Sarah Mian 5

Sarah Mian‘s debut novel, When the Saints, was published by HarperCollins in 2015. It won the Jim Connors Dartmouth Book Award , the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award, and was a finalist for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. Sarah is from Dartmouth, NS and now lives on Nova Scotia’s south shore.

“If you read one new Canadian author in 2015, make it Sarah Mian…When the Saints is the kind of gem that makes other writers wish their name was on the cover.” TORONTO STAR

“If you don’t know the name Sarah Mian now, just wait…[She} may just be the next big thing in Canadian literature.” HALIFAX HERALD

“Once in a while a fresh voice comes to light in Canadian letters and this spring, it is Sarah Mian.”OWEN SOUND SUN TIMES

“Tabby Saint, the tough young protagonist of When the Saints, is more of an Addie Loggins of Paper Moon meets True Grit’s Mattie Ross type of gal. Then throw in some cussing — a lot of cussing.” WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

“This is not the Nova Scotia I’m used to reading about, but it’s one I would have gladly stayed in for another 250 pages.”THE COAST

“It’s easy to imagine Wes Anderson or the Coen brothers adapting this beguiling novel.”QUILL & QUIRE


34 thoughts on “Bio

  1. Sarah, I loved When the Saints…and also your comments in the Acknowledgement section about expressing gratitude…I’m 78 and from your photo you look to be in your 20’s or so. I’ve become used to not being thanked for dinners, parties or presents at my house so it’s very re assuring that someone in your generation feels the way I do about it. I’m going back to being annoyed.
    Thanks for the good read.

    • Thanks, Wendy!! As impressed as you are with someone in my generation expressing heartfelt thanks (though -psst- I’m in my 30s), I am impressed that someone in your generation can see past all the f-words in my story! Thanks so much for your comments. I’m elated that you enjoyed the book.

  2. Hi Sarah:

    Chose this book for our book club based on comments in Toronto Star. I just finished it last night and the characters are still in my head. I loved Tabby, the main character, for her strength and attitude towards her life and family. Would love to have any suggestions on good discussion questions for our group. The issue of the “fart” remains in my head…also questions of forgiveness and redemption. Any comments would be appreciated.

    Thanks again for the good read.


    • Hi Nancy, I’m getting a lot of positive feedback from book clubs about the deep discussion the novel generated for them. When the Saints is available in trade paperback and can be purchased at Chapters, Amazon, etc. If you do read it for book club, I’d love to hear all about it! Thanks for getting in touch.


  3. Hi Sarah I haven’t seen you since high school but we will buy this book and definitely read it. Congratulations on your life accomplishments!! Sincerely Julie Brooks (Victor)

    • Hi Julie! So good to hear from you. I’ve thought of you over the years, remembering the hijinx we used to get up to as kids (remember the Belinda Carlisle “Heaven On Earth” lipsync?) Thanks for writing to me about the book. It means a lot.


  4. Sarah, I saw the review of When the Saints in the Toronto Star and the blurb appealed to me! Thank you for writing a wonderful story. Tabby’s hopefulness and persistance in life are amazing! I will await you next colorful tale!

    • Thank you, Sharon. I love hearing from people after they’ve read When the Saints. It means so much to me that you connected with Tabby and her underdog story enough to reach out and tell me so.

      Happy Friday!


      p.s. A new book is brewing in my mind!

  5. Sarah, I just finished When The Saints…..thank you, I haven’t read anything like this since Rockbound, I laughed and nodded my head and now my gout is acting up. I look forward to seeing this novel in ‘Canada’s Top Picks’ sometime soon. Just West of Paradise, DGV

    • So good of you to take the time to tell me so, David in Just-West-of-Paradise. Did you know that whenever someone laughs so hard reading When the Saints that their gout acts up, an angel gets it wings? Wait. Maybe I have it wrong…maybe a demon gets its wings. Either way, thanks for the compliment!


