By: Alice Hoffman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 11/1/2016
My Rating: 3 Stars 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? 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.
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.
Alice Hoffman’s “trademark alchemy” (USA TODAY) and her ability to write about the “delicate balance between the everyday world and the extraordinary” (WBUR) make this an unforgettable story. With beautifully crafted prose, Alice Hoffman spins hope from heartbreak in this profoundly moving novel.
A special thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Alice Hoffman delivers FAITHFUL – A young woman’s journey of survivorship. From darkness to light. Survivor’s guilt. Filled with emotion and heartbreak. A person sometimes has to reach the bottom, in order to make changes. Transformation. The road is not always smooth to hope and healing.
“There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.”-- Leonard Cohen
From family, grief, friendship, and love- a coming-of-age young adult story of a tragic accident which changed both people in the car and their futures.
Shelby Richmond and Helene Boyd were best friends. One night there was an accident that left her best friend comatose. Seniors in high school. The night they had a disagreement. The night Shelby did not want to go out. Helene did. Helene usually got her way.
Two years have passed. Shelby had a nervous breakdown. Spent three months in a psychiatric hospital. Was abused and raped. She's attempted suicide.
Her diagnosis was major depression, anxiety, survivor’s guilt, and PTSD. She was bitter, miserable, and drowns herself in her sorrow. She shuts out her parents and everyone around her. She feels worthless. She has refused to eat, cutting herself. There were rumors she was crazy.
Girls who had been friends with Helene and Shelby decided they had lost both friends. It was easier that way. They are no longer alike.
In the psychiatric hospital, they asked her if she believed in demons and angels. Why would an angel rescue her when she’s worthless and Helene was so much better than she could ever be?
Shelby buys weed from Ben Mink, a guy she knew in high school. A geek, he liked books and literature. She sleeps most of the time, dreaming of the way it used to be before her world turned to blackness. She knows Helene's vertebrae were broken, and her windpipe was crushed and part of her skull smashed. There was no oxygen to her brain for at least seven minutes. Helene will never come back.
Eventually, she moves to the City with Ben and they share an apartment. Her mom is sick and very supportive. Her dad has moved to Florida with a new life. She does not like people. People are dangerous, unreliable, stupid, greedy, needy, and breakable.
The one bright spot in her life is the secretive postcards she receives. The sender is unknown. Inspiring, hopeful, and encouraging messages and thoughts. A stalker, an angel? A lunatic who read about her in the paper? Why has this person never come forward? A game. He knows everything about her. She knows nothing about him.
In New York, she gets a job working at a pet store and falls in love with dogs and Chinese food. Some doors are opened, and some are closed. She slowly lets the light in. Ben encourages her to do something meaningful to show Helene she is a true friend. Could she actually have a future, a life, college, be a vet one day? Have a normal relationship?
Sometimes when things are falling apart, they may be actually falling into place.
Though drugs, horrible hurtful sex, adultery, and betrayal…she felt all this was punishment for all the things she did wrong.
“In fairy tales, such things happened. You stole from someone then were handed their fate as a punishment.”
Being a bad daughter, bad person, stealing Helene’s life. Emotional connections which ultimately lead to hope and recovery. What Shelby wants is the most difficult miracle of all. She wants forgiveness.
"Angels arrive when you least expect them. When the road is dark, when you're bleeding and alone and hopeless, when you're sleeping in a basement convinced that no one knows you're there."
While Hoffman is certainly a talented writer, I never felt a genuine connection with this book or its characters. Some parts seemed to be disjointed. The beginning of the story was suspenseful and emotional, as well as the ending.
However, in between after the move to the City, it fell apart somewhat and lost my interest. Too many loose ends and for some reason, the characters were not fully developed as much as I would have liked. This may be a good read for Young Adults, versus the women’s fiction category.
As some other reviewers have mentioned, not sure I would have finished it, if it had not been for the author’s past history and her previous work. Shelby's last relationship in the book did not make a lot of sense to me, nor much said about Helene. The big reveal was not that explosive or expanded upon. Would have liked more flashbacks into the girl's relationships before the accident (possibly from two POV) would have been more interesting.
The best part for me was the mother-daughter relationship.
About the Author
Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston.
Hoffman’s first novel, Property Of, was written at the age of twenty-one, while she was studying at Stanford, and published shortly thereafter by Farrar Straus and Giroux. She credits her mentor, professor and writer Albert J. Guerard, and his wife, the writer Maclin Bocock Guerard, for helping her to publish her first short story in the magazine Fiction. Editor Ted Solotaroff then contacted her to ask if she had a novel, at which point she quickly began to write what was to become Property Of, a section of which was published in Mr. Solotaroff’s magazine, American Review.
Since that remarkable beginning, Alice Hoffman has become one of our most distinguished novelists. She has published a total of twenty-three novels, three books of short fiction, and eight books for children and young adults. Her novel, Here on Earth, an Oprah Book Club choice, was a modern reworking of some of the themes of Emily Bronte’s masterpiece Wuthering Heights. Practical Magic was made into a Warner film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Her novel, At Risk, which concerns a family dealing with AIDS, can be found on the reading lists of many universities, colleges and secondary schools. Hoffman’s advance from Local Girls, a collection of inter-related fictions about love and loss on Long Island, was donated to help create the Hoffman Breast Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA. Blackbird House is a book of stories centering around an old farm on Cape Cod.
Hoffman’s recent books include Aquamarine and Indigo, novels for pre-teens, and The New York Times bestsellers The River King, Blue Diary, The Probable Future, and The Ice Queen. Green Angel, a post-apocalyptic fairy tale about loss and love, was published by Scholastic and The Foretelling, a book about an Amazon girl in the Bronze Age, was published by Little Brown. In 2007 Little Brown published the teen novel Incantation, a story about hidden Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, which Publishers Weekly has chosen as one of the best books of the year. Her most recent novels include The Third Angel,The Story Sisters, the teen novel, Green Witch, a sequel to her popular post-apocalyptic fairy tale, Green Angel. The Red Garden, published in 2011, is a collection of linked fictions about a small town in Massachusetts where a garden holds the secrets of many lives.
Hoffman’s work has been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People Magazine. She has also worked as a screenwriter and is the author of the original screenplay “Independence Day,” a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Wiest. Her teen novel Aquamarine was made into a film starring Emma Roberts. Her short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon Review, The Los Angeles Times, Architectural Digest, Harvard Review, Ploughshares and other magazines. Read More