Author: Alice Hoffman
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
First Published: November 1, 2016
First Line: "In February, when the snow comes down hard, little globes of light are left along Route 110, on the side of the road that slopes off when the driver least expects it."
Book Description from GoodReads: 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 road map.
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.
My Rating: 3/5 stars
My Review: This book is about the decade long downward spiral and self-redemption of a seventeen-year-old girl as she tries to come to terms with her grief and her guilt in the accident which put her best friend in a coma.
This is the first book that I've read by Alice Hoffman. It started off strong and had me quite engrossed in Shelby's descent into blame, grief and self-hatred. This teen is hurting so fiercely; her grief is raw and she doesn't feel like she has many people in her corner. Nor does she feel like she deserves anyone or any future.
I found the first third of the book quite interesting but after awhile it seemed like a lot of the same self-hatred, blame game and Shelby pushing people way. The book itself is about Shelby's coming of age/redemption but it didn't feel like it had a strong sense of direction. Instead, the plot meandered along until the pieces started to fall together for Shelby, in her personal and professional lives.
One of the aspects that kept me reading was the mystery surrounding who was sending Shelby secret notes which engaged her in a way that the people around her couldn't. This mystery was quite compelling but its resolution was a little lackluster and I wasn't a fan of how things ended. It felt too contrived and easy.
A big part of my feelings for the book stem from Shelby and my lack of connection to her. She was a hard character to like. I felt for her situation and her grief but she was very cynical, dark and so focused on self-loathing and intent on living a horrible life. She's a hot mess for a lot of the book and believes that she deserves a horrible existence as penance for the accident she believes she's responsible for. Even when the powers that be, including her friends, boyfriend(s), her attachment to animals and sudden scholastic ability, propel her to a better life she still feels undeserved. Hoffman writes the story in the third person and I think that by doing this she loses the chance for her readers to get inside Shelby's head and witness the grief through Shelby's eyes.
Overall, this was just an okay read for me. It's a book about tragedy, loss, grief, blame and the complex relationships that we sometimes have, especially those between mother and daughter. It's also a coming of age story with Shelby experiencing a lot of bumps along the way as she learns that she deserves love and a full life.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.