  6. Hi Sarah
    Just finished your book and I delighted in your great descriptions of people, places, things and actions. At times I laughed, other times I felt the tears well up. Glad was I, that you brought it round to a happy ending. However, since Tabby is so young, maybe you will write a sequel? Please!
    I look forward to your future writing.

  7. My partner passed the Saints over to me on this long weekend and so the day was blessed with an exciting new writer/voice. I’ve never participated in a writing website and never did what I’m doing now, which is simply saying, keep writing Sarah Mian! Your voice rings true, your characters have a real pulse, the story runs along and this reader will never forget Tabby. Love your writing acumen, the cover and acknowledgements are sweet and I’m looking forward to anything else you write. I bet this story brings hope to many folks who could use some, and pleases literary critics as well.

    • Oline! You have no idea how much it means to hear such words. Thank you for sharing your feedback with me. Knowing that readers are connecting with my work on a deep level really motivates me to write another one.

      p.s. – Thanks also to your partner for recommending it!

  8. Hi Sarah, Are you in Toronto June 18th? Am hosting my book club…discussing your great read and had a whim of having you visit. Keep up the good work! Lauran

    • Hi Lauran, Thanks for much for choosing When the Saints for your book club! I seriously wish I was in Toronto then so I could crash the party. I’d Skype in but I have a reading that night in Wolfville. If you email me at I would be happy to send you some book club questions I made up for another group – and also feel free to shoot me any questions from your club before or after the meeting.

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  10. Hi Sarah, My sister recommended your book to me when I was back in Canada on a visit. She had read it and got it out of the library for me. I liked it so much that after I finished reading the library book, I bought my own copy to bring back to the UK where I now live. “When the Saints – don’t leave home without it.”

    Fabulous characters – I swooned over Janis – and cracking tale. When is your next book coming out? Hurry up already.

    • Hey Downith, I’m so glad you liked it and that little Janis Saint made it all the way to England. I am happy to say that I am at work on novel #2.

      So…when is YOUR novel coming out? (I snuck a peek at your blog.)

  11. I met you in Moncton; looking forward to meeting you (again) at the upcoming FogLit Festival. I understand we’ll be sharing a moderator at that time! I enjoyed When The Saqints, so I mentioned you in my blog.

  12. Hello Sarah! I picked up ‘When the Saints’ as I was drawn to its fabulous cover (great art inside and out!) and want to thank you for writing such a wonderful story that made me feel uncomfortable, laugh out loud and filled my heart. Thank you for the fullness in each of character, for the forgiveness, and for – Janis. What a wonder of a child she is – her expressions, her strength, her intuition. Tabby’s courage and her journey was inspiring and I am sure will inspire many who read the book. I would LOVE to see this story on the stage. Many thanks and keep up your writing! Robin

  13. Dear Sarah,

    I posted a review of your debut novel last spring on Goodreads, but this morning I was sorting through my nightstand leaning tower of books to put a few back on a book shelf (imagine!).

    I picked up yours and thought I’d share an excerpt of my review & recommendation. I’m truly cheering for you as well as your characters:

    “The greatness in this book—for me at least—lies in its characters. Protagonist Tabatha (Tabby) Saint is someone you want to cheer for. The adults, for the most part, are as fucked up as anyone you know, and yet we want them to at least be okay, except maybe the odd one, like the protagonist’s father, an abusive slime ball of a small-town petty criminal. Yet Mian manages to make even that seemingly unredeemable waste of human space, human beyond all of his inhumaneness.

    Full stop.

    It is, however without a doubt, 5-year-old Janis Saint who brings it home! From the second she screeches onto the page, it is Janis who became my shining beacon—the one I truly want to believe has a chance to survive, not quite but almost relatively unscathed.

    And, btw, best of luck to the sad piece of shit who tries to crush her spirit.

    As for the others: things may seem okay on the surface—making the end of the novel less likely to send readers looking for the nearest cliff to jump off—but I don’t, not even for a second, believe it will last.

    (…. …)

    The truth is that childhood, like history, is immortal. Their issues, their traumas and their memories, including their unconscious memories, will dog the Saints of Solace River, presumably long after we read that last page.

