Faithful by Alice Hoffman – 272 pages
ARC from Simon & Schuster
Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt. What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.
My Review: 4.5 stars
Faithful, by acclaimed author Alice Hoffman, is a coming of age story amidst an enormous about of survivor’s guilt. I received this book as an ARC back in May and have no idea why I let it sit so long. I love Alice Hoffman books, most especially her two historical novels, The Dovekeepers and The Marriage Of Opposites. This book is definitely a work of contemporary of fiction yet still offers the author’s trademark mysticism.
This book is not long but it really packs a punch. Strong themes of friendship, motherhood, mental illness, guilt with many faces, the companionship of animals, first love and self-love are all present throughout the book. Book clubs will have plenty to discuss.
Our main protagonist, Shelby, begins as a wilted flower. With time, love and emotional nutrients that she continually pushes away, we watch her growth. There was a good parallel going on with Shelby’s friend (Helene) being helpless in a coma, yet is widely believed to be a “miracle healer”. Shelby was sadly living her life as if in a coma for quite some time, but never realized the healing she was doing for herself, animals and friends.
The added mini puzzle of finding the mysterious postcard sender/angel was a nice part of the story. Was Shelby’s friend mystically sending her the healing postcards?
The love of animals and books is very apparent in this story. Both have healing powers and the author brings that to light. I love the references to The Strand Bookstore in NYC. If you ever have a chance to go, it’s a must do! Fans of Alice Hoffman will be pleased with this novel, as will readers new to her talent. It’s a beautifully written story full of hope and renewal.
Quotes I liked:
Love is a false construct. It’s how people convince themselves that life is worth living.”
– “What’s not to like about a miracle?”
-“She told herself being alone was what she wanted, but lately she finds herself looking at couples and hating them just because they’re happy.”
-“I think of life as a book of short stories. You move through the stories and the characters change. But once you have a name on your sin you stuck with one story, even if it’s a bad one.”
-“I’m sticking with books. They never let you down and they don’t judge you.”
-“If you have burned a book, don’t complain that there’s nothing to read.”
-“Everyone should know exactly what everyone else is thinking and then people wouldn’t hurt each other so much.”