Saints of the Household | Ari Tison


Saints of the Household by Ari Tison

Out Now from Farrar Straus Giroux Books; 309 pages

Content Warning: Bullying, violence, domestic abuse

About the Author: “Ari Tison is an award-winning Bribri (Indigenous Costa Rican) American poet, essayist, educator, autoethnographer, and author of YA hybrid novel SAINTS OF THE HOUSEHOLD (2023) + Untitled YA (2025) with FSG/BFYR. Her short stories have been published or are forthcoming with OUR SHADOWS HAVE CLAWS with Algonquin Young Readers (2022) and RELIT with Harper Collins. Her poetry and essays have been published in various literary journals including POETRY’s first issue for young people. She has her MFA from Hamline University and now teaches in the MFAC program” (Bio from author’s website).
Find Ari Tison on the following platforms:

“I cannot look back, I cannot look forward; we are where we are.”

Told through a combination of vignettes and poetry, Saints of the Household follows Max and Jay, two Bribri (Indigenous Costa Rican) brothers entering their senior year of high school. Growing up in an abusive household, Max and Jay vow to keep their mother, and themselves, safe from their father – and from becoming like him. When they hear their cousin Nicole in trouble in the woods, Max and Jay take action against Nicole’s boyfriend, Luca. During this fight, Max and Jay become blinded by an unknowingly possessed anger and may have gone too far. Now, Max and Jay must uncover and face the origin of their anger and make amends with Nicole, Luca, and themselves.

Tison’s debut novel infuses her own Bribri traditions and stories into Max and Jay’s family. Readers not only feel the intense impact of Tison’s approach to topics such as domestic abuse and ending generational cycles, but also become immersed into the Bribri culture by learning stories including the Creator Sibö. When dealing with Max and Jay’s father, I admired how Tison devoted time to unraveling Max and Jay’s respective feelings both on their own and in counseling. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the novel was Jay’s relationship with Nicole. Nicole resents Jay and Max for causing issues with her boyfriend, but Jay still attempts to rekindle his friendship with her. As she learns how the events in the woods occurred from the boys’ viewpoint, she realizes she must break free from her manipulative relationship with Luca. Jay helps her overcome this, demonstrating that we should consider multiple perspectives and, oftentimes, our friends and family want what is best for us – even if we don’t always see that. I was also captivated by the split point of view that not only makes this novel unique, but also denotes characteristic differences between the two brothers – Jay, strong and genuine, tells his story through vignettes, while Max, artistic and reserved, utilizes poetry. There comes a vital moment where Max and Jay, along with their maternal Grandfather, finally call the police on their father – ending the cycle of abuse in their family. I commended Tison’s inclusion of this scene as a representation of Max and Jay’s strength and growth throughout this coming of age novel, as well as inspiration that generational cycles can be broken. Tison is intentional with every word, and readers will be inspired by each line in this engaging and meaningful debut novel.

PRR Editor & Writer, Mireya Borgen