    To whom would I recommend this novel?

    If you have ever disparaged or looked down on someone because they looked “wrong”, or lived on welfare, or didn’t know the difference between decent and indecent, then I highly recommend this novel. It might be just the novel that will open your eyes to the extraordinary barriers some children inherit.

    If, on the other hand, you are someone who has ever felt judged while you were trying to scramble over those barriers, then I highly recommend this novel.

    In other words, if you are human, I highly recommend this novel.”

    Can’t wait for your next novel!!
    Warm regards,
    Dina Desveaux (Halifax)

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  17. I just finished “When the Saints”. I absolutely loved everything about it. I work in a library so I see and read many books. This will be on the top of my recommended list. I’m hoping you will be coming out with another novel very soon!

  18. Hello Sarah

    I just read your disturbing essay in McCleans Before You Go series on “the cosmic relationship between biological and adoptive parents.” Disturbing because, you see, I am one of the women who lost their one and only child to the barbaric practice of sealed record adoption and I can assure you that I never forgot my son, not for a single day. When the records opened in BC in 1997 I was able to locate my son and communicate with him but after stalling for over a year, he decided he was not ready for reunion and shut the process down. I cannot even start to describe how heartbreaking the whole situation was for me and how my faith and trust in the system was shattered along with my very soul when after making a freedom of information request for our adoption file to discover three forged and falsified consent documents and evidence that I had been lied to and drugged by a “cosmic” conspiracy of social workers, hospital staff and my own doctor.

    When records opened in Australia, so many women came forward with similar stories that an inquiry was conducted by that country’s Parliament so I suggest to you that rather than engaging in magical thinking that there is some kind of cosmic force working behind the scenes whereby the soul of the child you lost will somehow be reincarnated in the womb of another woman but actually meant for you that you yourself come to terms with your own belief that “the pain of loss will leave you once it has taught you what you need to know.”

    • Dear Karen,

      I am so sorry for the loss you have suffered. My own mother has a similar story. She became pregnant at sixteen and her parents sent her away to a home for unwed mothers. Like you, she was coerced into making the decision to put her baby up for adoption, and like you, with a great deal of effort she eventually located her son only to have him decide he did not want to meet her. This left a gaping hole in her heart. Part of me is hoping that when she witnesses the deep love and care that Shawn and I will put into raising our adopted baby, it will help mend some of her scars.

      There are now many fail-safes in Canada to protect the birth parent’s rights and ensure consent. I would never dream of adopting a child otherwise. But it’s a fact that a lot of pregnancies are unwanted. In that instance, Shawn and I are offering a solution. And no, none of this is simple; it’s primal and emotional terrain. But the number one question we were asked was whether we would be willing to maintain a relationship with the birth parent. Witnessing firsthand how my mother has wondered and worried about her son since the day he was taken from her arms, we said yes.


      We all make sense of tragedy in our own ways. For five years, I felt only rage and sorrow. It seemed so senseless and unfair that I should come from a broken home only to be denied the abilty to create a functional one. But ultimately, I made a decision to free myself from the muck of such thinking. We have little power over own lives other than the decisions we make, and I decided to believe in the power of love. I decided to believe this world is a good place and worth fighting for. Rather than shut off, I decided to try, in my own small way, to make this world what I wish it was. Formulating an explanation for my unexplained infertility is moving me forward rather than keeping me bitter and resolved. My goal is to inspire others to adopt rather to try and force reproduction. And while birth parents may not always, as I say in the article, go in peace, I certainly believe it is possible.

      What happened to you is not fair. It’s not okay and it never will be. But is there a way to transform the energy generated by all that pain? Healing others can heal ourselves. It’s the greatest magic trick of all. And if we all made the decision to behave like a human family, we might even heal this dying planet.

      I am entitled to my beliefs, as you are to yours, and so with sincere respect, Karen, I reject your suggestion. It has taken all my strength to believe in magic.

      And I’m the better for it.

      Yours Truly,


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