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Open Access Publications from the University of California

"The Distance between California and Kentucky": Regionally Gendered Identity in The Patron Saint of Liars

  • Author(s): LaGrotteria, Angela
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License

In Ann Patchett’sThe Patron Saint of Liars, Rose Clinton’s narrative prompts us to consider “how the distance between California and Kentucky” plays a prominent role in identity formation and community membership (Patron321). Rose migrates from Marina del Rey, California, to Habit, Kentucky, and her journey forces her to confront Sherrie Inness’ and Diana Royer’s question: “How essentially are we changed by movement among regions?”. Discovering that she is pregnant forces twenty-three-year-old Rose to admit she does not love her husband and motivates her to leave him and her unfulfilling domestic life. She takes a road trip across the country that leads her to Saint Elizabeth’s (a home for pregnant girls managed by nuns—this takes place during the 1950s) and away from her husband (Thomas), her mother, and California. Mostly in order to keep her daughter (nicknamed Sissy), Rose marries Son, the groundskeeper of Saint Elizabeth’s. Tensions caused by Rose’s competing Appalachian and Southwestern identities are highlighted through her relationships with Son and Sissy.  

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