Faith by Jennifer Haigh
Published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins
Sheila McGann has always been close with her older brother Art, a Catholic priest. When Art finds himself accused of sexually abusing a young boy in his parish, Sheila travels back to her hometown of Boston to be with Art and the rest of their family in this trying time. As Sheila’s been estranged from her family for years, she is surprised to find her mother in a state of complete denial, her father’s dementia has rendered him incapable of understanding the situation, and her younger brother Mike has already decided that Art is guilty of the crime. Art, unfortunately, is unwilling or unable to defend himself, which leaves Sheila confused and not sure what to think.
I’ve been stewing over this review for quite some time now because I’m trying to figure out the best way to communicate just how good Faith really is. I honestly had no idea what I was in for when I began reading this novel. I was expecting it to be so much about the crime Art was accused of, but the book is about so much more than just that. The most central aspect of the story is the various dynamics and relationships within this family, and how each member of the family reacts so differently to the news of Art’s possible crime.
These characters snuck their way into my heart and won’t be leaving any time soon. Art especially, even though the reader gets to know him only through Sheila’s eyes, captured my attention and I was completely swept away by his story. While the question of his guilt or innocence pervades the entire story and is a focal point for much of the novel, by the end of the novel it’s almost irrelevant – the reader has already become enamored by him and completely sympathetic to the way he grew up, his relations with his other family members, etc. It almost doesn’t matter if he committed the crime, especially once the entire book is finished – read it and you’ll see what I mean.
Jennifer Haigh not only knows how to create complicated and honest characters, she knows how to write a story that will hold a reader’s attention. Even though this novel is very character-driven and quiet in its own way, I was spellbound by the plot. I was anxious to find out what would happen to several of the characters, how certain familial relations would turn out, and I did care of course how things ended up with Art’s situation. I wanted to spend every possible minute with this book until I finished it – I was that captivated.
I listened to Faith on audio and I have to say that it was an excellent choice. The narrator, Therese Plummer, was the perfect person to tell this story and I loved listening. I am sure the book would be just as good in print but I am here to tell you that the audio is wonderful.
I very highly recommend Faith. I doubt I’ve expressed clearly enough what makes this book so excellent but I would just encourage you to read it for yourself to find out. I absolutely loved it.