Author: Alice Hoffman
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Women's Fiction
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and The Dovekeepers comes a soul-searching story about a young woman struggling to redefine herself and the power of love, family, and fate.
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? Faithfulis 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.
Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.
I'm not really sure how, after publishing over a dozen books, I've never read a book written by Alice Hoffman. But like many other books since I've joined the blog, I'm so happy I picked this title up.
Most people do not like being thrown into tragic circumstances right at the onset of a story. This is because the reader hasn't had time to develop an attachment to the main character. They haven't identified those common threads that pull them in and don't let go. But this is exactly how Faithful begins.
Shelby, close to graduating high school, is forever impacted when tragedy strikes. What follows are years of self-loathing and self-deprecating behavior which throws her on a downward spiral. But that elusive "voice" is present and it grabbed me and made me want to go down this road with her, as depressing and as dark as it was. Because somehow, you also felt that the author would not let you down. You could sense that the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel" would carry you through. And indeed it does.
This is such a character-driven story that it's hard to review without giving away any spoilers. But what I've attempted to do by this review is to capture the novel's essence and highlight its themes. I did, however, want to point out some of the events that happen along the way:
Someone anonymously sends Shelby postcards every few months directing her to say something, want something, love something, remember someone, and see something.
Shelby accidentally becomes a role model.
Shelby learns how to love.
There very well may be a Wanted poster classifying Shelby as a dognapper and offering a handsome reward as she is a repeat offender.
Shelby learns how to forgive herself.
Shelby learns how to let go.
**Disclaimer: These things do not necessarily happen in the above-listed order because I think one of the things we learn is that "learning to love and forgive ourselves" is foundational and paves the way for every other growth in our life.
This story is about regret. Full stop. Interrobang. It's about reconciling the person from the past to the person in the present. And I can relate. I'm pretty sure that anyone who has lived long enough can relate. That is because we are not perfect and we are not born with an instruction manual. We're all learning as we go and some of us, for some reason or another, are better equipped at handling LIFE than others. And that's okay. That's what this story wants us to know and accept.
And I cried. I cried because I was sad and mourned (right alongside Shelby) the loss of what could have been. Failed relationships anyone? I cried because I was happy when she finally sheds her old skin. Moving on, anyone? And I also related to the relationship she has with her parents when she finally comes to know herself after all these years and is a full-fledged "wise-R" adult. Apologizing for bad behavior, anyone?
Mental health is certainly a topic of discussion which must continuously be addressed in our society and Ms. Hoffman does a beautiful job.
TRIGGER NOTICE: Very early on in this story there is a detailed account of sexual assault. If you are uncomfortable with this, this may not be the read for you.