Yvonne soon marries Adhéaume de Courcy, whom she characterizes as a “spendthrift, unloving, snobbish popinjay.” The marriage contract is simple: his title for her money. Meanwhile, Yvette’s success as a miracle-working nun in Jericó, Colombia, is revealed in a series of letters sprinkled throughout, which include details of Yvette’s amorous friendship with a fellow nun. Yvonne is also romantically interested in women, and White elevates his delicious descriptions of Yvonne’s lecherous thoughts about a sorority sister with notes of Yvonne’s mature self-awareness. Bombshell revelations abound when the narrative reaches its boiling point, which White handles with aplomb. Equally tender and salacious, White’s deeply satisfying character study demonstrates his profound abilities. Agent: Peter Straus, RCW Literary Agency. (Aug.)